Purdue Teaching, Learning, and Technology Conference 2001
Presenter: Jeanne Winstead
Getting in Touch with Technology:
Motivation is a major concern to all teachers. English teachers want to motivate students to read and write.
Communication teachers want to motivate students to speak and listen. All educators are eager to motivate
students to learn technology. Technology itself can help the teacher in this task. This is a story of how a
cyber-quest has lead to all kinds of unanticipated and beneficial outcomes for various people all over the
world and has created a perpetual 'motivation' machine which keeps regenerating and renewing itself.
It all started for me back in the winter of 1998 when a television show called PREY, with an interesting twist
on the theory of evolution, aired on ABC. What if, due to environmental change and global warming, a new
species of man evolved among us - and now, like Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon of old, Homo sapiens and
this new species were competing for the same eco-space?
Out of a desire to learn more about this show, I took to the Internet. Eventually I found a fan-based message
board set up and maintained by an artistic and technically able young woman in Massachusetts. The fans
loved her message board, which was an implementation of Darryl Burgdorf's WebBBS perl CGI script that
can be downloaded at http://awsd.com/scripts/. With WebBBS, users could receive email notifications of
answers to their posts. They could search and configure the messages in the sequence they wanted to read
them. They could see at a glance which messages were new.
As a result, Tiffany's board was very, very interactive. People wrote to each other! On this board wonderful
discussions and debates ensued - both philosophical and silly. People all over the US and Canada and from
all walks of life joined in. They also wrote poetry, authored fan fiction, created and shared artwork, and
collaborated on "round-robin" and "virtual television" series. They moved from communicating with one
another on the message board to trying other forms of Internet communication: list serves, chat rooms, and
ICQ. Eventually many even met one another face to face.
In April '98, after bouncing and pre-empting the series to air the Olympics and "When Cars Collide," ABC
placed the show on indefinite hiatus after showing only eight episodes. The fans under the leadership of
Gina Evers, a schoolteacher and freelance writer from Florida "pledged one another their lives, fortunes, and
sacred honor" to get the show back. More than one person took the leap and bought a home computer, so
they could have access to the message board site from home. Gradually fans started acquiring the technical
skills to build their own websites. They scoured the web for free email, list serves, web space, and CGI
hosting such as http://www.hypermart.net and http://www.angelfire.com. They studied how to get good
placement in search engines.
They also contacted by phone or mail all the major networks, sponsors, local network affiliates, and major
and local newspapers across the country - and even placed ads in Variety Magazine, which was not a cheap
undertaking. They even took their cause to Sci-Fi conventions across the country. They coordinated all this
over the Internet, mainly Tiffany's message board. In response to the outcry, ABC did air the remaining five
episodes in the summer of 1998. Then they canceled the show.
However, the LA Times featured the campaign in an article in July of 1998, then in 1999 PREY went
international, airing, ultimately, in thirty-four countries. In the meantime, after hosting some 40,000 hits, the
first and second incarnations of Tiffany's message board went kaput. Realizing we needed a way to
communicate with one another if the campaign was to stay alive, I installed the current "incarnation" as a
project in one of my EDCI graduate courses. This time the growing cyber-community threw in money to
purchase a website that had CGI-hosting capabilities and to guarantee a little more stability. So now the fans
were all joint owners of their own message board site.
In January of 2000 the Sci-Fi Channel picked up the rights to re-air PREY. It also continued to air/re-air in
countries around the world. This June, PREY fans from all over the world converged on Burbank CA at the
Agamemcon 2000 Sci-Fi convention to meet one another and the series creator and executive Producer Bill
Schmidt (currently the exec producer of WB's Charmed) and writer Larry Andries. Fans traveled from the
US, Canada, the UK, Germany, and Slovakia. One fan even brought her laptop and digital camera, so that
fans from all over the world could 'virtually' attend the con with us (this momentous event is recorded at
In their panel discussion, series creator Bill Schmidt and writer Larry Andries informed us that the campaign
had kept interest in the show alive. An executive at Sci-Fi told him the series' loyal fan base was influential in
getting Indiana native Vincent Ventresca (Dr. Ed Tate in PREY) his role in the current successful Sci-Fi
series Invisible man. The LA Times featured the campaign again in an article on July 4, Endangered
Freedoms. And the entertainment editor of the Indianapolis Star was able to get a spokesman from Sci-Fi to
admit that some plans/discussions were taking place about the show that simply too fragile to reveal. Then
in a December on-line interview on Sci-Fi Stream, actor Vincent Ventresca hinted that something might be in
the works for PREY.
