The Classroom: The Experiment

A preliminary experiment was conducted with a group of students enrolled in an experimental writing lab offered through my university’s Writing Center (which I also direct). The writing lab was offered to a group of students from a freshman Bridge program (another experiment) and most students took the lab in conjunction with either the university’s basic writing course or introductory first-year composition course. The lab combined direct instruction on writing with frequent opportunities for one-on-one response sessions with the Center’s Responders (our term for writing consultants). On a day set aside to work on thesis statements for the students’ argument papers, I led the group through an exercise that asked everyone to participate in a range of correspondence-based activities. Before we began, I asked the group several questions:

  1. How many of you sent a text today?
  2. How many of you emailed today?
  3. How many of you used Facebook today? How many tweeted?

All of the students had sent a text. All but one student had used Facebook. Under half the students had emailed. No one had tweeted; only one student was a member of Twitter.

I asked the students to text, email and Facebook me using different technological tools—a mobile device and a desktop computer—with their draft thesis statements in order to receive help or feedback. In other words, students corresponded with me usng two separate sets of technological applications (SMS and email) and two separate sets of technological tools (moble devices and desktop PCs.) Specifically, I followed the steps outlined below:

  1. I asked students to text me directly, via a mobile device, with their thesis and a request for feedback.
  2. I then asked students to put down their personal mobile device, move to a desktop computer, and email me directly with the same thesis and request.
  3. Students were then given the option of sending their thesis statements via Facebook to the Writing Center page.

As students worked on these tasks, Writing Center Responders circulated throughout the Center answering questions and offering feedback.

Hypothesis: Students would have the functional literacy to accomplish each of these tasks with some amount of effectiveness, but would not alter their writing or rhetoric according to the genre or tool being used to send each message.

The Classroom: Early Findings ...