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Innovative Uses for a Computer Classroom? 350

flard asks: "I will be teaching a Freshman English class at a medium sized public university, in a computer classroom for next semester. Every student has their own machine with an internet connection. I am thinking about using a weblog for them to post their work and critique each other. Do you guys have any other cool ideas on what to do and what NOT to do?" How can the computers best be applied to assist in teaching a non-technical class? Use of a weblog is a start, but are there other pieces of software that can be deployed in such a setting?
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Innovative Uses for a Computer Classroom?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:51PM (#6278651)
    Spring 1997 to be precise, I took a College Writing (English) section that was focused on online writing. Some of the things we did in class involved not actually speaking in class, but "chatting" over IRC with each other (even role playing as various internet folks and taking their views in the discussion). Personally, had blogs been as visible then as they are now, I think that would've been a great addition. Many classes have regular journals as part of their requirements anyway.
    • by WgT2 ( 591074 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:32PM (#6278973) Journal
      I have taken 3 graduate classes that were internet based. My experience is that unless I just absolutely enjoy the subject being taught then forcing me to do online that which could be done, the real interactive way, in class is a horrible waste of your students' time. So,please don't rob your students of the valuable input that comes from the spontaneous interaction that can only happen in a classroom setting, especially when it comes to asking for critiques of one another. Doing this in class or face to face can save lots of their time. However, you can have students post the process that a particular paper is going through; their changes and what not. For instance: documenting in a blog what he/she incorporated from student X's critique. I have six years of paid teaching experience in Spanish and just as many in other areas on a volunteer basis...
      • by sleeper0 ( 319432 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:51PM (#6279125)
        I agree with the above poster.

        In the early 90's I worked on a project sponsored by AT&T to install classrooms of the future in a few universities. While there are undoubtedly things we did poorly and have been improved upon, one of the most striking findings of the project was that some classes did very poorly in the room. They had booked a variety in the theater the first year and found while some technology & science classes obviously benfitted a lot, other classes such a arts & history had a harder time in the room than in a normal classroom.

        A few of the findings:
        * students often appeared more distracted
        * time spent learning software was not made up in efficiency
        * less personal contact with the professor & with the material
        * transient failures would disrupt the class

        If you are searching for ways to use the classroom i would wager that at least to a degree you will be changing your course from english to one that also involves learning about computers or techniques such as blogs. Is that really what you want to teach? If it was me i would seriously consider asking for a room change or for students to turn off the computers during the class but i'm no professor.

        Don't get me wrong they had great uses but i think the biggest thing we learned (somewhat as suspected) was that they are not for everything.
      • The question is about teaching in a classroom that has a bunch of computers, not about teaching over the internet. The question is asking: "What can I do to take advantage of the computers that will be in front of every student?"
        • by WgT2 ( 591074 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @10:45PM (#6280654) Journal

          The second year of my teaching career I had a principal who said that the teacher himself/herself was the curiculum. At the time I disagreed in that some classes necessitated the transference of knowledge regardless of who or what the teacher was.

          Several years later I now see his point.

          If the class is about computers and how to use them in a particular fashion then go for it. However, it is apparent that the class is about language and the use thereof to communicate. Typing on a computer is a slow means of communicating. It follows then that precious time can/might/will be lost via that means.

          Therefore, it is my professional opinion that they be used as a supplimental means to teaching the class and not a primary means:
          get them from out in front of the students and give them what's in your heart (that is to say: all of you) and not what you or they can put up on a monitor.
          • I have used computers in the classroom, both successfully and unsuccessfully. The guideline I've developed (the contrapositive of what was said in the post I am responding to) is that you should only do on the computer what cannot be done well elsewhere: use the computer for what it's good for.

            Becuase I taught writing when I was in grad school, I actually found that some peer-editing was done better over the computer if the posts are annonymous. At first, people are shy and overly-sensitive when their w
    • I teach literature and writing at a smallish midwestern university with a strong engineering and technical emphasis. I've used computers/email/web pages/computerized classrooms for several years.

      Currently I'm teaching technical writing in a networked classroom. The advantages are many; the disadvantages are pretty much web-surfing, game-playing and reading email.

      My university uses Blackboard, a commercial product that works very well, does a lot of different things, and is easy to use. There are other pro
  • Submission System (Score:5, Informative)

    by sdawara ( 152503 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:51PM (#6278659) Homepage
    Rohcester Institute of Technology has a online submission system that checks for
    1. Minimum assignment requirements met
    2. Plagiarism
    3. Submission/Deadline requirements

    Hope you can get that setup :) They work great here at RIT. You won't believe how effective the plagiarism avoidance solution is.

    - Santosh
    • Ok, you've got my curiosity up now. Particuarly about the plagiarism avoidance system.

      I could see how it would be possible to design to a plagiarism avoidance system using expert and/or knowledge-based systems techniques.

      Obviously you can check to make sure things are attributed properly to their sources -- this entails merely looking at the syntax of the of the quote in question and verifying that all the attribution requirements are there and cross-referencing that with the references page, verifying t
      • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:39PM (#6279022)
        Usually the way these things work is by comparing against a giant database of "papers available on the web" and using various algorithms for judging similarity. This catches at least 95% of people who downloaded a paper from the web and made minor changes to it. In CS, where submissions are usually electronic, profs will often augment this database with all previous submissions for the course, sometimes dating back a decade or so. This catches at least 95% of people who copied an assignment from a friend who took the class a year or two ago (or even someone who graduated 5 years ago) and made minor changes (like search-replace on variable names, or some minor structural reworking) to it. Obviously this is harder to do in the humanities, unless you require electronic submissions in some format parsable as text or you OCR everything turned in.

