Virginia S. Little

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Conference Title: The Promise: Virtual or Real?

International Telecommunications Conference Paper: September, 1997

Special section contribution: Education and the Internet-The Reality


                        Composing Reality:

          Designing, Implementing, and Assessing an

               On-line Creative Writing Program

                                               by Virginia Little

Reality: n. that which constitutes the real or actual thing as distinguished from that which is merely apparent.

How's the Water?
      What is the reality, the lived experience, of teachers and students using technology in today's classrooms? What is the promise?  Research based on teachers and students using technology in innovative ways continues to expand.  We are just beginning to glimpse the potential impact of the medium and how it will affect not only schools, but society as a whole.

     We find ourselves in the midst of a cultural transformation, in uncharted waters. Controversy and chaos walk as companions to change, as does resistance. Media headlines fuel fears about pornography and the Internet.  School districts without established Internet policies result in multi-million dollar school computer labs standing empty. Most teachers do not have adequate time or training to know how to use technology in their teaching.  When confronting the unknown, some people feel threatened and become paralyzed.  Convinced the water is too cold for swimming, they stand transfixed on the shores of change.

      I see an example of this fear in a natural context. On a beach in Florida, I watch a father and his three year old son who is afraid of the ocean. The father leads the child to the edge of the water so that it laps just over his small, sandy white feet.  The wide-eyed boy looks down intently and jumps from one foot to the other as the water reaches his  ankles.  His feet disappear, sinking in the wet sand, and he backs away a few steps, uncertain. A bigger wave breaks with more force and he tries to pull his hand out of his father's grip.  He begins to cry. Two days later, I see him building a sand castle and playing catch-me-if-you-can with the waves as they break on the shoreline.  He is no longer afraid and laughs delightedly. The boy conquers the unfamiliar and plays with new found confidence. It has taken the patient guidance of his  father, trust, risk-taking, and time. These principles can serve to guide educators as we navigate the turbulent waters of the tides of technological change.  We must tell the stories of our experiences as we test the waters, evaluating both the strengths and the potential drawbacks of on-line education.

Going Swimming: Diving In
       The purpose of this paper is to describe my venture into technology in designing, teaching, researching and assessing an on-line Creative Writers on the Net course. As a classroom teacher for 20 years, I wondered how on-line communications might enhance my students' learning experiences.  I first used interactive computer technologies to augment face-to-face instruction at the University of San Diego in 1992. In interactive on-line journals, my graduate students discussed a range of topics including creative lesson plans, problems with behavior management, worries about finding jobs, and fears about what to teach on Monday.

       A "second" class emerged on-line extending beyond the boundaries of our scheduled bi-weekly  meetings.  Replacing the common lament after class, "oh, I wish I would have said that," or, "why does that  person always have to dominate the discussion?" everyone found a level playing field to share their ideas on their own time schedules, and in their own comfort zones. Class connections did not "end" at the sound  of the bell.  Some lurked as readers only for a time, while others acclimated more readily and began posting immediately.  Monitoring the natural flow of on-line dialogue provided me with a valid source of inside knowledge about  the primary questions relating to their growth as teachers. This helped me to create a curriculum more attentive to their individual needs. Perhaps more importantly, a true sense of community formed on-line beyond what I had ever witnessed in traditional classroom settings.
     The following year, I added an additional component to on-line conferencing as part of an undergraduate course at Western Michigan University.  My student-teachers became email penpals with local middleschool students.  Not only did this provide all of these students the opportunity for learning computer-mediated communications in an authentic context, but it allowed teachers to engage with the kinds of  students who would fill their future classrooms.  At the end of the semester, the virtual pairs were able to meet and talk about the experience.  As a teacher-educator, I was surprised to learn that these "teachers" were often unsure how to talk to the younger students, and were unaware of the issues which inevitably arise when working with adolescents.

