original 320x240, scaled to 160x120 webcam scene of classroom in Estonia The once live webcam of a 5th/6th grade classroom in Tallinn, Estonia (GE) is no longer operational. Mr. Montgomery left for law school. New candidates for classroom webcam scenes are needed for this chapter.

Writing, Word Processing and Team Thinking

A Computers in Education Chapter

Personal and Collaborative Writing Tools

100x120 Vermeer painting of writerWriting began transforming culture thousands of years ago. Putting the language of words and mathematics into signs or symbols, freezing it for later revision or sharing, enabled a more constant, complex and consistent improvement in ideas and understanding. The growing pace of cultural change led to a need to more quickly move thinking and questioning from the mind to its recording, and from the recording to the minds of others through reading. Long after the invention of computers in the 1940's, this need led programmers in the 1970s to create the first word processors that began to resemble those in current use. Computer networks and the explosive entrance of the World Wide Web in the 1990s added numerous new forms of text communication. Networks have further stimulated collaborative writing. 100x118 man typing in scientific laboratoryThinking with the model of writing remains a powerful way to work through problems and express ideas. In just the first few years of the 21st century, the innovative nature of cyberspace has been constantly changing the way culture thinks about composition and teamwork, which changes the nature of thinking, which will increasingly change the nature of teaching and of reading.

The nature of composing with text has been altered in many important ways in moving from cellulose technology (e.g., paper) to the development of computer based processing of words. digi paletteBut ... by changing the technology of writing's container from paper to the Web means that still images, animation, audio, video and more can exist not only on the same page, but both the static and interactive forms of the palette's media can be in the same page or different frames within the same window. The Web and its pages have made writing but one member of a composition team that includes all forms of media. With this chapter's focus on the black text blob of the palette on the left, this series of chapters has completed one spiral around the digital palette and has begun the next higher level spiral that applies team activity to these tools. Our culture is just at the beginnings of understanding how to compose in these other media and how to choose which forms of media to use when. The importance of writing is not about to go away, and in partnership with other media and the Web, text composition becomes even more powerful. How do we use this newly invented and history making potential to partner with each other while creating a partnership of the elements of the digital palette?

Partnership implies a certain degree of relationship and relevance. For example, the Web makes it possible to partner this online textbook with live text conversation, that is, to create a partnership of different forms of reading, search and understanding. As an example of such partnering, the top frame and bottom frame will be used to hold different kinds of writing. As tweets from Twitter may be a new concept to some, explore a Twitter search in the top frame to see what the world is writing/typing about right now on various topics, along with frequent links to more in-depth Web pages. In the search box that appears in the top frame, type in the word "digital literacy" whose results, called tweets, then will then appear. Twitter and other live online system can connect readers and writers not only with the latest thinking on a topic, but provide a name as an immediate reference for further live Twitter contact. About every 15 seconds a number updates indicating how many new tweets are waiting to be sent after you click the refresh link.

Using just this simple feature, one can measure the frequency with which particular words from the textbook or any topic are in current discussion. One can follow as many different words or phrases at one time as one has time and space to open and minimize Web page windows for later checking: e.g., teamwork, word processing, outlining, graphic organizers, Kidspiration, Web search, creativity. Try other words or phrases from different teaching topics and subjects while doing the chapter readings, glancing up from time to time to see if the number is growing. An optional feature called tracking as in "track algebra" will be released in the weeks ahead that will turn Twitter displays into continually scrolling lines of text. Tweets are short by design, being limited to 140 characters so they can also be sent and received as cell phone text messages. This live partnership can also include other media in this understanding. The once active classroom webcam at the top of the page is a reminder that most live chat systems including the popular Twitter and AOL's Instant Messenger, have versions that simultaneously include webcam audio and video and/or image snapshot sharing. Twitter has versions for both English and Japanese. New languages for the Twitter system are also coming soon (Sunny, 2009). Instant translation services are also in development (with all the attendant problems of translation systems).

A media and interactive team of information sources can also be formed not just for understanding, but for writing and all forms of composing projects. Whether planning an essay, photographs, drawings, video, music, animation, or sensor projects it is beneficial to sketch out some ideas using text. The Web provides a bubbling fountain of information that can be skimmed for inspiration, ideas and references. It is easy to open a live stream of tweets built on terms of interest for writing and place it along side a window of a writing space. The writing space might be a new word processing window, a wikipedia encyclopedia page needing edits, or a Google Sites Web page that is shared among multiple collaborators. Whether in Estonia (see above webcam image) or any where around the world, new ways are being found to communicate, collaborate and calculate using computer systems and new ways are being found to carry out traditional tasks. 

Word Processors - Powerful Features

A better understanding of the depth with which our culture and educational system depends on printed text comes from an examination of the extensive tools that have been built to support text's creation and display. They include flyers, newsletters, greeting cards, postcards, forms, brochures, catalogs and more. To this the Web has added text chat, tweets, comment and input boxes, email, online collaborative word processing and stimulated a growing array of smart phones that transmit text from anywhere and to anyone 24/7. Other related text tools include spreadsheets, databases and slideshow applications that are addressed in other chapters. This chapter focuses on what are commonly called word processor type applications, though these now run from both the desktop (e.g., Microsoft Word) and the "Webtop" (e.g., Google Docs online word processor, Web pages). For more on common word processing features, see the linked Word Processing Tutorial. Writing is a major player at the Evoke stage of our problem solving model (LEAP), the stage where composers begin to assemble solutions from their research and experiences.