        As for unattributed quotes, you're certainly correct there. It's a completely intractable problem: the only way to know for sure that a particular sentence (or paragraph) was not plagiarized from somewhere is to check it against every single paragraph ever written in the history of the written word. Checking against some common sources might work decently though, especially if limited to a specific field (i.e. you can probably catch a significant percentage of plagiarized paragraphs in an anthropology paper by using a database of the 1000 most-cited anthropology books/papers).

        But in any case, these things are mainly targetted at outright cheating: copying entire essays or large portions of essays from someone else.
    • First, way to spell the name of our school, jackass ;)

      Yeah we also got this weak-ass system for checking all the CS projects, cheat checking, submission timing, and minimum effort requirements.

      The problem with the system they use ( aptly called 'try' ) is that when it checks for your minimum requirements, it will tell you that something is wrong, ("Your program has failed test 1!!!" ), not exactly what is wrong.

      Oh yeah, and if you can't make minumum submission by the set date, you fail the class.
  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by craenor ( 623901 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:52PM (#6278665) Homepage
    Strange as it may sound you could have them each log into IRC, set yourself as the Moderator for the channel. Then take turns working on sentence structure, spelling and grammar.

  • by tinrobot ( 314936 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:52PM (#6278666)
    Instead of passing notes in class, the students can use instant messenger to call you names behind your back.

    Of course, with a good packet sniffer, you can snatch the notes from their grasp and read them aloud. Just like with paper!
    • unless (Score:3, Interesting)

      by waspleg ( 316038 )
      those students are tech saavy and use something like trillian that has built in 128 bit encryption...

      of course they might stick out a bit too

      (insert subversive evil cable-theft voice)
      unless all the clients use encryption and then you'll never know muhaha

  • How about (Score:3, Funny)

    by nicodaemos ( 454358 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:52PM (#6278669) Homepage Journal
    letting them compete for First Post on /.?
    • Letting the students even see Slashdot would probably be the last thing an English teacher would want... ;)
      • Letting the students even see Slashdot would probably be the last thing an English teacher would want... ;)

        However, it would be a good source of assignments.

        Teacher: Class, today we're going to spell-check and grammar check the front page of Slashdot.

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:52PM (#6278673)
    ...and it degenerated into the teacher saying "stop touching the keyboard" every five minutes. No matter what concept for curriculum one comes up with, as long as the students can get onto the Internet, they will. I even was more creative than most, since I SSHed to the university solaris server, which was an arguably legitimate use, only to then launch a black and white console IRC session. I didn't get caught, but several other students with IM clients or GUI-based IRC clients did. Nothing punitive came of it though, because there were no real enforcement policies.

    The class could have been much more efficiently run without computers, or at least without a live Internet connection. Some (like my case) will always find a way though the campus network, but if it can be minimized, that's the only way it will work.
    • I Second This (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blunte ( 183182 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:05PM (#6278790)
      And since I'm replying to an "interesting" post, mine may not be flagged FLAIMBAIT... maybe :)

      Computers are a tool. In this setting, they'll be a distraction. They're not going to make a very non-technical class like this more interesting. They'll just provide an outlet for disinterested people to keep themselves busy.

      Back in my day, we used books and notebooks. When it came time to write a paper (a formal effort, not a weblog), we did use a computer. But that was not during class.

      I think you really need to look elsewhere for ways to get students interested and involved. Computers will be a mistake.

      • If the teacher cant give an interesting lecture the teacher shouldnt expect everyones attention, however if people dont pay attention and they get a bad grade the students shouldnt blame anyone but themselves.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:22PM (#6278909) Homepage Journal
      Sounds like your instructors are not very good at maintaining the interest of their students. If you need "enforcement" to maintain the attention of the class, something's really wrong with the way the class is being taught.

      I adhere to the other extreme: school computers should not be in "computer labs". Students should be using them all the time: taking notes, looking up references on the internet, IMing relevent data to classmates without disturbing the class as a whole, etc. Yeah, this can be abused. But if students are not motivated and involved in the classwork, they'll find ways to goof off, period.

      Don't take my word for it. Look at schools that have followed this philosophy. Higher test scores, increased attendance, increased interest in writing...

      • I don't think so... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TWX ( 665546 )
        I have to disagree. People will, by their very nature, take the path of least resistance, for what they want to do. If you provide a kid, an adolescent, or a college student with something that they would rather be doing, rather than the prescribed activity, they will do what they want, more often than not.

        Education is dictatorial. You're not supposed to get what you want, you're supposed to get what the educational institution offers. By and large, students don't like this. The ones that do are usu
        • by fm6 ( 162816 )
          You've just given a prime example of what's wrong with most debates about education. It's all idealogy, and no facts

          You've got a lot of half-assed generalizations and pet theories. My lack of interest in these is extreme. Let's talk about real-world teachers. I've known good ones and bad ones. Good ones don't care about distractions -- they even use them. Bad ones blame their failures on distractions, immoral influences, "human nature" -- everything except their own lack of skill.

          But I am grateful to yo

      • by Myriad ( 89793 ) <[moc.dosbeht] [ta] [dairym]> on Monday June 23, 2003 @08:17PM (#6279402) Homepage
        Sounds like your instructors are not very good at maintaining the interest of their students. If you need "enforcement" to maintain the attention of the class, something's really wrong with the way the class is being taught.

        Obviously YANAT. As someone who is, let me respond to this:

        Just as you can't please all of the people all of the time, you are not going to have every student totally interested and completely focused all of the time. The only way you might be able to achieve this (for a brief period) is with some theatrics which probably adds nothing to the lesson as a whole.

        Now, lets say a student mind wanders off... if there are few other distractions one of two things are likely to happen:
        - The student will daydream a bit then snap out of it, or
        - The student will daydream for the rest of the class.

        Either way it's an isolated student. They may miss the lesson entirely, but that's their problem later on.