     One middleschooler wrote: "So many of my friends are getting pregnant.  They are just kids themselves and they're having children. I don't understand it. What can we do?"  A young mother, working her way  through college and finding it quite difficult, responded that as a young girl she had equated love with sex,  and had been careless, resulting in pregnancy.  While she loved her son, given the chance, she would  have done things differently. The power of the story reached the dark corners of unspoken places.  School  is not separate from life; rather, teen pregnancy, drugs, peer pressures, urban violence, divorce, love, and typical teen angst permeate the classroom. On-line communications provide a forum for students to talk  openly about their sources of "ultimate concern."  As educators, we can help guide students as they explore these most important life issues.

 Creative Writers on the Net Program: Overview and Design
     In the fall of 1996, I created and implemented an on-line creative writing course in Kalamazoo, Michigan  ( as part of a larger Education for the Arts (EFA) program.  Funded through local school districts and community foundation endowment grants, EFA includes classes in music, theater, dance, visual arts, literary arts, film and video, and our new Creative Writers on the Net course. In the first year, thirty students from eleven schools across nine districts enrolled in the Creative Writers on the Net course. There were an equal number of male and female participants. Ten percent of the student population were of  African American and Hispanic ethnicity and the remaining ninety percent were white, primarily middle to  upper-middle socio-economic class.  The multi-age student population ranged from grades 9-12, ages 14- 18,  with the heaviest concentration of students in upper grade levels.
     80% of the students had home computer access for the course with the remaining 20% accessing from  school computers. Students at school sites experienced frustration with limited access times and privacy  issues. Some students had to share a computer in a crowded counselor's office, while others argued with  teachers and librarians claiming authority over a single Internet connected computer for a 2,000 student  school population.  Next year, we have received a grant to purchase computers as loaners for students  without home systems to improve equity of access.

     We "connected" through a computer server company,  Metasystems Design Network (Metanet) at the cost of $100 per year per student. The company provided technical support, on-site training during orientation, and conferencing software to "house" our private campus. In addition to the on-line work, students met face-to-face three times during the year:  the orientation and technical training, a second gathering for an Empowerment Evaluation session which served as the primary assessement approach, and the end of the year celebration and sharing of achievements.  Otherwise, the course was conducted solely on-line.

     I designed the virtual classroom environment to be context familiar and inviting, including:

The Homeroom for announcements, assignments, collective reflections, technical help, and general question about coursework and program development
The Cafe of the Arts for student-generated conversations and learning community development
The Cyberclassroom with individualized student folders for assigned reading responses, writing invitations,   peer and teacher critiquing, and general coursework
The Visiting Author's Forum for inviting favorite authors or visitors to engage in on-line discussions
The Student Center for students to explore, develop and share individual or collaborative year-long creative  writing projects
The Staff Lounge as a place for co-teachers to talk and document research reflections
The Conference Room for synchronous chat sessions
The Archives for student collection of year-long process-folios

      Within each of the conferences, participants have the capacity to create as many items as they wish, with room in each item for thousands of threaded responses. The thirty students averaged 150 new responses per day throughout the year and reported spending an average of 1-2 hours per day reading, responding and composing on-line, and varying additional time off-line. The generative nature of the medium creates a multi-voiced, stream-of-consciousness type dialogue. Topics drift, as in regular conversations.  Particular items flowed from a discussion of poetics to politics to physics, creating a learning forum of highly integrated knowledge. This enhanced the development of an emergent curriculum based on students'interests.
The Waves of Change: Transition to Transformation
     As students learn to read the word and the world in new ways, our pedagogical approaches need to reflect these perceptual shifts. To facilitate the transitions, educators must become aware of how technology impacts students' thinking and learning.  Former "knowers" are becoming "users" of information with rapidly expanding resources virtually at their fingertips. Students do not need to memorize information for later regurgitation, rather they need to know how to apply and integrate quickly accessed information in creative ways. We are learning how to design on-line educational environments which promote creativity, self-awareness, interconnectivity and empowerment.  These are not static lessons; rather, they emphasize the fluid nature of reality and serve to soften the barriers between life and school.