Fans are hoping for at least a sequel to resolve the series' cliffhanger.
In September 2000, the on-line community held their second election and were much more successful in
getting immediate results than were our Presidential candidates in November. The PREY campaign's
board of officers and webmasters is now international. In November 2000 PREY fans held an on-line
auction to benefit a fan who was diagnosed with cancer in July.
The current message board at http://preyforus.hypermart.net/cgi-bin/index.cgi has hosted at least 40,000
messages and probably close to a million hits from people all over the world. Fans have had to deal with
international measures and international currency, current events, and different cultures and languages.
Although the message board primarily is in English, we've had fans post in German and Swedish.
Webmasters have had to learn how to trouble shoot from a distance for people all over the world. And yes,
the site was bitten by the Y2K bug. Many of the fans have learned how to scan, do video capture,
manipulate sound files, set up web pages, and collaborate over the web to get things done. Since the
beginning, we've been honored by visits from the show's creative team - the executive producer Charlie
Craig, who also did the X-files, Producer Drew Matich (Vengeance Unlimited), Director Bill Corcoran, and
musical composer Mark Morgan.
Any number of good things have come about through this experience - improving writing skills, learning to
use technology, communicating with people from different countries/cultures, sharpening communication
skills, resolving conflict and participating in democratic process, community building, and grass-roots
empowerment. People have discussed and critiqued entertainment media and have shared articles about
science, anthropology, and genetics. These are powerful motivating forces that teachers could conceivably
harness for the classroom.
Research Articles on Computer-Mediated Communication
Aycock, A. (1995). "Technologies of the Self": Michel Foucault Online. Journal of Computer-Mediated
Uses instances of recent postings to the USENET news group rec.games.chess to present a
Foucauldian perspective on fashioning of self online. Identifies key aspects of self-fashioning.
Considers implications of this Foucauldian approach for future research on Internet self-
Backer, J. (1998). Computers, the Internet and Student Writing. English Teachers' Journal (Israel), 52,
Describes how many Israeli English-as-a-Second-Language students use cyber-English to
chat with peers worldwide via the Internet, suggesting that this is a useful addition to standard
instruction because it is a motivating and powerful means of communication, and using
English language e-mail is a vital skill that all students need for the 21st century. (SM)
Baron, N. S. (1998). Writing in the Age of Email: The Impact of Ideology versus Technology. Visible
Language, 32, 35-53.
Traces social change and evolution of the American writing curriculum. Argues that
technology alone is not responsible for an increasingly oral approach to written language.
Discusses emergent dimensions of email that alter communication access, social interaction,
and response. (PA)
Baym, N. (1995). The Performance of Humor in Computer-Mediated Communication. Journal of Computer-
Mediated Communication, 1.
Argues that humor can be accomplished in computer-mediated communication and can be
critical to creating social meaning online. Analyzes the humor of the USENET news group
rec.arts.tv.soaps (r.a.t.s.), which discusses soap operas. Combines user surveys with
message analysis to show the prevalence and importance of humor in r.a.t.s. (RS)
Beauvois, M. H. (1994). E-Talk: Attitudes and Motivation in Computer-Assisted Classroom Discussion.
Computers & the Humanities, 28, 177-90.
Reports on an experiment in electronic mail and computer-assisted classroom discussion
among 41 college-level French students. Describes the research design and the results as
they relate to students' attitudes and motivation. Finds that local area networks seem to
encourage discussion among students. (CFR)
Bordia, P. (1997). Face-to-Face Versus Computer-Mediated Communication: A Synthesis of the
Experimental Literature. Journal of Business Communication, 34, 99-120.
Synthesizes findings of 18 published experimental studies comparing face-to-face and
computer-mediated communication (CMC). Finds that in general, discussions using CMC
take longer, produce more ideas, and have greater equality of participation; but that there is
reduced normative pressure and poor comprehension of the discussion in CMC. (SR)
Everett, D. R. & Ahern, T. C. (1994). Computer-Mediated Communication as a Teaching Tool: A Case
Study. Journal of Research in Computing in Education, 26, 336-57.