        Now, lets create an environment where it is easy for someone to access the web, IRC, IM, etc:

        The same student drifts off and decides to check, say, Slashdot. They start reading an article. Decide to post a response, etc. Suddenly 20 minutes has gone by. At this point even if they turn back to the lesson odds are they've fallen way behind in it and will have trouble following it. This can lead to less than brilliant questions about content covered 10 minutes before - wasting other peoples time (and irritating those who are paying attention). They may distract and disturb those around them.

        You're right when you say if they're not interested they'll find ways of goofing off. But when it's a student on their own they aren't likely to disturb others, or encourage them to stop paying attention. If they're ICQing classmates, banging away during a lecture, and what not, they are far more likely to be a disturbance to others.

        Since we are in networked computer lab, and actually need it for our classes, this sort of thing can happen. The students who are totally wiped out from work and need a few Zzzz's I'll tend to leave alone. Those who are just goofing off, well, they get called on a lot. Hearing your name and looking up to see the lecture has stopped and everyone is staring at you tends to encourage people to follow along.

        Learning is work, nobody likes work. It's a balance though, a sterile and boring class will hold nobody's attention. You try to mix things up and keep it interesting as much as you can while keeping it relevant... but sometimes rules and enforcement are needed for the good of both the distracted student, as well as the class as a whole.

        (and this is coming from a one time class clown turned into College teacher. If I ever had myself as a student, I'd have kicked my own ass!)

        Blockwars []: you know you wanna play.

    • We did this all the time in our CAD labs and Structural Systems lab class. Where ever you were on campus we could log into our vax acount then intern log unto IRC, or e-mail. One teacher had a system of walking around the classroom then reading peoples e-mail out loud. It was pretty funny when one girls crush became public as she desperately tried turning off her monitor.
    • I think that you should not be using the computing aspect of the computer, but should be using its memory aspect.

      And, your Weblog idea falls in the memory space. You are trying to save the written conversations with one or many in a chronological fashion. So, in a way you are trying to create an institutional memory.

      You could show your students what a wonderful "institutional memory" Google is. Do searches or exact quotes by remembering just a few words of the quote. By showing how easy it is, you can teach your students to be more precise in their use of references and paraphrasing ideas.

      You could also show the students a wealth of english literature on the web that is freely available, You could introduce them to efforts like the Guttenburg project [] and let them know that good books don't have to be expensive or out of easy reach locked up in some library somewhere.

      You could explain to the students as to how things can be so easily checked for plagiarism, that it is better to give credit where it is due rather than claim it. It might help cultivate a new generation that has no hesitation in acknowledging where the ideas came from - thus, later allowing for a better public discourse in their civic life.

      You could show them the power of weblogs in the evolution of ideas, by exposing the various stages of idea development to criticism by peers - seen and unseen. Though a lone author can come up with a great work after being in isolation, I think the probability if a great work is higher if it is exposed to some criticism as the ideas are coalescing in the writers mind. You could also introduce them to literary discussion groups.

      You could expose your students to the chunking of ideas in electronic and cyberspace , because ideas have to be expressed in screenfuls, and thus a sort of an unnatural frame is created around the idea. You could also expose them to the different style of organization of chunks of ideas needed when the reader has some element of choice in deciding the sequence. If there is another post on this subject soon, I will try to put more of my thoughts across. I think, as long as you keep you focus correct, and not get caught in the computing aspect, by explore the networking aspect, you can't go wrong. After all, what is writing - it is just a network of words and ideas.

  • Try a wiki (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ca1v1n ( 135902 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:53PM (#6278678)
    Google for wiki. It's a website that anyone can change, keeping a changelog of course. You could have a lot of fun with one (or a few) of those, especially if any type of creative writing is to be going on.
  • Use Slashcode (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:53PM (#6278679)
    Post an essay topic, let the kids review the submissions with mod points given to your favorite students. Just like Slashdot.
    • Re:Use Slashcode (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Osty ( 16825 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:29PM (#6278949)

      Post an essay topic, let the kids review the submissions with mod points given to your favorite students. Just like Slashdot.

      Or better yet, use Scoop [] and let everybody moderate. Picking favorites is just asking for trouble. I'm sure you could give mod points to everyone in Slashcode as well, but I don't know how much hacking this would involve.

      Anyway, both engines are probably excessive for the job at hand. Something along the lines of PHP-Nuke [] would likely be more than sufficient.

    • Lord of the Files (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:32PM (#6278977)
      Thanks for the karma, but I was being a little sarcastic. Since no one is calling me on it, I'll do it myself.

      Giving an elite few the ability to moderate posts on the basis of favoritism barely works on Slashdot, let alone a high school classroom.

      Imagine the resentment that could be generated towards the class mods for weighted moderation.

      Imagine the abuse of power that a mod could use against a classmate they didn't like.

      Teachers have favored students, no question. But giving mod points on that basis would undermine at least the illusion of fairness.

      I think the only reason Slashdot works at all is the relative anonymity of the posters. Most moderation here seems to be on the basis of the posts alone.

      If you use Slashcode in the classroom , give everyone a mod point per topic. I think it will save you a lot of headache later.

      If anyone thinks this is some sort of commentary about our beloved Slashdot , you might be right. I'm only a little bitter about never getting any mod points myself.

  • I think something like the system that powers [] would be usefull.

    Provide a forum for both discussion of instructor posted "articles" as well as a way for students to post their own writting samples, which can be reviewed/critiqued/commented-on by other students, in such a way that the "cream" rises to the top, and is more visible by all students.

  • Answer: don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gay Nigger ( 676904 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:53PM (#6278683)
    Computers are best left to technical fields. Plus you have the problem of the learning curve - how much will it take people to figure out how to properly use whatever technology you require of them? Remember, it doesn't matter if you think it's easy - if it gives them any kind of trouble, you're going to have to take time away from what you're supposed to be teaching to help with with the technology.