     The transactional nature of learning, with students and teachers as co-learners, replaces former transmission models with the teacher as authority and imparter of knowledge. On-line learning focuses not only on course content, but on interpersonal relationships. The social, collaborative, and communicative aspects of constructing knowledge are central to on-line learning environments. As my student, Amie, writes about a "dusty" boy without hope in a trailer park, as Greg struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide, and his peers affirm his value to their community, I observe how life and learning overlap. Late at night by the flickering light of a computer screen, we reach towards our common humanity, struggle with the chaos of existence, and relish in the love of questions without answers. By sharing our stories, we seek to make sense of a rapidly changing world. Together, we re-define ourselves as individuals, as an on-line community, as a society.  We are all at once teachers and learners-connected by modems, wires, and our artistic natures.

Grabe and Grabe (1996, p. 19) aptly describe some of the fundamental changes in  educational paradigms occurring as a result of technology in the classroom:

1.  Shift in student role from storing information to creating knowledge
2.  Teacher roles from presenting information to guiding student discovery and to model active learning.
3.  Content shift from basic literacy to emphasis on thinking skills and applications.
4.  Curriculum shift from fact retention, fragmented knowledge and disciplinary separation to in-depth, multi-disciplinary themes, to knowledge integration and application.
5.  Social shift from independent learning to cooperative and collaborative learning.
6.  Technology shift from skill drill and practice, direct instruction, pre-programmed lessons to a facilitation of exploration and collaborative interaction.
7.  Assessment shift from fact retention and traditional tests to knowledge application, performance, projects and portfolios.

When theory translates to practice, we learn what works, what doesn't, and why.  We face the simple reality that technology doesn't transform;  rather, it's how we apply the technology to create new educational environments.  As educators, our task is to create interactive learning models which "will survive the tests of time and changes in technology" (Edgar and Wood, 1996).

Assessment and Empowerment
     Empowerment Evaluation, developed by Dr. David Fetterman of Stanford University and keynote for the 1995 Presidential Address for Educational Assessment, is combined with process-folios and quarterly reflection papers to create a multi-faceted approach to program assessment. Adopted in numerous program contexts including "substance abuse prevention,  accelerated schools, HIV prevention, crime prevention, welfare reform, battered women's shelters,  agriculture and rural development, adult probation, adolescent pregnancy prevention, substance abuse, self- determination for individuals with disabilities, and doctoral programs" (Fetterman, 1996, p. 3) Empowerment Evaluation provided a well-established model for program development and research.

     Designed to promote self-determination and a promise of a learning community (Fetterman, 1995), the primary facets of Empowerment Evaluation include training, facilitation, advocacy, and illumination with four complementary steps: taking stock, setting goals, developing strategies and documenting progress. Weekly questions based on student-centered learning goals provided a continual feedback loop for refining program and curriculum development.  Natural cycles of action and reflection allowed students to experience the power of inquiry, of questioning their own understandings and growth as a learning
      During the face-to-face training session, students in randomly selected groups were asked: "What are our purposes in this journey?" Spokespersons for each group shared the brainstormed responses. From this "taking stock" phase, the students delineated six major purpose statements:

1.  To continue to grow as a community/family of writers
2.  To become better writers
3.  To discover the strengths and weaknesses of technology as a learning medium
4.  To discover more about ourselves through our own eyes and others
5.  To develop an environment where creative freedom can flourish
6.  To learn how to give/take/use feedback and critique

It took over an hour for the students to articulate these purpose/goal statements.  As facilitator, I would re- iterate students' comments to ensure meanings were not misinterpreted, and asked questions to prompt further reflections on their original ideas.