Word processors may not be capable of the creation and editing of sounds or video, but they have a wide range of tools for the creation of mathematical equations (see optional reading in sidebar) and the analysis, editing/revision and display of words. Tools that can analyze text and provide feedback to the author, such as spelling and grammar are unique to text-based tools, as for example compared with audio, video or virtual reality editors. This analytical feature is also common to other text based tools such as computer programming languages, spreadsheets and databases and to other tools which incorporate text such as slideshow makers like Powerpoint. Many of these word processing features are increasingly embedded in tools for email and chat (live online text typing). Current word processors can also convert text to different technical formats. For example, with a couple of commands, word processing documents can be saved as web documents and as plain text formats that can be read by many other kinds of text editors. The link in the side bar of this chapter to the word processing tutorial leads to a review of not only the many features of word processors, but to section three of the North Carolina teacher technology standards for word processing. 

Word processors also provide a very compressed form of idea storage. Far more ideas expressed as text can be stored, copied and transmitted quickly than in comparison with other media. For example, in the same space that a computer stores one minute of video, an entire textbook can be stored. The space issue is closely related to time. In the same time that it takes to transmit one minute of video, an entire book of text can be sent. The technical aspect of word processing is primarily about manipulating text. The real power however comes not from the manipulation but from the composer's facility with expressing ideas.

Search as Word Processing

One of the Web's greatest contributions to writing is the concept of search. The input box for searches of the Web can be thought of as a tiny, highly simplified and specialized word processor that is focused on questioning. The search examines networked computer files, shelves of libraries, or the immediate comments of a bloggers or a personal computer's hard drive . This search input text can be copied, cut, pasted and deleted. These searches are searching the output of word processors that have provided the text which contains patterns that can be computer searchable. The Web's search engines index the text in cyberspace and this enables split-second access to immense numbers of text-heavy resources or whose text points to other media, such as video which cannot be searched within itself. No one has figured out how to tell a computer to search video to find five pictures of tree. Searches can only search the text description of video, not the video itself.

Indian hunting with dogsWord processing also makes it easy to insert information from other sources, if the right sources can be found. The seed of a writing idea can be modified, expanded and reinvented much more rapidly if writers have easy access to the thinking of others. The digital age extends the concept of hunting with our legs in a library, to hunting with our fingers on the web. Composers greatly benefit from being effective hunters, and benefit further from using the full range of leg and finger hunting.

As the images of these classic hunters to the right and below remind us, hunting with intelligent helpers, capturing and preparing the game and cooking what has been caught has long been a life sustaining tradition in human culture. Today it's just done a little differently in cyberspace. Hunting strategies are still needed, but 21st century selection of assistants involves selecting among digital dogs, that is selecting strategically among the different search systems. If hunters know how to effectively use text based search engines to chase down what they are after, digital hunting expeditions can be very successful. The search strategy of the information pyramid discussed in a prior chapter provides a clear strategic approach to the hunt. (Credits: courtesy of the LOC.)

bird huntingCyberspace hunter-gatherers hunt, capture, prepare and organize their growing set of captures using word processors. Then using basic skills of copying and pasting text, idea hunters further cook this information by selecting the best cuts to insert into thinking projects that range from essays to unit plans. The graduate level ERIC assignment operates in a similar fashion. Much as with our classic hunters, a wide range of skills is also required by digital hunters (Houghton & Houghton, 1999; Szczepaniak, 2003). Much more will be addressed in later chapters, but digital hunting creates new problems. One major problem is the high volume of information that searching the Web can provide. There is great need for greater speed and power in organizing the emerging collection of searched information and the set of recordings of personal ideas. These problems will explored in greater detail in a moment through the discussion of organizing tools, including outlining and graphic organizers. (Image Credits: courtesy of the LOC.)

Organizing and Assessing Ideas and Search Data

These word or text editors provide the ability to create different kinds of overview or summary of the larger structure. For example, word processors use print preview and outlining to allow users to see the "forest for the trees."

Outlining, as in the example on the left, is another different way to visualize the organization and structure of text. An outline processor is built in to many word processors and yet the vast majority of word processor users have never used it, nor seem particularly aware that it is available or has been a major feature since 1983 in Microsoft Word. The outlining tutorial in this chapter addresses this in detail.