    I say, leave technology out of English. Time would be better spent teaching the way that it has worked for hundreds of years - without the computer. Sure, computers can aid those with good typing skills in getting a paper done faster, but they far and away are useless in such courses as a teaching aid. If it were an engineering course, I would say differently - the world has changed much through the transition from slide rules to calculators to computers. But leave English out of it.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Computers have created a society without attention spans or connection to the real world around them. Writing is a physical activity that should take time to produce quality results. Blogs are useless and a horrible waste of time. Please have your students write well not in excess.
      Check out this article from one of Americas best essayist/poet/fiction write []
    • Re:Answer: don't (Score:4, Insightful)

      by A non moose cow ( 610391 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:11PM (#6278826) Journal
      Agreed. It would be like wanting to teach an art class in a machine shop full of programmable lathes.

      OOooh... that might be cool actually.
    • Re:Answer: don't (Score:2, Interesting)

      by datawar ( 200705 )
      Used properly, computers can be a very valuable resource in any classroom. They're not a specialized tool, like a calculator, that can only be used in certain, well-defined fashion - they're generic tools.

      Most everyone in a given college classroom has at least passing familiarity with web-browsing and basic messaging systems (whether IM or forums), and so, unlike other posters have suggested, there should not be much of a learning curve.

      From weblogs, to real-time commenting on what's going on in class, to
  • Writing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Minam ( 456447 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:54PM (#6278688) Homepage
    My wife taught an English writing course for several years (to non-native speakers) and used some Perl scripts I wrote for her to do things like forums (where the students were required to participate in online discussions about topics of interest to them) and a "random topic generator" (where a topic like what would appear on the TOEFL would pop up, and they had 30 minutes to write an essay on it). My wife also did the old-fashioned thing and had the students turn in papers, but she would type them up and post them online so that the students could see how each other did. She must have done something right, 'cause the students always loved her class.

    I suppose what I'm recommending are forums. Never really used weblogs, so I can't comment on that.
  • Just wondering if they were tablet PC's or regular PC's (laptop or desktop, doesn't really matter). At Drexel University, we just started using tablet PC's in several classes, but the main one non-computer science/engineering related would be for math courses. The tablet PC's enable students to easily work out problems using the ability to "write-out" the math problems quickly and easily save into Word documents as image files by using the pens to free-hand the symbols, etc., used in math courses.

    Not sure
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I took a class like the one you describe as a freshman, and the instructor spent substantially more time helping students who were unfamilar with web publishing, and even basic computer skills in a few cases, than he did helping students develop their writing skills or discussing course reading materials.

    In short, be sure you don't lose focus on what's really important to teach during your course.
  • Wiki! (Score:2, Informative)

    by dubStylee ( 140860 )
    I suggest looking at setting up Wiki []. Collaborative writing with ability to make links inside and outside the wiki and the ability to edit each other's texts which will put a different spin on the nature of the collaboration. Also, the sheer simplicity of it will focus the students on the content rather than on playing around with a bunch of software widgets.
  • A word of caution: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FalconRed ( 91401 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @06:55PM (#6278702)
    Use the computers only where it makes sense.

    The Weblogs are a good idea, because it allows the students to critique each others' papers on their at their convenience. And of course the Internet is a great research tool.

    However most teachers fall victim to the temptation of using computers too often. Putting today's lesson into Flash may be "cool", but it doesn't help the student learn the material. English is about the written word, not about the latest technology.

    Also, if you use the computers on a regular basis, there will always be a few students with poor computer skills or who crash the machine that will demand immediate attention. This iterrupts the flow of the class and cuts into precious class time.

    Think twice about trying any of the suggestions here. Because college classes should be about learning first, using technology second (or third, or fourth...)
    • Which skill will serve the students better later in life - familiarity with Microsoft Windows, or the ability to write research papers in formal English with footnotes?

      If you said footnotes, try again. Nobody in uses footnotes after college is over.

  • by pcboss99 ( 463534 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:00PM (#6278747) Homepage
    I'm an instructional technologist for a large university, and your concern here is one I find myself discussing with a lot of faculty lately.

    Here are some precautions and some ideas:
    * Be careful how much you require your students to learn in order to use the tools you choose -- frustration with technology will overcome any benefit from the tools.
    * Identify and use 'peer experts' in your class to help you teach the basics.
    * Using Blogging in a writing class is a fantastic way for your students to gain ownership of their writing online, but you'll have to work hard to encourage anything like collaboration, peer reviewing, or even quality. This is a good use for a detailed syllabus.
    * An easy way of supplementing a Blog is to require the students to build a web-based portfolio on which they can post edited 'highlights' from their blog.
    * Be precise about your requirements. I recommend giving seperate credit for 'participation' and 'attendance' online. This means that they have to do something meaningful to get the 'participation' points, but by simply posting anything they'll earn the 'attendance' points. Sounds hokey, but it really works to show students how to go beyond just posting to posting something worthwhile.

    Okay . . . enough edu-speak. Let the technophiles sound off, because I'm curious to hear what these creative minds will offer as alternatives to blogging.

    --- Brian Richard
  • by jemenake ( 595948 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:00PM (#6278748)
    As time goes on, I keep discovering that more and more commonly-used cliche's trace back to famous pieces of literature. (ie, "Neither a borrower, nor a lender be", "Good fences make good neighbors", "Out, out.. damned spot!", etc.). It surprises me how ignorant most people (including me) are about where these came from.