Discussion of emerging educational technologies focuses on a case study of college students
that was conducted to observe the effects of using computer-mediated communication and
appropriate groupware as a teaching tool. Highlights include effects on the students, the
structure of the classroom, and interpersonal interactions. (Contains 29 references.) (LRW)
Gallini, J. K. & Helman, N. (1995). Audience Awareness in Technology-Mediated Environments. Journal of
Educational Computing Research, 13, 245-61.
Describes a study of fifth graders interacting with their teacher, local, and distant peers
over a telecommunications network, that focused on how the information exchanges
impacted students' development of audience awareness in written compositions. Analytic
and holistic scoring procedures were applied to determine differences in students' writing
Mabry, E. A. (1997). Framing Flames: The Structure of Argumentative Messages on the Net. Journal of
Computer-Mediated Communication, 2.
Assesses the use of the strategic message structuring tactic known as framing. Analyzes
3,000 messages obtained from a diverse sampling of computer-mediated discussion groups
and forums. Finds that a speaker's emotional involvement was significantly and curvilinearly
related to two message framing devices (message dependency and coalition building) and a
measure of conciliatory face-saving moves. (RS)
Marsh, D. (1997). Computer Conferencing: Taking the Loneliness Out of Independent Learning. Language
Learning Journal, 15, 21-25.
Describes how a project in Great Britain designed to promote learner independence in
English-as-a-foreign-language students clarified issues regarding the need to provide
guidance in any student training program. Notes how e-mail and computer conferencing were
used to encourage learners to work together, independent of the tutor, to learn English. (25
Morris, D. & Naughton, J. (1999).The future's digital, isn't it? Some experience and forecasts based on the
Open University's technology foundation course. SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE,
The Open University has gained considerable experience in the use of computer-mediated
communication (CMC) and similar techniques in distance education. The new media offer a
wide range of opportunities for extending the educational experience of learners. In one
large-scale application of CMC, involving some 3500 students, students became enthusiastic
users of the medium, and regarded it as a major source of motivation. However, it is not clear
what other academic benefits they gained from the activity. The strengths and weaknesses of
electronic communication as an educational medium and the resulting consequences for
universities are examined. It seems clear that while the short-term effects of the medium are
relatively small, in the longer term they may entirely reshape the conception of a university.
The role of the academic will change, and new forms of literacy will need to be developed.
Issues of access and equitability will need to be addressed and learning methods adapted so
that the medium gives high added-value.
Ocker, R. J. & Yaverbaum, G. J. (1999). Asynchronous computer-mediated communication versus face-to-
face collaboration: Results on student learning, quality and satisfaction. GROUP DECISION AND
NEGOTIATION, 8, 14.
Although there has been more than a decade of literature on computer-mediated
communication in education, the research has been unclear as to whether it is an effective
replacement for face-to-face (FtF) collaboration. This study sought to add to this body of
research by exploring the effects of two modes of collaboration on student groups. Following
a repeated-measures experimental design, each student group collaborated on two case
studies, one using face-to-face collaboration and the other using asynchronous computer
conferencing technology as a means of collaboration. Empirical findings indicate that
asynchronous collaboration is as effective as face-to-face collaboration in terms of learning,
quality of solution, solution content, and satisfaction with the solution quality. However,
students were significantly less satisfied with the asynchronous learning experience, both in
terms of the group interaction process and the quality of group discussions.
Olaniran, B. A. (1994). Group Performance in Computer-Mediated and Face-to-Face Communication Media.
Management Communication Quarterly, 7, 256-81.
Explores the effects of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and face-to-face (FTF)
media on group performance of college students. Finds that CMC groups generated a greater
number of unique ideas than FTF groups but that CMC groups took longer to reach
consensus than FTF groups. Discusses implications and recommendations for media
combination choice. (RS)
Ruberg, L. F. & Others. Student Participation, Interaction, and Regulation in a Computer-Mediated
Communication Environment: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 14, 243-68.
Based on classroom observation, interviews, and student and teacher surveys, this study
examined student interaction and participation within a computer-mediated communication
(CMC) environment in a college-level plant science lab course. The CMC discourse
encouraged experimentation, sharing of early ideas, increased and more distributed
participation, and collaborative thinking. (AEF)
Sturtevant, E. G., Padak, N. D., & Sturtevant, L. E. (1998). "der nansy i miss you"--A Beginning Writer
Connects and Communicates through Electronic Mail. Ohio Reading Teacher, 32, 12-21.