In addition to text based outliners, there are graphic outliners that are also called idea outliners and visual or graphic organizers, such as Kidspiration and Inspiration. If these applications for visual organizing and thinking are not on the computer that you are using, it is highly worth the time to visit their web sites to download the free trials for Kidspiration (up to 6th grade) or Inspiration (6th to adult) to preview and explore the features. Such tools can play an important role in the prewriting AND writing phase of composition.These applications can also share files. That is, a Kidspiration file can be opened in Inspiration, whose files can in turn be opened and enhanced further in Microsoft Word. In addition to the phrase graphic organizer, such thinking is also called by different names, meaning slightly different things. Each of these links leads to definitions and related lesson plans: storyboard, concept map, spider map, venn diagram, character web, KWL chart, and story map. There are numerous examples of what students have done with these tools that are worth further study (also see below). Right click on any link in the inline frame below to open it in its own larger window. Thinking more visually is an exciting way to further raise the motivation for classroom activities.

Historically, educators and many learners generally have a bad impression of outlining, a valuable concept that simply did not turn out to be particularly efficient when implemented with paper technology, too time consuming for all but the simplest of uses. In contrast, computer technology eliminates all the problems of paper based outlining, and makes outlining incredibly efficient and fluid, especially for larger writing projects. All writers should become fluent in its application and use it and other idea organizers with most writing assignments. Outlining is an excellent tool to use in the creative activity of brainstorming as well as in the critical analysis that follow brainstorming. This chapter gives it special attention. See the linked Outline Processing Tutorial for more. Other media systems have features that also allow for revisualization of a composition including scaling, storyboards and slideshow previews. Video and audio editors display reduced frame counts and other forms of time compression. Later chapters will introduce and educate more about these features. 

Not all of the special features of text display will currently work on the Internet. Collapsible outlines will not work at all on a web page and special fonts are not universally available. For example, if a font is picked for use by a web designer on their computer, there is a good chance that another computer on the Internet will not have the font needed to display that web page the way the designer intended it to look. Or, the remote computer may choose to display a page in a font of their choice, ignoring whatever had been chosen by the page author. With a word processor and a printer, the output is almost exactly like the screen display. This is not always the case on the Web. Authors need to consider how they will best share their work before they put too much time into its look. What may look great on a designer's computer make not even be possible on a large percentage of other computers across the Internet. This is also true of other media. In earlier chapters, a Web page and Web site based approach to text was introduced. But control over the display of text in web pages is limited by the great variability among the computers and web browsers across the Internet. 

The newest word processors also share the ability to display and/or incorporate different media types, including still images, video, and audio files. Though word processors lack many drawing and painting features and cannot compose and edit audio, video and virtual reality by themselves, some word processors include some ability to do basic object drawing or to do simple edits of cropping and scaling with still images that have been inserted. 

Word processors begin with copying the paper writing process, but making it faster to type and rearrange: type, cut, copy and paste. More effective writers explore many largely unused features of word processors, features not available in paper composition, such as outlining and media integration. The fluid nature of outline processing transforms the composition and editing process. The multimedia nature of digital word processing means that almost any media can be inserted within the sentences or between the paragraphs. Network tools can add collaborative sharing procedures to such work. In this chapter, the focus is on thinking with words.

Changing Educational Behavior in Teaching and Learning

The teaching and learning of basic writing skills still needs many traditional approaches. These approaches are still the most economically efficient possibilities with current school budgets. Students and writing centers still need and take great value from markers, highlighters, post-it notes, pens, pencils, paper and bean bag chairs in quiet sections of the room. But change and desire for additional options are in the air. Note the linked vision statement of the NCTE and IRA. Their policy includes this priority: "8.  Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge." The more teachers know about word processors they more they will see ways in which they can help students in learning this process too and discover other innovative methods of learning as well. Further, simple changes in the means of composition (using computers) can be very effective in helping learners and teachers move to more media integrative writing styles. Also, understanding the basics of the text writing process contributes much to understanding the composition process used in other media and vice versa. 

Changing our attitudes about alternatives to paper will also support change. Even though nearly every teacher's desktop in North America on average now has a desktop computer, there is still an expectation that assignments will always come in on paper. This eliminates the very possibility of using the computer to integrate with text our other forms of expression, such as music, animation and video. Further, why should assignments ever be "handed-in" to the teacher? The web makes it possible to never hand-in a paper assignment; rather, the learner will upload them or post them to student blog or web site pages and teachers will see them there.

The most significant problem today with computer technology in 21st century schools is the general inability of state legislatures to fund computers on student desktops in public schools because of their cost. A second problem is the large size of desktop computers that take up too much space for school classrooms. Solutions are emerging.

The cheap price of handheld computers changes that equation considerably. Inexpensive handheld computers or PDAs make it possible to use infrared beams to transmit their assignments to the teacher's computer and provide the least costly computer/word processor combination currently possible. More recently, laser and infrared based virtual or projection keyboards (see picture on the right), make typing information into PDAs fast and portable using any flat surface (Gruener, 2005). Click the picture for more information about this product concept.

At least including and encouraging the option of other media in assignments would be a strong step in the right direction.  Encouraging wider use of media elements means that such media must be both available and formally introduced. This will be covered in some detail in later chapters. However, some introduction is relevant here. Fortunately, an enormous range of clip image and other media forms can be inserted, copied and pasted from resources provided by the word processor itself. Appleworks now provides an extended clipart collection directly from the Internet instead of from the hard drive. The clip search feature is built into the Appleworks word processor and provides tens of thousands of searchable items. Microsoft's widely available Word application also has a large media collection that is both kept on the computer workstation hard drive and searchable across the Internet by category. Further, images and other media can be readily copied from most web pages on the Internet. Does someone need a picture of an elephant? Searching for web pages about them is likely to yield a picture of one. Searching Google.com's image database will yield hundreds of pictures of elephants in an instant, but raise copyright issues not raised by personal clipart collections.