    Now, looking back on my English experiences, I think it would have been pretty cool if each student were given a phrase and they had to use the net to find out what literature it originally came from and have to read enough of the surrounding text to be able to describe the context of the scene where the phrase occured (like Lady MacBeth trying to wash the blood off, etc).
  • A single weblog? (Score:3, Informative)

    by metalhed77 ( 250273 ) <{andrewvc} {at} {}> on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:00PM (#6278749) Homepage
    Perhaps a weblog for each student would make more sense. A single installation of moveable type ( can service an arbitrary number of weblogs. You could also have one main weblog where each student turns in the link to his work, and where assignments are posted.
    • Re:A single weblog? (Score:2, Informative)

      by jodo ( 209027 )
      Check out [] It has the ability, if desired, to have separate blogs for each student. Also a "book" format for collaboration. And even a separate forum. And static pages as well. Very nice. Students can even learn the meaning of taxonomy! ;->
  • Many people fall into the "if the spell checker liked it it must be okay" trap. Many variations are possible, but my favorite is to run "Jabberwocky" through a spell checker and tell it to "Just fix it". A friend of mine used to have the results from an old Macintosh spellchecker on his wall...
    Twangs brilliant and the silver tongs did...
    • Was was that grammar check bug in either word 97 or 2000?

      "unable to follow directions" was incorrect
      "Unable to get an erection" was correct

      Something like that... it was something to that effect, which I first learned about it after a niece of mine got a kindergarden report card... and other parents were most miffed.
    • Teas Willis, and the sticky tours
      Did gym and Gibbs in the wake.
      All mimes were the borrowers,
      And the moderate Belgrade.
      "Beware the tablespoon my son,
      The teeth that bite, the Claus that catch.
      Beware the Subjects bird, and shred
      The serious Bandwidth!"
      He took his Verbal sword in hand:
      Long time the monitors fog he sought,
      So rested he by the Tumbled tree,
      And stood a while in thought.
      And as in selfish thought he stood,
      The tablespoon, with eyes of Flame,
      Came stifling through the trigger wood,
      And troubled as it came
    • Jabberwocky is fine on OfficeXP - sorry.

      I always liked this:

      Eye have a spelling chequer,
      It came with my Pea Sea,
      It plainly marques for my revue
      Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

      Eye strike a quay and type a whirred
      And weight four it two say
      Weather eye am wrong oar write,
      It shows me strait a weigh.

      As soon as the misses ache is maid
      It nose before two long
      And aye can put the error rite
      Its rare lea ever wrong.

      Eye have run this poem threw it,
      I am sure your pleased to no,
      Its letter perfect awl the weigh,
      My chequer tolled me sew.

      Wonderful. :)
  • Whatever you end up doing, be lienent on those paper deadlines. Freshmen are the worst for doing quality work on deadlines. A good thing to do is set a deadline for class one day. Then say that you think they could use a little more time on their work and push it back by a class session. This is a life saver for the student who punched out 10 pages in one night and really did not have a chance to proof it.
  • TikiWiki (Score:3, Informative)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:04PM (#6278776) Homepage Journal
    TikiWiki [] is a combination of Wiki, CMS, Forums, chat, blogs, image/file galleries and a lot more that let users collaborate in a lot of different ways. It also have a very highly configurable permission system, that enable controlling what some can do and some others no, or what features a group or an user can access.
  • While we're nowhere near the 1 computer for every student mark (something like 1 for every TWENTY) we do have quite a good infrastructure set up for those who are 1337 enough to know it exists.

    * We have our own irc server, which is meant to be used for only Uni related topics but somehow falls short of that

    * The uni has a newsgroup server and most subjects (at least that I do) have a newsgroup which the lecturer/tutors check regularly and answers questions

    * Each lecturer/tutor has an email address tha
  • phpBB2 (Score:5, Informative)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:04PM (#6278782) Homepage
    phpBB2 [] is a great community forum system that's easy to setup, extensible, and requires little or no maintenance. You can easily create forums that the students would find interesting and useful (homework discussion, reference sources for research, suggestions for class projects, etc.), while still allowing instructor oversight and moderation. Private areas can also be setup (invisible to students), to allow the instructor to have their own discussion areas as well (or areas where students can work on group projects, isolated from other student groups).

    The phpBB Community Forum [] is an example of the software in use, if you want to get an idea of its capabilities. All open source. I'm not involved with the project, just a happy user. :-)

  • MUSHes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Boatman ( 127445 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:05PM (#6278792)
    Have them explore a multi-user text-based reality simulator, like Elendor []. My little brother learned his excellent writing skills on Elendor, as a byproduct of interacting textually with extremely literate and picturesque writers.

    He has been playing for about 7 years now. I asked him about the character he plays... and he could have gone on for hours. Read some of the "Role Play Logs". Amazing. And amazing that they're ephemeral - imagine if every action were logged! We could spend years just as spectators, watching wars and communities from hundreds of different perspectives.

  • by colmore ( 56499 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:06PM (#6278794) Journal
    In that context, they're going to be using a lot of AIM slang, announce on the first day that it's an English class, and you expect English spelling and English grammar. In general I don't like computer classrooms, especially not for English. They get in the way of actual discussion. The best environment for a literature class is a big table where everyone looks everyone else in the face. Don't just ask your students to memorize the plot, ask them to think critically about the books. Why is this an important thing to read? What does it say about society? Literature is more than a fancy way of telling stories, don't let them discuss books on the level that they'd discuss an action movie, they're definitely capable of deeper analysis than "it was cool when..." Also, for high school English, don't underestimate short stories. You should definitely be assigning a lot of novels as well, but frequently young students are much better at thinking about short works critically. On the first day, have them read Hemingway's "A Clean Well Lighted Place" to get the ball rolling. You can read it in 10 minutes and the story obviously exists for a reason other than to tell about some event that happened to some characters. Also, I'd suggest The Bell Jar, Lord of the Flies, Huck Finn, and Catcher in the Rye as great books for ninth graders. If you're going to do any Shakespeare, Othello is probably the most accessible of the 4 tragedies. As far as the computers, I wouldn't use them for anything beyond in-class typewriters. Certainly don't make them do powerpoint presentations or webpages. What on earth does that have to do with English. Some sort of continuing reading response diary is a good idea, but make sure out-loud discussion and debate outweighs typing. Oh and they should be writing an essay a week, at least. It's a shame how poor the writing of most high schoolers is. Anyway, good luck.
    • oops (Score:4, Informative)

      by colmore ( 56499 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:14PM (#6278859) Journal
      Since i've been thinking a lot recently about becoming a highschool teacher, i just read it that way.

