Integrating Technology Across the Curriculum: Internet/Computer Writing Resources for a Content-Based Curriculum, Michael Krauss, ISALC, Lewis & Clark College
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Electronic Forums for Written Interaction

There are a multitude of electronic forums in which content material can be conveyed and students can exchange written information, within the confines of the classroom or across the globe. Though each of the following involve electronic communication, each can serve a different purpose in the classroom. An overview of some of the information found in this section can be found at CyberESL - Email and Beyond by Tom Robb, Deborah Healey and Ron Corio at


Before looking at the links below, for an overview, you may want to consult Claire Bradin's 1998 TESL Ontario presentation on Email for ESL students. Her webpage includes links to Free Email Accounts, Guidance for Students, Finding Keypals, One to One Email Projects, Class and Tandem Projects, Student Lists, and Useful Resources at

The more familiar teachers are with Email use, the better they can prepare their students for EMail activities. See Deborah Healey's collection of tips on EMail. These include:

  • December, 1998: Email basics
  • April, 1999: Email on the Road
  • June, 1997: Forwarding Mail
  • May, 1997: E-mail Attachments

Getting Started and Sample Projects

A Beginner's Guide- some differences between conventions for traditional and electronic correspondence at

Pine and Pico Documentation - popular, easy to learn Email program at

Computer Conferencing - Whether done in a real time (synchronous) or "respond at your leisure" (asynchronous) mode, the collaborative writing process stimulates students to write and assists them in investigating issues and solving problems.

A Sampling of Collaborative Programs
Deborah Healey devotes her September and October '98 Tech Tips to a discussion of conferencing tools and conferencing software at

DIWE--Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment - Useful for workshop-based and collaborative revision-focused composition classes. Multiple users can share files. Contains bulletin board and synchronous discussion features. Mac or Windows versions available. http:///

Web-Based Instruction programs are now being developed. These usually include conferencing capability (bulletin boards, chat rooms, etc.) WebCT and TopClass are two examples.

Discussion Boards

Discussion Boards provide an opportunity for students to communicate on a variety of topics and to follow these threads over time. Students can access Discussion Boards created on other sites and interact on a variety of preexisting subject areas. Perhaps the most extensive web-based board is at Dave's ESL Cafe Discussion Center at Student forums now include Cinema, Computers,Current News, Family, Food, Hobbies, Holidays, Learning English, Literature, Music, Opinions, Pets, Science,Sports, and Travel. There is also a teachers discussion board on the same page.

Teachers can also set up their own individualized Discussion Boards as a learning tool for their classes. There are a variety of free services now available. Some include chat rooms and white boards. These include NiceNet, eGroups (now YahooGroups), GroupBoard (nice demo of white board), Tapped In, and eBoards (use for home pages and discussion boards-up and running in under two minutes!). Here's a demo for eBoards.

Here is a description showing how one teacher has used NiceNet in her ESL classes. (note the URL for NiceNet has changed; it is now

Video Conferencing- As desktop computers become more powerful and software for video conferencing readily available, video conferencing will become more prevalent in the language classroom.

Pacific Bell's Education First's Videoconferencing for Learning is an oft-updated website devoted to videoconferencing technology and its application to classroom teaching and training. It is a comprehensive site which includes how to's for videoconferencing in the classroom as well as listserv dedicated to the topic, and links to research and projects at

Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL) has a comprehensive site on videoconferencing in the K-12 classroom. Digital Bridges has sections on Uses & Examples, Planning Information, and Resources. The site has one track for teachers and another for administrators at

 Selected Research:

Processes and Outcomes in Networked Classroom Interaction: defining the Research Agenda for L2 Computer Assisted classroom Discussion, Lourdes Ortega, University of Hawai'i at Manoa at

For a discussion of how conferencing software can be used to foster communications and critical thinking skills in the ESL classroom, and the pros and cons of real-time v. delayed response modes of conferencing, see Krauss, M. (1994). Extending inquiry beyond the classroom: Electronic conversations with esl students. CAELL Journal 5(1), 2-11. Published by ISTE .


Sample Assignments/Student Work:

Excerpts from a presentation, Collaborative Computing Applications: Learning Tools for Your Class Lab, Michael Krauss and Greg Kaminski, Lewis & Clark College, at the 1996 TRI-TESOL Conference (Oregon, Washington and BC TEAL), Seattle, Washington.

Chat software can also be used for conferencing. See "No Talking Please, just Chatting" by Marsha Chan which provides a description of computer collaboration in an ESL classroom using chat.

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Mailing Lists - A source of information and support for teachers and an excellent forum for students to practice writing on a variety of topics with a meaningful audience.

For students:
SL-Lists: 10 topics available for discussion: (intro, chat (low level), discuss (high level), business, engl (learning English), event, movie, music, scitech, sport)

HUT Internet Writing Project - A more structured forum for higher level ESL learners at

Two interesting articles that look at discourse and issues of freedom v. control on the S-L lists:

Warschauer, M. (1995). Heterotopias, panopticons, and Internet discourse (UH Working Paper in ESL, Vol. 14 No. 1). University of Hawaii, Department of English as a Second Language.

Warschauer, M., & Lepeintre, S. (1997). Freire's dream or Foucault's nightmare: teacher-student relations on an international computer network. In R. Debski, J. Gassin, & M. Smith (Eds.), Language learning through social computing (pp. 67-89). Parkville, Australia: Applied Linguistics Association of Australia.