An example was given earlier of the value of the image database, using it to share Kidspiration images. Unfortunately since this approach involves the simple inserting of the image work of someone else, media use can seem disempowering. Further, pictures are often included for mere decorative purposes making the use of imagery appear to be unworthy of serious attention. Given the computer's capacity to create other media, there is little excuse for other media not directly contributing to the concepts being developed instead of serving as decoration. Teachers will have to confront these issues in order to grow the incentive for change. 

Later chapters will address the relevance and empowerment of image creation, putting educators right in the center of the composing of such elements. For now it is sufficient to note that students can be involved in the creation of a wide range of clipart that they take from their own camera work or drawn by themselves. Such work can be stored on class hard drives for the use of future students. But the point of such work in the teaching environment is not to demonstrate that an image is worth a thousand words, but to demonstrate that media elements will stimulate the writing of a thousand too. 

Teachers can and do also create language arts assignments that are linked to other subject areas, such as the math class. As will be seen in the spreadsheet chapter, it is easy to move not only the columns of numbers from a spreadsheet into a word processor but also move the graphs and charts that are created in or by the spreadsheet as well. 

Do some brainstorming about other possibilities for helping teachers and learners make the transition to greater integration of word processing into current practices and the integration of text and other media as well. Be prepared to share these. What could be done with the teaching that you are currently doing? 

Media Values for Thinking in Cyberspace

In some cases, other forms of composition have had a negative impact on reading and writing. Television was one new media that was rather quickly adopted within the culture. It appeared at times to be overwhelming the capacity to develop good reading, writing and thinking skills. In contrast to study of the educational impact of Internet use, The 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress report noted that students who watch at least four hours of television each day had lower average reading scores than their peers who watched less. The influence of television  became so strong over the past 50 years that special state programs developed, such as California Reads and similar programs. Their encouragement to parents to reduce the number of hours their children watch television improved reading scores. Still unknown is the impact of students composing television (e.g., video) instead of just "reading" it.

The fast pace of new media adoption did not end with television. The pace has only increased. Even newer media is influencing new generations of students. The World Wide Web is one of the major recent developments.  It is so comprehensive in nature that it could also be seen as a collection of further evolving communication technologies. Since 1994, the World Wide Web has been radically altering concepts and definitions of composition and communication through its convergence of many forms of expression. The popularity of computers and the web have given the written word new life and yet made it increasingly a member of a team of communication and composition forms. 

Cyberspace Composition Merges Media

Like a single leg on a stool, writing is essential, yet insufficient to carry the full weight of 21st century communication needs. Writing text itself has not gone through much of a change from the last century, but what has changed is access for students to other forms and means of composition. Not only can seekers gather information from a wide range of media (e.g., magazines, photographs, radio, TV), but they have the tools to compose with these new media. The audio, image and video editors that were formerly so expensive as to be inaccessible to all but the very rich and powerful come free with the cost of a computer and the distribution of their creations is often free with the cost of access to the Internet. The network of computers known as the web has led to even more dramatic changes, merging, integrating and synthesizing not only a mix of these media in one composition, but using blogs and wikis to providing reader input, and to remix and unify the very nature of reading and writing, and as well as remixing our approaches to personal voice and community voice in the composition process. Composition is not what it used to be.

Software editors for other models of thinking besides writing (audio, image and video composition for example) have become as easy to use as word processors. Various degrees of editing control are commonly and freely available. A Windows XP computer ships with Photo Editor, Sound Recorder and Movie Maker; each Macintosh computer now ships with iPhoto, Garage Band for both sound recording and musical composition, and iMovie. There is a sense in which each of these media reinforces the use of text, as writing is often used to help in creating and planning the development of other media, but each media also eventually abandons text to bring focus on itself. For example, a script is written to produce a videoclip or TV show. Also, we leave the text description of a TV show in order to focus exclusively on the TV show, which seldom provides any reference or encouragement to return to written text. The web however has undone this separating effect.

Through web hyperlinks and media embedding, readers and authors keep the text and different media within the same frame or a set of pages. Digital technology eliminates the separation of media by hardware. TV, CD player and the book can become one, letting composers work with the strengths of each on the same page. The media and the written text constantly lead and encourage the reader to jump from one media to the other, each composition giving different weight to the time spent with different media, creating 2, 3, and 4 dimensional compositions. The Web seems to encourage compositions whose elements are attached by technical and conceptual rubber bands that stretch but don't let go, encouraging a leap to elsewhere, yet bringing the reader (and author) back to where they started or almost. But the computer does something even more valuable. The computer environment makes increasingly more seamless the stages of reading and writing, creating a fluid like cascade of changing voice and meaning.