      Anyway, yeah, make sure you teach them to be a bit more critical readers than me.

      And apply for a room transfer. A computer classroom is a gimmick. Gimmicks have their place in highschool - it's your job to hold their attention even if they'd rather be 100 miles away, but in college anyone who doesn't feel like learning can just leave. The computers will only distract the students. They can post to a blog using library computers or their own computers during time outside of class. I promise you that your class will go better if you get a better room. Ideally one with a table like I talked about above.

      Oh and you weren't very clear in your question: is this an English class as in books and composition, or teaching the English language to those who don't know it? There are a variety of useful computer applications for learning language. Literature on the other hand is for dead trees and human discussion. Your students will be reading their email and not listening if you put computers in front of them.
  • by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:09PM (#6278813)
    As I understand them, weblog programs are designed to allow one person to post an article, and then other people to comment on it. I do not think this is well suited to what you want to do, because 1) you will have multiple people posting multiple works, 2) you will probably not want to allow comments from random strangers. Using weblogs, each student would need to have his or her own weblog, which would make it more difficult for collaborative use of the type you envision.

    For these purposes, a forum would be much better; forums allow for multiple, separate discussions to take place in a centralized area. They also allow the forum administrator to lock down the forum in such a way that only members can post messages, and the administrator gets to say who can be a member. This would help keep the discussion on topic. Each student's work would go in a different thread -- say Sally M. Haverforth posts the first draft of her argumentative essay on Milton's treatment of women in a thread called "S. Haverforth -- Milton: Masochistic Misogynist?". Subsequent comments from her peers would be replies to that initial posting, keeping the whole thing neatly organized.

    If you have access to an appropriately equipped server, I recommend phpBB [] for the job: it's easy to set up and administer, open source, free of charge, and fairly easy to use.
  • Do not allow (Score:5, Informative)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:10PM (#6278820) Journal
    Anonymous FTP'ing or such things. It took us one weekend with somebody leaving the anon FTP open for a nice 7200 new folders to be found on the server at work (no, it wasn't me)
  • A blog is an OK start, but it tends to be a vanity publication. I suggest making it a bit more formal and giving them an opportunity to develop their research and debate skills. Example: give'emn a topic at the beginning of class and they have to research the subject sufficiently to develop an argument, and deliver it by the end of class.

    I'm really not keen on computers in the classroom unless it is required for technical reasons. Face time is too precious as it is, it seems stupid to waste those fifty mi

  • During my freshman year I had a few classes that were located in computer labs such as programming and a business class. In both cases no one would pay any attention to the instructor. AIM, ICQ, news and just surfing were the main culprits. I would recommend pulling the plug when you plan on actually teaching them material and then finding a way to limit there activities on the internet during assignments. I think you will find that most people will tend to do other things during class and not the work at h
  • by Ra5pu7in ( 603513 ) <ra5pu7in@gmail . c om> on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:13PM (#6278852) Journal

    Imagine teaching a basic math class to second graders and giving them calculators. They'll learn how to use calculators. They won't learn basic arithmetic.

    You'll have to look very closely at what you want your students to learn. This might be the ability to spell-check and grammar-check their own writing without being dependent on a word processor. It might be to write regularly. It might be to read available text and review them.

    Whatever it is, you will want to make sure the computer is nothing more than a tool - like a pencil. As several others have pointed out, it is very easy to abuse computers in a classroom setting. Access to the Internet is very hard to control completely and IM/IRC are not much more effective than group discussions.

    The main benefit of computers might be minimizing paper. Sending the assignments and notes to each computer and having students do their assignments on the computer to send to you could be a great savings in paper.

  • The best thing I would want a computer infront of me for is information

    What is my grade? What did I get on that last assignment? When is the next assignment due? Any errata on that? Can I chat with other students in the class re whatever I want?

    etc etc etc

    Im so borring. Sorry :(
  • Prior knowledge (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:15PM (#6278864)
    Will your students be able to type?
    Do they have experience using a computer?
    Are they comfortaqble using a mouse?
    Do they know where the any key is?

    The first thing I was taught in my teacher ed classes was not to assume any prior knowledge.

    My advice would be to forget the computer room for teaching English. If not your class will turn into a computer class.

  • by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:15PM (#6278870)
    If you don't have a reason for using computers, then just don't use them. I think putting computers in educational settings in many cases is just plain dumb. Why can't you just teach the materials, then let students create and turn in assignments electronically. That doesn't require computers in the classrooom, unless you are given to let students do their assignments during class.

    Now if there is an additional "writting lab" or something like that that isn't instructional, but hands on (in otherwords the students are expected to be doing something rather than lectured at) that is a great use for a computer lab. Each student can use the time to do what they need to do.


  • Well, you could try setting up a forum. I'd go for that in favour of your standard weblog (not that a forum can't be made into a weblog).
    Setting up a forum allows you to create different areas, with diferent themes. It could also be interesting that users could pick their own avatars, theme, and you can set static user titles, titles by post count, etc.

    phpBB [] is incredibly easy to setup. If you have a running DB (MySQL, PgSQL, whatever), instalation is is a snap. I suggest you take a look at it. Visit
  • by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:20PM (#6278898)
    Have them correct the spelling/grammar errors for any 100 slashdot posts for a particular article.