For Teachers:

  • The Internet TESL Journal website contains a page for all TESL related lists and listservs with links to their Websites and Kristina Pfaff maintains an Electronic Discussion Lists and Newsgroups page which allows you to subscribe/unsubscribe to most of the ESL related discussion lists directly from her page-- *very* convenient at

  • For non-ESL lists, see Andy Carvin's K-12 Education Discussion Lists at

    A couple of specific technology and/or writing - related lists: Neteach -L A list for teachers interested in using the Internet. Excellent way to follow new developments at ~funweb/neteach.htm

    TESLCA-L (the technology sub-branch of TESL-L). If you are not a member of TESL-L, send an Email message to with the following commands in the body of the message:

    • SUB TESL-L <first name last name>
      SUB TESLCA-L <first name last name>

    If you are already a member of TESL-L, but want to join TESLCA-L, you only need send

    • SUB TESLCA-L <first name last name>

    WRICOM - Includes within its scope the use of computers in writing instruction. To join, send Email to In the body of your message (not in the subject heading), type "join wricom <first name> <last name>"

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Chat - Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and Web-based Chat allow real-time electronic conversations across the room or across the globe. Chances are if your students have access to computers on campus, they are already chatting away and can give you a few pointers. Chat rooms are now often just one of the features offered by more comprehensive Discussion Boards, many Web-based and free.

Deborah Healey on Intra-class chatting gives you all the information you need to set up an intra-class chat. Page includes "chat vocabulary", instructions on setting up a local channel using Global Chat (free chat software with an easy to use interface), a link to download Global Chat, and some caveats when using Chat with your ESL students.

ESL Chat Central (Dave's ESL Cafe-Web-based chat) Since Dave's is so popular, you can almost always find people in the Chat Room. First time users will have to register and get a confirmation number via Email before entering at

EFNet #IRChelp - An all purpose help page for IRC. Includes a FAQ section + IRC clients for Mac and Windows are available to download


"No Talking Please, Just Chatting" Marsha Chan provides a hands-on look at classroom uses for Chat. She describes using chat in both real-time and asynchronously (out of class at time of students' choice). Marsha also gives sample lessons for introducing students to chat and discusses some follow-up language learning activities. 

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MOO's: - Can be compared to Chat rooms, but MOO's and MUD's are different in that they are permanent cyberstructures. Users log into a virtual environment and "talk" to each other in real time. If nobody is in the MOO, a visitor can still move about the artificial environment and check out materials and activities which are located there.

A very practical article (May 2001) for getting started with students at SchMOOze U is
"Using a Modular Approach to schMOOze with ESL/EFL Students" by James Backer at

How to With SchMOOze U and Using SchMOOze in the Classroom are the subjects of the November and December 1977 issue Deborah Healey's "Technology Tips" series. Deborah provides step by step instructions for utilizing SchMOOze U, a virtual university for ESL students. Other links are provided to useful MOO resources by Greg Younger and Yoshi Awaji, as well as to the SchMOOzeU Website. You can also link to MOO clients for MacOS and Windows. An excellent place to get started with MOO's.

How to Access SchMOOze U? - The easiest way is to navigate to the SchMOOze U homepage. From there, you have your choice of accessing SchMOOze U via using Cup O' Mud or enCore Xpress (for those with Java enabled browsers) or via Telnet (for those without).

Lots of excellent resources for beginning or advanced MOO'ers from the Neteach Cool Sites page. Includes links to archives from Neteach MOO sessions at moo_information.html 

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Newsgroups provide another forum for students' written discussions. Newsgroups can be set up locally (intra-class) or students can access them from the Internet (Note: Internet Newsgroups are not monitored so students may be exposed to inappropriate language). For help in finding the newsgroup you want, try's Usenet Discussion Service (now part of Google) at

Class Newsgroups can be used as a means of collaboration. Deborah Healey provides a brief description on setting up an intra-class Newsgroup

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Web-based Instruction - Several of the techniques for electronic communication described above are being combined into all purpose "web based instruction" applications. Web Based Instruction (WBI) refers to the delivery of course materials to students via the WWW. Many colleges and universities are in the process of evaluating WBI programs. As this development continues, second language teachers will increasingly use WBI's in the classroom. WBI software will provide the facility to communicate for students and teacher. Other features include asynchronous conferencing, live chats, on-line tutorials, timed quizzes, extensive record keeping, etc. For a discussion of the pros and cons of WBI, a list of many of the currently available WBI packages, and an evaluation of several of the most popular WBI systems, see Tools for Developing Interactive Academic Web Courses at

Distance Learning - As Internet access grows by leaps and abound around the world, the concept of a global learning community comes closer to reality day by day. In addition to the exponential growth of the Web and the number of people accessing it, the accessibility of web-based instruction software and web editors with features much like word processors has encouraged educators to look more favorably on creating content for classes without classrooms. Distance learning, then, certainly seems to be the wave of the 21st century.

  • Educators in Pacific Bell's Education First project have put together a very useful set of distance learning resources.

  • Another excellent resource page for distance learning is maintained by Lonnie Turbee and includes sections on Who, why, when, how? Distance education delivery media, Web resources, Distance education providers, and Discussion groups.

  • "Integrating the Internet into the Classroom" by Michael Krauss is an example of a distance education course using the Web as the vehicle of instruction at

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Updated: 3/4/02