Understanding will not follow such abstraction without some examples. Before going on, read this article with different examples of emerging web composition. Read Joseph Squier's article, The 3-dimensional Web, which in the most current issue of Kairos, a refereed journal on composition that exists and could only exist on the web. Reading this article requires readers to have their headphones on or the computer speakers working with sufficient volume. It also requires a liberal clicking of spaces and places with the frame of the article to find all of the authors links to the short compositions that he discusses.

Cyberspace Transforms the Procedures of Composition

Experience with blogging and linking was begun in earlier chapters. Links can also be made between documents on a computer that is not connected to any network, such as between Microsoft Word files. Text in a Word document can link to your Powerpoint file which can link to a spreadsheet which can have a link back to a Word document. Links can also work across files scattered around the world on the public spaces of hard drives attached to the Internet, the files that make up the World Wide Web. Later study includes a reading on group or collaborative writing.

Blogs represent one of many kinds of designs that can be used for both personal and collaborative writing. In the second part of the chapter on writing, Wikis take this a giant step further. The underlying concept of a wiki is that anyone can click a button that allows them to instantly edit the text of a wiki page, then make those changes viewable by anyone on the Internet. As a quick example visit wikipedia.org, the world's largest encyclopedia and look up words, terms or concepts important to you. Look for one which you can change in order to improve it. Make links to other pages in the encyclopedia that expand the ideas in your additions. If you cannot find such, then make an unnecessary change just to prove that you can, then change it back.

The concept of a voice cascade is another abstraction that needs more explanation and example. Let's start with a metaphor. The cascades of a mountain stream gather in pools then push on downstream to reorganize in the next pool before repeating this again and again. The voice cascade of the thinker’s journey is not so different. Many different software applications might be used in the thinker's cascade. We search the web to listen to the global voice of many writers, then develop a thinking voice for interpreting an idea or text. We push on to build our writer's voice by interacting with 140 character limited tweets within Twitter and then might expand our ideas with text in a blog which opens the door to hear the voices of others through their comments. We create a greater or longer response by copying or collecting the ideas discovered along the way and insert them for composing within a word processor application such as a wiki. Through wikis we share work in a public way negotiating with many voices as others provide edited feedback leading to the critical voices that compares a finished composition against others of its kind. The wiki composition may be pasted into a word processing document for further private editing and publishing through other means, such as in a book. The concept of the voice cascade provides a model of the process in the transformation of our minds in responding to and solving problems in the world around us.

New concepts create a need for the coining of new words. Here's a newly coined word just for this chapter, a cliki, combining letters from the words cascade, blog and wiki, along with the pun of clicking links, but not limited to just these applications. A cliki (as this Flash animated example shows) is a cascade of applications including the reader input features of blogs and wikis. This is just one example of how a thinking transformation might occur. Computer technology’s unique contribution to this model is to provide the tools with which to better unify and integrate the "walled-garden" stages that paper technology made so separate and that school curriculum has reinforced through separate classes in reading and writing and in different content areas.

Cyberspace Synthesis Thinking

Because the computer and computer screen merge many functions into one space that previously occurred in separate buildings (library, office and printing press), the integration of actions also happens in our minds, which is then generally expressed in new vocabulary. Will the terms read, write and publish morph into something like weadish (writing, reading & publishing)? Or do we read because we want and need to improve our previous communication as teachers and life-long learners (publish, read, write=priting)? We are entering the era of the read/write/share web. Breathing is inhaling and exhaling but we think of it as a single act. Breathe. Thinking might reach that status some day. Prite!

The thread of thought on the study of digital text that weaves through these chapters began in earlier chapters with the learning of the skills of how the digital age links texts together. Those prior chapters demonstrated the idea of composition as a collection or set of texts, a concept sometimes called hypertext. Each chapter is a further demonstration of models for the composing of a group of texts or hypertext. This chapter accents forms of word processing, the digital tools for thinking about the composition of a single document of text. Later chapters also look at thinking with text through the perspective of spreadsheets and databases and other media. Throughout this thread on the use of writing and text, the focus is on the ways that digital thinking increasingly integrates not only different forms of text but also integrates the products of other non text forms of thinking and composition. 

Cyberspace Intent on Creativity

Note the review of creative and critical thinking provided by the link in the left frame page to creative thinking. The critical thinking that led to the Web's convergence of compositional forms has led to new levels of creativity and divergence of expression. Both creative and critical thinking are essential in writing and in using new information technology to magnify human capacity. Further, as Richard Florida notes in the Rise of the Creative Class, creative thinking is critical to entrepreneurship and growing the economy of the 21st century. The creative spark that can be motivated by text based writing can be fanned and grown by adding instruction in composition with other media.

This apparent need for the creative integration of text with other media has interesting implications for educators and human evolution. The people who are making the most rapidly growing form of publication today, the Web, appear to be making the convergence of many media a standard. 

We know that different forms of thinking and composition activate different parts of the brain. Howard Gardner (1983) has long used this knowledge to advocate for the theory of multiple intelligences. Is the brain, in its need to do this, using the increasing activation and cross-linking of these different regions to reach a higher and more powerful level of integration that better uses the brain's current capacity? 