      Students addressed the question: "Where are we now?" by rating each goal on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being the lowest rating and 10 being the highest rating. We posted the averages of all the groups' ratings for each item.  In my research field notes following this session, I wrote: "The students took control of their future learning directions and we transformed by embracing an attitude of inquiry, of learning through a genuine source of questioning, and of a wanting to know. Assessment became an integral part of our process today."  During the session, I stressed that developing an exemplary program was a shared  responsibility. At the end of the year I posed a question about significant memories and one student responded, "I unenthusiastically woke up early and dragged myself to orientation. Then WOW! I remember thinking, this is amazing! We have complete control over this class. It could go anywhere. We could do anything. The limitless possibilities enthralled me."
    Students continued to refine their goal statements on-line.  In relation to each goal, I asked: "How do we move forward? If, for example, continuing to develop a learning community is a goal, then what IS a learning community, and how do we develop it?" The students collectively defined a learning community as follows: "Communities bond through common interests and shared levels of participation. A learning community builds trust through respect for multiple perspectives in exploring diverse ideas, opinions and insights which creates a sense of belonging. Dialogues are fueled by passionate inquiry and in-depth searching. This provides a comfort level where people feel encouraged to take risks as learners."
     To improve and deepen their sense of community, students agreed that more face-to-face gatherings would promote a greater sense of connectivity.  As one of their on-line teachers lived in San Diego, and some students had other commitments to jobs or sports activities, they decided that these "meetings" should  be self-organized and non-mandatory.  Students created an item for planning meetings to write poetry at local coffee houses, to celebrate birthdays and holidays at students' homes, to share sports events schedules, to announce author readings, and more. Ten students accompanied me to a national conference of writers and teachers in Chicago; several visited Metanet in Washington, D.C. where they interviewed the technology journalist for the Washington Post; others gained experiences as co-presenters about our program for the State Board of Education, at local universities, and at a variety of professional conferences.
     Clearly, on-line communications and communities serve to enhance geographically proximal ones, and  eradicates distance barriers for learners in remote locations.  One of our students accessed our program from Geneva, Switzerland. Another student, a Jr. Olympic Champion ice skater, connected while traveling to train and compete. Ninth grade students socialized with seniors, and students from different school districts (some  rural, some urban) became friends crossing usual age, gender, class, geographic and racial boundaries. Who  they were inside, as revealed by their personal poetry, stories, and dialogues fostered friendships and community growth, erasing external pressures commonly prevalent in regular school environments.  One student reflected: "The thing I love most about this class is the family, the community.  I have found through this class to be open and to trust myself.  Before this class, I had never written of my  own accord. This class inspired me, these people were inspiration, and these wires provided the security I  needed to branch out and begin writing.  I have since discovered more of myself, my courage and  individuality."

Forming a Community of Writers: The Lifeboat
      Our mutual interest in creative writing provided the core for our community. One student commented: "The biggest thing about this class is the writings. That is what I will remember most. I have printed out so many pieces from different folders to hang in my bedroom and on my locker. I have poems in my folders at school and on the mirror in my bathroom.  I have learned through the experiences and expressions of others."

     Since improving writing was one of the students' primary goals, I posed the question: "What is creative  writing?"  Responses included:

"Creative writing is the easy and natural expression, and the most difficult chore. It can flow from us like water, or bead in small droplets from hours of labor. It is about abstract ideas or unreal people, and it is the mirror of our Selves. Creative writing is recording the colors, faces, events and feelings inside of me. It is converting ideas into words, taming the flames, and molding the clay into forms palpable on paper."
"Creative writing not only creates a great work but it creates the person who wrote it."

 "If everyone had their own language of being and their own inner world, creative writing would be the great translator; a bridge that links us to each other. Creative writing is freedom made literal."

"To create literally means to cause to exist or bring into being. You are bringing an idea or image into being where there was emptiness before. You are causing a thought to exist for others, where it lived in your mind alone."