    Shouldn't be to hard to find them errors eh?
  • Privacy concerns (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drdale ( 677421 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:22PM (#6278905)
    One thing to investigate when you are setting this up is your school's policies on student privacy. At my university, at least, we have to be a little careful about letting students see other students' work. I often do (low-tech) peer review sessions; I will have students read drafts of each others' papers and give comments. It is all anonymous, because in my classes I never have students put their names on any assignment or exam; I do it all my grading by the last 4 digits of their ID numbers. And it is voluntary; I do this on the day papers are due, and those who choose to participate in the peer review get an extension to make corrections. If you choose not to participate, you simply turn in your final draft that day (and leave class early!). Still, my dean told me last term that I need to start having students sign a sheet in which they formally waive their right to privacy and agree to participate in the review.
  • My experience taking classes where computer postings were required has been that the posts quickly become dismissed as busy work. Many people ignore them, or make only a token effort. They put in less effort than they would if they had to discuss in class, because a lame post to a course web site gets ignored in the flury of posts before the deadline for the weeks response, whereas there's no way to step back from a moronic comment made in a regular discussion. So I would recommend against required web/b
  • If you have any sort of online posting/review process where the students can view and critique an essay or other assignment, it would probably be wise to allow for anonymous posting and response.

    The critique portion being anonymous is simple. If someone wants to point out negative aspects of the assignment, they don't have to worry about the other students thinking they are a "teacher's pet" or just being malicious. Once the novelty of posting anonymously wears off, you should start getting some honest fee
  • by kenneth_martens ( 320269 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:30PM (#6278957)
    My freshman year of college I had an English professor who focused on teaching us to write for an online audience.

    To illustrate the difference between writing for print and writing for the web, one of our projects was to write a research paper and then adapt the content for a website. She taught us the bare basics of HTML, as well as some design styles.

    But the main thing she focused on was how we had to adapt the content for the medium. Paragraphs had to be much shorter--preferably not paragraphs at all, but rather a list of bullet points. As a rule of thumb, she told us that we had to cut the length of the information to 25% of the length of the paper. Much less than that and you lose important information; much more and you lose the interest of the audience.

    Also, she demanded that the websites be readable in any page order. No fair making users click through the pages in order, because they simply won't do it. So while you can lay out a nice long cohesive argument in a research paper, you can't do that in a website. You have to post your conclusions right on the home page, and then have links to other pages that have supporting material, but in such a way that each page can be read without having read or seen any of the other pages.

    Competant communication in online media is a deceptively difficult skill, so if you can teach your students a few simple things like that (and if they actually learn) you will have helped them immensely.
  • by MemRaven ( 39601 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:32PM (#6278963)
    It seems like you're looking at a situation where everybody's going to be roughly on the same level, which probably means that they're not going to be too advanced. Remember, you're the instructor. That presumably means that you have more insight than they do, and that they're in your class to gain your insight. With that in mind, do you think having Sally critique Bob's work is going to be more useful than your critiqing Bob's work in the first place? In fact, if you then posted the results to the class saying "this is what made Bob's work good; this is what made Bob's work bad," that would probably be far more useful than having Sally spout out drivel at Bob. After all, you're not going to be able to review every comment, so how do you know that Sally won't tell Bob lies (inadvertant or not) and overall reduce Bob's skills even more?

    This is not to say that you will end up with a bunch of people who are morons critiquing everybody else's work and ending up with them all dumbing down even more, but it's a possibility. Another possibility is that they'll all rise to a level of Borg-like hive mind and produce amazing work. Personally, I'd bet on the former more often than the latter. Although in classroom settings people often open up the door to peer review and discussion about works and ideas, it's almost always moderated and on subject, so that the instructor/moderator immediately has the opportunity to call "Bullshit" when Sally is full of it, or "Bravo" when she has a deep insight. If you've got blogs gone crazy, you don't have that control.

    Peer review on something technical probably works much better because you're focused on getting something done, and on getting the correct results.

    It might be better if we knew what type of English class this is? Are you teaching them the basics of the English language? Are you teaching creative writing? Is it literature, comparative or not? Is it focused on a particular style of writing and literature? English covers so many different things that the possibilities for effective use of technology are really different for each of them.

    But something that you probably should do if you don't pay heed to the many people telling you to get the heck out of hte computer lab for the English class is something I've seen for business meetings. They're systems which are essentially whiteboards where students can post questions online for you to cover during the lecture, as well as comments, anonymous or not. So if you're covering Wuthering Heights and aren't properly covering the psychosis of Heathcliff, someone can say something like "Please cover more Heathcliff's obvious lack of proper seratonin function" or even just "slow down, you're going too fast" and you (and/or everybody else) can see and/or respond live.

    • One of the most insightful and effective ways I've seen peer-reveiw used was by having people respond to essays they liked.

      Each student was assigned to quickly review everyone else's submission for that week and choose at least two essays that they wanted to respond to.

      The incentive, was purely positive. As a student you push yourself harder not only because your paper would be available for public review, but also to get positive feedback from classmates.

      Unlike most classroom peer-review, the feedback w
  • by rsheridan6 ( 600425 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:34PM (#6278990)
    Have you really asked yourself why you want to use computers so badly? These students should be learning how to write a coherent paragraph. I really don't see how a blog is going to help.

    This sounds like 1998 style overenthusiasm for the net.

  • What is gained from using a computer in a classroom? If you can't answer that question, then don't do it. There are plenty of good uses for computers as resources for the course (writing papers, research, email listservs, class messageboards), but having every student on a computer during class time sounds like it would take away from teaching English.

    For every thing you come up with, ask yourself if that could just as easily be done outside of class - the blogging suggestion does not need to be done dur
  • I would like to suggest websites similar to Everything2. Everything2 has drastically improved my writing skill and it is a great website designed from the ground up for authors. They tend to enforce strict grammar and spelling and it already has a support system and rating system built in. Students could write on literally any topic, and you could have them monitor the write-ups/essays to see how the general E2 populous reacts.

    You can write weblogs, technical articles, reviews, however the majority of t

  • Put the book online and let any reader select a block of text and associate it with a thread of discussion. The text would then be highlighted so that other readers would know that it is being discussed.
  • Speaking as a longtime prof, one way to spark lively discussion in a computer classroom is to set up an anonymous quiz/voting booth. Technically it's a simple operation: set up a javascript on your class webpage, use a bit of perl or whatever suits your educational software.

