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Getting In Touch With Technology


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Abstract for presentation on Computer-Mediated-Communication and Motivation at Purdue's Teaching, Learning, and Technology Conference 2001.

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Getting In Touch With Technology

  1. 1. Purdue Teaching, Learning, and Technology Conference 2001 Presenter: Jeanne Winstead Getting in Touch with Technology: Abstract 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 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 and 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.
  2. 2. 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 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.
  3. 3. Research Articles on Computer-Mediated Communication Aycock, A. (1995). "Technologies of the Self": Michel Foucault Online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 1. Abstract Uses instances of recent postings to the USENET news group 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- constructions. (RS) Backer, J. (1998). Computers, the Internet and Student Writing. English Teachers' Journal (Israel), 52, 30-32. Abstract 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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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 (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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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.
  4. 4. Abstract 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. Abstract 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 performances. (Author/LRW) Mabry, E. A. (1997). Framing Flames: The Structure of Argumentative Messages on the Net. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2. Abstract 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. Abstract 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 references) (CK) 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, 16, 9. Abstract 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.
  5. 5. 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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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
  6. 6. 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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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. Abstract 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)
  7. 7. Websites Darryl Burgdorf’s WebBBS Script Gina's Prey Pursuits Site Hungarian Prey Site m Jill’s Prey Quilt Journal of Computer-Mediated- Communication Karen's Prey Transcripts/Collages Phoenix Virtual Television Prey Campaign Publicity Prey Campaign Site Prey Domain Name Site Prey German Campaign Site Prey Mini-Con 2000 Site Prey For Us Message Board bin/webbbs433/preyforusmb Reviews/Synopses of Prey Episode Roxanne Conrad’s Fan Fiction Site Sci-Fi Channel On-Line, home,, http:// of Invisible Man and Prey Slovak Prey Site Ute’s Magnets, Video Covers, and Sound Bytes Site