Does this create the potential to awaken more of the unused capacity of the brain? Web composition based on new technologies of expression has provided a much larger more inclusive environment in which this can be considered. This new synthesis of  many media has become as innovative, rich with meaning and interactive as jazz music. A single page on the Internet may not only include text but also animation, video, narration, music, photographs, virtual reality, chat, email, videoconferencing, calculations, programming languages and more. Until computer technology came along, there has not been one canvas on which paint, video, sound, music, animation, letters and numbers and live calculation. Even more could be placed in this galactic or "whole media" (as in whole language) approach to composition. Each of these media formerly required different technologies for creation and displays. Computers made this digital convergence possible and the Internet increasingly makes it dominant. 

But why? Do brains hunger in general for different outlets of expression and feel confined by instruction with just text or is text manipulation so mentally taxing to many that they are seeking to escape it? Is the explosion of web work with animation, virtual reality, music, remote sensor electronics and more a retreat from writing? Or is it incentive to do even more writing in accompaniment? The good news for our educational systems is that at least the Web to date does not demonstrate a flight from text and numerical based thinking. These tools will continue to serve as a solid part of the foundation of teaching and learning. This revolution is not about throwing out the old guard. Convergence is its theme. Integration of new forms of expression is the requirement for membership in the revolutionary guard.

Word Processors - Features Shared with Other Media Editors

Because word processors share many of the basic composition concepts with other media, they also serve as a stepping stone for new media. All media editors work well with a process model of composition: prewriting, writing, revision, publishing. Just as word processors allow for the movement of elements (such as words, sentences, and paragraphs) using the commands cut, copy, and paste, so do other media editors have ways to cut, copy and paste animation, audio, video and image elements. They share a need for a set of goals to most effectively guide composition and design.  Sometimes the goal is known before we write; at other times it emerges from the process of collecting and recording ideas. See the linked activity to Add unit plan objectives to section II. of the unit plan. Teacher lesson planning benefits from knowing the goals and competencies.

Writing shares many additional elements of development with other forms of composition. To better reveal the degree of this sharing, this chapter links to a deeper introduction to a four step model for problem solving, a model which has its roots in a four step model for writing: prewriting, composing, editing-feedback and publishing. This model is generalized to apply to the instructional design for each chapter, to apply to a wide range of curriculum subjects commonly taught in schools and to apply to other composition tools addressed in later chapters. 

This model is the LEAP model of Look, Evoke, Assess and Publish (or Perform). These four steps are also used to guide the presentation of information and activities of every chapter. Further,  read this linked essay to discover important shortcomings of digital technology. The LEAP model is used to expose inherent digital shortcomings that highlight the paramount contributions of human beings. These critical contributions explain why computer technology should not and cannot replace a human educator or human beings for higher order thinking work. They define the limits to which computer technology can carry out educational tasks as well as a wide range of human tasks. 

Educational Teams

This LEAP model can also be applied to the integration of cooperative and collaborative groups asdfand new technologies within the classroom and between classrooms in unprecedented ways. Intellectual teamwork, brain to brain communication, is just one of the many media options in an educator's quiver. These chapters have asked that participants use one form of digital intellectual teamwork initiated in the first chapter. Though perhaps done as a whole class activity, the Wonder Web class discussion area can easily be organized by teams. In later study, you will read an essay on Intellectual Teamwork for the rich collection of options for team communication that are possible with digital technology. This includes: email, email mail lists (distribution lists), newsgroups, LISTSERVs, message databases, tweets (Twitter), blogs, wikis, Web conference, webcams, phone text messaging and more. But this begs the question of what is a team.

"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, a basketball teamand approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable." (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993)

A group of people that work together on a common problem, goal or cause can become a team. Collaboration and cooperation has long been part of the human scene, from the functional groupings of teams for all manner of projects to the intellectual worlds of co-authored literature and science. Since Johnson and Johnson's seminal work on educational teams in 1980's, cooperative and collaborative teams have also been an important element of educational thinking for classroom activity. When are learning partners and other team groupings valuable and when not? What has digital technology added that is new to this ancient concept?

Not every situation calls for a team. Every team does not require a solitary designated leader; egalitarian leadership and writing have proven track records. But every effective team does require the six elements of Katzenbach and Smith's quote above. This works from business teams to sports teams to classroom teams. Keep the numbers small with people who bring different needed skills to the team; that is, not only the team but each team member benefits from bringing something unique to the team. They must forge commitments to common purpose, common goals of evaluation, and common procedures for getting things done. They must share a sense of responsibility for reaching their goals. Teams should not avoid conflict and diversity; the most effective teams relish the challenge and work through personal relationship issues. They will succeed and be stronger through their diversity by keeping the six key team elements as the top priority. When most or all of these six elements can be applied, teachers have an opportunity for effective class teams.