    Let's say you're teaching a rhetoric course: use a voting booth to let the students vote which of two takes on a topic was the more persuasive. Then the class discussion can roll on into the why.

    Many students feel inhibited from raisin
  • They are getting access to computers for a non-technical class? Your budget must be way too high.

    Computers make no sense at all for this kind of thing - except possible for rock bottom (~$100) old machines that can function as a cheap yet flexible typewriter. You want them to lean how to write, not how to participate in the endless circle jerk that is blogs (and /.... oh, um, never mind then).

    At least make them write their essay in vi - that way they might learn something useful at the same time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2003 @08:01PM (#6279242)
    You want "Cool ideas"? It sounds to me like the computers in your classroom are there for novelty value rather than education purposes.

    Focus on your job, which is teaching English, grading your students' papers, and discussing the appropriate literature.

    J.R.R. Tolkien never had a computer, and he wrote masterpieces. Twain, Dickens, Kipling, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Melville, and Poe didn't have computers; can you imagine how computers would have affected their skills?

    J.K. Rowling doesn't even use a word processor; she just writes her Harry Potter masterpieces in long hand on a yellow pad of paper. (That's a bit extreme.)

    How many of your students are going to win a Pulitzer Prize or a Nobel Prize in literature? How many of your students will write a book worthy of Oprah's Book Club (TM)?

    You should concentrate on that. If you want to be "innovative" in education, make sure you have a set of measurable results that you will achieve. Otherwise if you want an excuse to play with computers, switch to another job. Don't waste your students' or taxpayers' money just so you can goof around pretending to be "innovative".
  • by gozar ( 39392 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @09:27PM (#6280028) Homepage [] is an open source package that allows several features of what everyone has been mentioning here. A neat feature is the journal that allows the teacher to critique their writings privately. It also has forums, online quizes, etc.

  • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @09:28PM (#6280034) Homepage Journal
    I will be teaching a Freshman English class at a medium sized public university, in a computer classroom for next semester. Every student has their own machine with an internet connection.
    I will be teaching a Freshman English class at a
    medium-size public university, in a computer classroom [delete "for"] next semester. Each student will have their own machine with an Internet connection.
    If you had said that you would be teaching a computer science class, a biology class, or any type of class other than English, I wouldn't have been such a picky bastard. ;-)
    • by alienw ( 585907 ) <alienw.slashdot@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday June 23, 2003 @10:48PM (#6280678)
      Each student will have their own machine with an Internet connection.

      Each student will have his or her own machine with an Internet connection.

      "Their" is plural. You have a singular subject that you are replacing. You have to use "his" or "his or her" if you want to be PC.
      • by fmaxwell ( 249001 )
        Regarding the use of "their": I considered changing the word "their" to "his or her", however, it is widely accepted as correct.

        According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:

        Usage Note: The use of the third-person plural pronoun they to refer to a singular noun or pronoun is attested as early as 1300, and many admired writers have used they, them, themselves, and their to refer to singular nouns such as one, a person, an individual, and each. W.M. Thack

  • My $0.02 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tmortn ( 630092 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:27PM (#6280966) Homepage
    First off you have to embrace computers and the internet if you intend to teach a class with a live internet connection.

    By embrace I mean do not try and treat it like a regular classroom. Students WILL type constantly either on topic or off topic especially if they have a live internet connection and if that is disruptive to your method of instruction run far and run fast from the lab NOW !!! Seriously it will never work and even if it does all your going to do is frustrate the students sitting there with computers and not being able to use them. Quiet click keyboards would help immensly but boards in labs are generally loud clackers and the very lively accoustics of most rooms don't help.

    My suggestion would be to not plan on Verbal lecturing at all, if you do need to have lectures schedule them in a room away from the computers if at all possible. I would suggest some sort of obvious progression where students read and post their thoughts as directed by your questions to answer or discuss etc.... Classtime can be used for class discussion thread style. I would set up some sort of scoring system with you as the score keeper... IE offtopic and flamebait takes points off, pertinent posts score according to some scale you have. Goal of students is to reach a passing point.

    *** random idea which would need software that could handle it *** Student is given 5 posts per topic. Posts are rated by the teacher in say two or three categories ( say grammer, quality of content for starters ) score is on a 1-10 scale which can be multiplied by 2, added all together and divided by the number of categories for ye olde 100 point scale

    At anyrate you get the idea. Instead of verbal lectures you outline the discussion in a written aggenda. I personally would say take the lecture notes, note the pertinent areas of discussion and link in the text to the appropriate place to post responses... In passage I want you to the consequences of actions. Then Repeat ad neaseum for all needed points of discussion. Include your lecture material in addition as well. Then spend the time during calss monitoring what is being added to the discussion and offering one on one feedback going around the room.... constant moving will also enable you to keep something of an eye on poor choices of web pages for information sources.
  • by kipple ( 244681 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @03:29AM (#6282161) Journal
    ok please... turn it off at least until you speak (a good 20 minutes will be fine). After that people will get bored and start surfing the net, so let them do it for a while, then make a break and stop the internet connection again. finish your class with a new topic, try to forus people's attention on something new that you haven't said before.

    and yes, walk trough the classe once in a while (not when you're not talking)
  • Wiki. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oscar_Wilde ( 170568 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:04AM (#6282272) Homepage
    Well if its for an English class, get them to do something interesting witht a wiki. Weblogs are all well and good but people get enough practice critiquing others work.

    With a Wiki you could see how they go when they have to work together to get something done. Simple wiki software such as UseMod [], might not cut the mustard but you could try setting up a PediaWiki [] based site for them to work with.

    I'd imagine that there would be lessons in online anonymity to be learnt here as well....

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"