Editor’s Note: This is an excellent example of social media in support of language development. Graphics assist learning, add meaning, build associations, and stimulate memorization. There were also benefits from keyboarding because of the complex penmanship required to write using traditional Chinese characters.
Design and Implementation of a Model for Using
Hsueh-Hua Chuang and Chia- Lin Shih
In this study, we presented a model for the integrative level of weblog use in teaching writing to schoolchildren and a case of the use of weblogs under a Weblog Text-image Transmission Model (WTTM) in a
Keywords: weblog, writing process, weblog and writing, writing and schoolchildren, language and writing, instructional technology, technology integration, blog, dual coding theory, cognitive theory.
In Taiwan formal teaching of writing begins in the third grade. The main teaching principle at this stage of writing is to cultivate the writing interests of students through expression of their experience and feelings (Ministry of education, 2003). Therefore, the process rather than the product of writing is emphasized at this particular stage. Writing is a complex process, some aspects of which often cause particular difficulties for children (Flower, 1989; Hays & Flower, 1986). Englert and Raphael (1988) identified idea generation, planning, and text organization as common problem areas for poor and novice writers. Children may also lack awareness of appropriate strategies or have difficulty exercising control over their implementation and monitoring. For schoolchildren, writing is also often a solitary activity, lacking interaction and dialogue with others, factors that a social interaction theorist such as Vygoysky (1978) consider crucial for learning. As children make the transition from spoken language to written language they may suffer owing to a lack of external feedback (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987). Advice to schools with respect to the teaching of writing to schoolchildren often recommends arrangements to include peer interaction. Hayes and Flower (1980; 1986) emphasized the complexity of the writing process and the multiple and simultaneous information-processing demands it makes on the writer. Their writing model is comprised of three main components: planning, translating, and reviewing. Writers can recursively activate all three of these components during the process of writing. Hayes (2000) proposed a new framework for grouping cognition, affect, and memory together as individual aspects, and to depict the combined social and physical environments as the task environment. This model tended to provide a more accurate and comprehensive description than the old model.
A wave of weblogs has swept across the whole world in recent years, making a large impact on teaching and learning. Specifically, we have seen the phenomenon of weblog writing exploding on the Internet. Features of blogs such as self-publishing of text and graphics, easy access and maintenance, and immediate feedback or comments encourage social interaction. The process of expression through weblog writing and journaling supports both individual and collaborative work and nurtures interconnection of ideas between participants. Weblogs have been used in writing classes and language arts curriculum activities at schools at all levels to increase motivation toward writing and scaffolding efforts have been used to increase knowledge ownership, knowledge management skills, and reflective practice(Kajder, Bull & Van, 2004; Baggetun & Wasson, 2006). Specifically, one blog feature with easy text and graphic publishing, has paved the way for convenient presentations of both verbal (text) and pictorial/graphic (non-verbal) media. According to dual-coding theory, use of both verbal and imagery codes improve learners’ recall and retention (Sadoski, Piavio, and Goetz, 1991). This type of cognitive theory can not only be used to improve memory and recall but can also reduce the cognitive load on the learner and thereby increase motivation and interaction.
We have thus developed a model for using blogs in writing for novice writers or schoolchildren based on the framework of writing proposed by Flower and Hayes (1981;1986;2000) and Dual Coding Theory (DCT) by Sadoski and Paivio (2001) through Vygotsky’s social-cultural perspective. Based on this model, we designed four writing units at the third grade level (On the Sports Day, before and after the Monthly Exam, During the Recess Time, and My PE Teacher) and then implemented this design for one semester in a class of 35 third graders.
We proposed a model, adapted for third graders, called the Weblog Text-image Transmission Model (WTTM) of the writing process. The model is depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Weblog Text-image Transmission Model of Writing Process
There are inner and outer circles in this model, with the inner circle representing the process of writing and the outer circle representing the task environment. The task environment includes both the social and physical environment. Weblogs and pictures constitute the physical environment. The discussion and publishing records between peer pupils constitute the social environment. There is interaction between both these environments and the writer’s cognitive process.
We have focused on guiding the participants through a series of photos and guiding questions to facilitate their writing of events and descriptions of familiar personnel through use of interactive weblog features. This kind of easy text and graphic publishing has paved the way for convenient presentation of both verbal (text) and pictorial/graphic (non-verbal) media for participants to use in writing activities.
We used the constant comparative method on the data collected to elicit key issues related to the use of the Weblog Text-image Text Transmission Model (WTTM) in writing for third grade students in Taiwan.