Digital technology can provide tools through which teams can work and opportunity through which key elements of team operation can be forged; however, the most important elements of teamwork are about shared judgment.  Digital technology extends the geographic distance over which teams can function to the size of the planet. Digital technology also provides a wide range of tools that team members can use individually and collectively to find and report problems and compose and share solutions and collectively work on the same task towards the same goal. This includes the capacity to team teach between classrooms for whole classroom or small group instruction, live, using Web conferencing software and computers with projection systsems. To date, there is no research data that can inform the decision of how many classrooms and how many teachers can effectively team teach their classrooms.

Cyberspace Tools Transform the Procedures of Composition

Teamwork requires ways to communicate, to share. Knowledge of email systems, online text chat activity, Web conferencing group meetings, WonderWall teams, cell phones and varieties of web publishing have already been used extensively by course participants. Teachers use teamwork to use and magnify the value of these tools of expression. This can be done in many ways.

Experience with blogging and linking as a form of web publishing was begun in the earlier chapters. As team  members can be invited to comment on blog postings, blog comments can be used to represent one of the most simple kinds of collaborative writing. Bloggers can also support teamwork by granting permission to others to post on their blog site, in addition to leaving comments. This can be used to create a collection of short shared writings. Before blogging came on the scene, email discussion groups, also called LISTSERVs and newsgroups, provided tools that created pools and threads of email on selected themes and topics.

Wikis take collaboration a giant step further, allowing writers to take turns editing the same piece or page. The underlying concept of a wiki is that anyone can click a button that allows them to edit the text of a wiki page. As a quick example visit wikipedia.org, the world's largest encyclopedia and look up words, terms or concepts important to you. Look for one which you can change in order to improve it. Make links to other pages that expand the ideas in your additions. If you cannot find such, then visit wikipedia's sandbox where instruction on how to edit and encouragement to do so is provided. See also this week's more in depth reading in the left sidebar on wikis that is titled 123wiki.

The wiki concept is also being used to create online word processors, which then have the unique capacity allow collaboration. Once such specialized tool was called Writely (http://www.writely.com/) until 2006 when it was bought by Google and began the transition to new ownership. It had been bought by Google and in September of 2006 became the word processor application at Google Docs (http://docs.google.com). It's Google Docs Help page has a section on Sharing, Collaborating and Publishing which explain its team oriented features that enable an author to allow others to edit the writer's compositions.

Some software allows live editing that all co-authors can see while it occurs. This chapter includes a reading on group or collaborative writing that digs deeper into these options. However, the use of the Net to integrate and accelerate group and team functioning has spread everywhere. For the many Evoke stage of problem solving tools, there is a Webtop-based application with collaborative features replacing much or all of the functioning of desktop applications for every significant category of software.

Education Standards Evolving

Though education is becoming more aware of the situation, state K-12 curriculum requirements and even state computer literacy requirements have only recently begun to face the convergence problem. In the last few years the term multimedia has become part of every level of North Carolina's computer literacy requirements. Yet, the tendency of the computer literacy curriculum to teach to the state 8th grade computer literacy test which focuses on text tools for thinking (e.g., word processor, spreadsheet and database) helps define part of the problem. Also, educational systems have only recently begun to acquire the convergence technology, computers with sufficient power that can help create it all, and gain access to the Internet bandwidth (speed) that can share it all. Not only students but teachers need more multimedia training.

More disheartening is the loss of teachers or the lack of acquisition of teachers with needed 21st century skills. Teacher expertise and instruction with other media of expression such as music, art, and theater, have been increasingly marginalized over the years, removing from the educational system a cadre of teachers that are expert in working with other media. This marginalizing has reduced the numbers of such teachers and the time needed for such instruction, to give more time to text based instruction. This is a thoughtlessly backward direction that runs against the stream of twenty-first century communication. This is not just a criticism of directions in language arts. It is deeply ironic that even math educators have been short-sighted about the machine whose very motivation for creation was mathematical. Though advocating strong integration of technology, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has generally avoided curriculum leadership for a very specialized form of digital text composition, computer programming. That is, they have not advocated for the universal integration of computer programming into public school curriculum. This situation exists in spite of the high potential for the authentic application of current and new forms of mathematical thinking. Further, general educators have not had a lifetime of training, or in most cases not had any training, in multimedia composition.

Our educational goals and capacities are not yet in sync with the new challenges and opportunities.  School improvement and school reform have a long road to follow to reach the 21st century.

The strategy must be to work from the known to the unknown. That is, the digital opportunity draws teachers and their students deeper into using computers to magnify the power of thinking and doing this magnifying with ever so familiar text. From this growing familiarity with the greater power of digital composition, one can only hope that the bridge to the rationale and practice of other forms of composition will have been described and passage encouraged. 

Re-Conceptualizing the Approach

Assuming that digital convergence is the future, does digital writing change what schools do with text based instruction, with writing, word processing and thinking skills? How do educational systems get from the text-based educational system of today to where the 21st century world of business and government is going and has gone?

It would be nice to say that education has met its writing goals and could easily give more time to something new. Writing instruction continues to improve but many students still fail to reach the standards that are set for each grade level. Theoreticians are still addressing fundamental issues in the writing process (Neel, 1988). There is still a writing problem.