Presents a case study of one first-grade student's literacy behavior while corresponding
through email during a 13-month period. Presents guidelines for teachers for developing an
email pen-pal project. Suggests email is a powerful new medium for writing. (NH)
Wilson, E. V. (2000). Student characteristics and computer-mediated communication, COMPUTERS &
EDUCATION, 34, 10.
Use of computer-mediated communication systems (CMCS) to support coursework is increasing,
both as a means for students to prepare for using CMCS in their careers and as a mechanism for
delivering distance education. But it is not clear whether the same student characteristics lead to
academic success using CMCS as with traditional face-to-face (FTF) communication. This paper
reports the results of a correlational study of the relationship between individual characteristics
and use of CMCS in a team project situation. On most measures the results suggest CMCS will
be adopted and used successfully by the same types of students who do well in courses
conducted via FTF communication, e.g., students with high-achievement or high- aptitude
characteristics. However, personality type was linked to substantial deviations in CMCS usage,
suggesting that personality may influence academic success in unanticipated ways. (C) 2000
Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Wilson, E. V., Morrison, J. P., & Napier, A.M. (1997). Perceived effectiveness of computer-mediated
communications and face-to-face communications in student software development teams. JOURNAL OF
COMPUTER INFORMATION SYSTEMS, 38, 6.
A reorientation is occurring in higher education where course delivery using distance
education (DE) creates the potential for programming students to participate in dispersed
project teams. Computer-mediated communication systems (CMCS) are being promoted as a
means of supporting DE, but findings from research in the business domain raise concerns
about whether these will be effective when applied to student project teams. To study this
issue, we conducted research in a Business Software Engineering course to learn what
students perceive to be the most and least effective aspects of computer-mediated
communications relative to face-to-face communications in supporting team projects.
Wolffe, R. J. & McMullen, D. W. (1995). The Constructivist Connection: Linking Theory, Best Practice, and
Technology. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 12, 25-28.
Two university projects linked constructivist theory with effectiveness practices. One group of
preservice teachers completed journal entries about their math class. Another used e-mail for
collaborative learning activities. The projects showed the many benefits of using e-mail as a
constructivist tool in both content and field-based classes. (SM)
Danet, B. & Others (1995). Curtain Time 20:00 GMT: Experiments in Virtual Theater on Internet Relay Chat.
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 1.
Analyzes the substantive and stylistic features of the "Hamnet" script (an 80-line parody of
"Hamlet") as performed on Internet Relay Chat. Explicates the logistics of virtual production.
Finds evidence for the democratization and globalization of culture in Hamnet productions.
Suggests that Hamnet activities appeal primarily to a well-educated, technologically
sophisticated, English-speaking elite. (RS)
Darryl Burgdorf’s WebBBS http://awsd.com/scripts/
Gina's Prey Pursuits Site http://members.aol.com/gevers3/preypursuits/
Hungarian Prey Site http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Agency/6173/index.ht
Jill’s Prey Quilt http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/PreyPosters/page4.html
Journal of Computer-Mediated- http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/
Karen's Prey http://www.angelfire.com/tv/onepointsix/
Phoenix Virtual Television http://www.pvtonline.com/
Prey Campaign Publicity http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/prey/campaignarticles.html
Prey Campaign Site http://start.at/prey
Prey Domain Name Site http://www.preytv.com/
Prey German Campaign Site http://come.to/prey
Prey Mini-Con 2000 Site http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/prey/minicon/index.html
Prey For Us Message Board http://preyforus.hypermart.net/cgi-
Reviews/Synopses of Prey http://www.mothership.com/tubereviews/
Roxanne Conrad’s Fan Fiction http://www.artistsinresidence.com/rlc/index.htm
Sci-Fi Channel On-Line, home http://www.scifi.com/, http://www.scifi.com/prey/, http://
of Invisible Man and Prey www.scifi.com/invisibleman/
Slovak Prey Site http://prey.host.sk/
Ute’s Magnets, Video Covers, http://members.aol.com/utepreyart/index.htm
and Sound Bytes Site