Our findings revealed that the presence of both verbal and nonverbal codes activate associations that inspire an increase in ideas. Dual Coding Theory implies that the more elaborated and connected the complementary systems of language-based and imagistic world knowledge, the more potential there is for meaning (Sadoski and Paivio, 2001). We have found several obvious incidents of representational connections during the writing process. The participants referred to both the photos and the discussion and then retrieved related knowledge and experiences to include in the content of narrative text for writing. Both verbal and nonverbal connections provided content clues and a vocabulary inventory to choose from. Nonverbal clues such as photos were reminders of the scene at some specific moments, while verbal connections activated a wider spectrum of words and idioms. Photos promote more vivid and detailed descriptions.
There were also inferential association incidents, specifically in the use of Chinese idioms that are usually taught through oral explanation only and then memorized by pupils, accompanied with drill practice. However, we found several students used such idioms activated by photos in the discussion forum and subsequently used the idiom in the final writing product.
The Pros and Cons of Word processing
Using the Chinese keyboard system, students save time for penmanship, a very demanding task, particularly for traditional Chinese characters. Cochran-Smith (1991) found that keyboarding skills alleviated the physical constraints and thus allowed the writing process to be accelerated. Participants expressed relief from elimination of Chinese penmanship. In addition, Flower and Hayes( 1981) found that, during the composition stage of the writing process, the composer was required to make a series of choices and decisions and, should the composer become distracted by mechanical demands, the task of planning would be disrupted and the actual translation work from planning to words would be impaired. We have found that 90% of the participants could meet the deadline of turning in their writing assignments, this figure representing an increase by 20% compared to traditional paper and pencil writing assignments. The Chinese keyboarding and typing system provides words in a list with the same phonological symbols so the students could select the correct character rather than composing it from scratch. This keyboarding system is especially beneficial for children who can recognize more words than they can actually produce and thus accelerates the writing process.
However, we have also found a higher percentage of typographical errors. Through interviews and observations, the typographical incidents usually would result from the system’s automatic generation of word combinations, since participating students tended to rely on the system without carefully examining the words chosen.
We have observed a copy-revise phenomenon in the writing process for most participants. They copied the paragraphs in the photo discussion forum or they used the discussion content as the outline and then revised the text to what they believed should be the final product.
In revision, Hayes and Flower (1983) began to use the term “review” to refer to “the act of evaluating either what has been written or what has been planned” (p. 209) and emphasized the pattern of writing process in which writers can recursively activate all three components (plan, translate, and review), leading to a working model of revision (Flower, Hayes, Carey, Schriver, and Stratman, 1986). We have also observed that most changes were related to the choices of words and some syntactic aspects of transforming the colloquial form of speech into what they believe to be acceptable written text. Therefore, the quality of their final product depends on how well they can identify the discrepancies between colloquial speech form and good writing. This revision process actually may be blocked when presentation-related goals are in conflict with content-related goals. To resolve this conflict, we provided a discourse level of knowledge through idiom prompts and writing samples in the third and forth thematic units.
Meanwhile, the discussion forums served to provide collective wisdom that has been identified one of the benefits of communicating through CMC (Gunawardena et al., 2004). During the writing process, participants referred to the contents from the blog discussion forum to retrieve needed information or materials to help them compose the text either at the word- and sentence-level or in broader text features such as organization of paragraphs. We have also observed that less-skilled writers in our study seemed to benefit more from the WTTM model. We have identified three students who have made obvious progress, both in quantity and quality, in the actual writing product under WTTM environments compared with their tradition paper-and-pencil writing samples. They expressed the view that they have an inventory of context to refer to, providing them content on which to elaborate. In other words, they gained essential help in the planning stage of the writing process from the inventory of photo discussion forums. In the review stage, they chose material they think appropriate (review) to include in the final writing product. These are students who often lack knowledge about what to say. The WTTM environment helps them develop content-related goals. Another student mentioned that the photos helped him to recall knowledge that he needed to write.
While writing in cyberspace has raised some provocative issues, such as the presence of electronic orality in writing, children of the digital generation continue to become significant users of information technology, conveying their thoughts and opinions through CMC. The WTTM (Weblog Text-image Transition Model) sees the weblog as a space in which the mediation of technology introduces technologically-related demands on writers such as the incorporation of new interactive techniques and the management of information. Thus, the development of the (WTTM) Weblog Text-image Transition Model is an attempt to frame weblog experiences applied in a schoolchildren writing class under theoretical guidance. Its initial and pilot implementation revealed several insights with respect to third graders’ writing processes by way of WTTM. Based on the findings from this pilot study, we will continue activities and designs to incorporate facilitation of peer editing and review of the final writing products. Also, in the second stage of this project, we will continue to explore the design of empirical studies to identify the effect of WTTM on learners of different writing ability levels.
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About the Authors
Dr. Hsueh-Hua Chuang is an associate professor of Center for Teacher Education and Graduate Institute of Education at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan. Her research interests include faculty professional development, and online learning and technology adoption in schools.
Chia-Lin Shih is an elementary school teacher at Dong-guang Elementary School in Tainan City in Taiwan. She has a Masters degree in Education.
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