Instead of seeing new media as competitive with with classical writing, our strategic directions can be re-conceptualized. Word processors can help in addressing problems with writing. One part of the writing problem is motivation, and another is seeing and using structure and organization, and thinking and problem solving on a larger scale, concerns well addressed by new media. 

That is, many of the problems with text instruction can also be addressed in cooperation with other media. It may be time to rethink our competitive view of instructional time in our segregated curriculum. How many times have we addressed a problem in understanding the organization of ideas by reaching for visualization examples such as flow charts and concept maps? Have we sufficiently looked at how these different forms of thinking and problem solving in other media could not only collaborate for more powerful instruction but for more powerful expression and thinking, for more powerful writing? Other media must be positioned as the ally, not the opponent of text instruction. Can this more powerful writing and composition reach competitive commercial quality? If the technology of the Internet will be seen as not just a system for searching web sites to inform compositions but as a mixing and delivery system for knowledge products, new levels of motivation might be possible.

Change can be uncomfortable. Welcome or not, change will be a constant. If only to feel some empathy with our ancestors, it is comforting to note that over time the human species has weathered significant changes in its cognitive abilities and the cultures based on those abilities. These changes caused gains and losses as our species invented new forms of communication. Somewhere in time before written history our species made the transition from non-verbal to verbal communication. At this transition to speaking we may have lost the need to have a significant memory for smell, but by adding speech gained far greater ability to organize for the hunt, for defense against danger and for other social constructions. In Western culture, for example, another leap to a new level occurred with the invention of the alphabet and writing around 700 B.C. In leaving oral culture, all writing based cultures (including Greek, Chinese, and Arabic) lost significant verbal memory ability and oral creativity but gained far greater ability to abstract and to design sequence and method (Ong, 1982). With each of these major changes, systems of education had to radically change their approaches as well. 

How do we prepare ourselves and those we teach to move effectively from the localized 20th century world of text documents on sheets of paper and the word processors that prepare them to the 21st century world of global hypermedia, to a salad bowl of forms of expression dished up in a few web pages? The first chapters were partial answers to this question. Preparation begins with learning to plan, create and publish web sites, these collections or sets of webpage text. Word processing skills have much to contribute to the process of creation for the web. It is not a long curriculum reach from the justification for teaching word processing as part of the writing curriculum to developing the capacity to create web links as an essential skill needed to create web sites.

Will there be losses and gains as our society moves from a text-centered culture and a text-centered knowledge-base to routinely accepting a multitude of networked forms of media, a culture of hypermedia?  Will something different occur? Could the comprehensiveness of web communication with its capacity for live sound and images lead to a re-invigoration of certain cognitive abilities of even human prehistory including gesture and rhetoric? That depends more on educational farsightedness than educational technology. The second part of preparing for the 21st century is to move beyond word processing as an end in itself. Instead, word processing and the writing agenda could be seen as just an essential first step in teaching a range of composition skills. Our future is determined by our imagination not our tools. However, learning the major features of how computers handle the editing of words does teach important basic procedures commonly used in editing many other media including the editing of digital video and still images. Word processing helps us to see the fluidity, the readiness for change, the playfulness that computers can bring to the composition process for any medium.  Outline processors and graphic organizers extend this playful fluidity to an even higher level..


In short, the real importance of this is chapter is not just in what word processors can do but in what but human beings can do by creatively framing and reframing the power of text. Text with other media can make less text more powerful. By merely thinking about something differently, we can change our ability to address the next level of problems and ideas that come along. The challenge is not just to invent that which has not yet been seen, but to re-see and then re-invent that which is all around us. If our species did not have this ability, we not only would not be writing or reading these words, but we probably would not be speaking either. By experiencing word processing, writing and thinking as part of the larger LEAP process, it becomes ever easier to reshape thinking, teaching and learning and to merge it with new forms of expression and thought. This LEAP process can and will be reapplied and adjusted to new forms of composition in later chapters. 

Following this introduction and to complete chapter three A, follow the "Steps" down the left column of this set of frame pages. 



Gardner, Howard (1983). Frames of mind : the theory of multiple intelligences. New York : Basic Books. [WCU & UNCA: BF431 .G244 1983]

Florida, Richard (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.

Houghton, Janaye; Houghton, Robert (1999). Decision Points: Boolean Logic for Computer Users and Beginning Online Searchers. Denver, CO: Teacher Unlimited.

Gruener, Wolfgang (January 24, 2005). "The ultimate keyboard - made with light?" Tom's Hardware Guide. Available January 25, 2005 at  http://www.tomshardware.com/hardnews/20050124_174825.html

Neel, Jasper P (1988). Plato, Derrida, and writing. Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press. [WCU & ASU: PN175 .N44 1988]

Ong, Walter J. (1982). Orality and literacy : the technologizing of the word. London ; New York : Methuen. [WCU & UNCA: P35 .O5 1982]

Szczepaniak, Piotr S. [ed.] (2003). Intelligent Exploration of the Web (Studies in Fuzziness and Soft Computing, V.111) Springer-Verlag.


v4.23 Updated October 27, 2009 |  Chapter Three |  Page author: Houghton