     These student definitions created a shared meaning base to apply to their work and growth as writers. The students express an understanding of writing process as a search for Self, as a window within, and as a bridge to the human spirit of others. Within creative expression lies the infinite possibilities of transformation. At the end of the year,  the students compiled a 71 page book of their favorite works.  Chapter themes included worldviews, family, love and relationships, responses to writing invitations, works on being a writer, and looking inside-out.  As writers, they had ventured into composing and re-creating their visions of reality and their sense of Self; writing became a process of discovery.
      Students responded to weekly writing invitations in addition to critiquing the work of  their peers. By necessity, the students in the on-line text-based classroom read and write every day for extended amounts of time on their own schedules.  They write about topics of personal importance and are inspired by the examples of peer writers to explore varying genres.  Multiple voluntary peer readers provide for a range of interpretation and critique. These responses convey to the writer how their intended meaning was received by numerous readers, often prompting further revision. As critique became more detailed and students sought ways to improve, I found many opportunities for teachable moments which addressed the conventions of written language. Through responses from an authentic audience, we came to know the value of many-to-many communications, and the importance of collaborative and cooperative learning.
     Students quickly realized the powerful connections between the writer and the reader. Many students commented that "a good piece of writing will make the reader think." One student reflected:  "Reading others' writing daily, picking out what worked and what didn't, has helped me in becoming conscious to the  needs of my own writing." Students also read four required books, two on writing process and two relating to their writing project interests. Additional questions extended naturally from the students' learning process, including for example: "What are ways to respond to writing?  What's different in composing for the on-line medium?" The text-based communications accentuated how readers and writers construct meaning in process and prompted students to refine their writing and communication skills.
     When students are intrinsically motivated, the classroom process becomes infused with passion and learning is authentic. Students developed their yearlong writing projects as works-in-progress. Early on a student commented: "I'm really excited about my project. This is a new one, being excited to do my homework."  I responded, "Think of it as lifework rather than as homework". Examples of projects included a website for our program with samples of student writings, links to resources for writers, articles published about our work, and a photo gallery.  Others wrote and revised novels.  Another developed an inquiry project by interviewing classmates and others from around the world. On the Internet, she posed the question, "What experiences are necessary to live a full life?"  Lines between life, learning and school faded.
     The student-organized Cafe of the Arts, resembling a village square where people gather to laugh, talk and debate, became the center for community formation. "Those who focus on the benefits to be gained from a networked writing classroom generally stress the interactive learning this arrangement can  provide.  A networked writing classroom enhances the social, collaborative atmosphere (Gerrard,1989; Sudo,1985; Weiss, 1989).  Students created items on religion, writing in foreign languages, physics and music theory, sharing of favorite quotations and books, worldviews and philosophy, literature circles, and more.

     These wide-ranging dialogues, for which there is little time in the regular fifty minute classroom focused solely on mandated curricula, allowed students to discover, articulate and question their beliefs and values.  Students uncovered their underlying assumptions, and as writers, began composing reality. As one student stated, "I've been at this for about a month now. If we were sitting next to each other in an uptight classroom, our relationships would be so different. We'd say, "Hey, what's goin' on? Nothin. Whadja do this weekend? Not much." Here in divine aloneness and privacy we write our thoughts on God, soul-searching poetry, politics, and all else in the universe. We seriously write. The awkwardness of rejection -fear is all but eliminated, at least for me."
      In one particular item, "Is there a God?" which started early in the program and continued to the end of the year, students explored their beliefs on the divine mystery of the unknown with perspectives ranging from Christian Fundamentalism to atheism. The disparity of viewpoints caused some initial discomfort, but eventually students relinquished ownership of these ideas as they learned to honor diversity.  Not uncommon became comments like, "Gee, I never  thought about it like that." Or, "I may not agree with you, but.."
     When several students began cluttering the forums with chattering, the group asked these students to create their own item for socializing.  "Kat and Red's Playhouse" opened the next day as a space reserved for  humor and frivolity.  Students demonstrated  their ability to self-monitor their community, establish communication guidelines, and to share leadership as co-facilitators of  the learning process.  The essence of the interactions in The Cafe is aptly described by another on-line teacher and author:

"I believe that the on-line process is mimetically related to the action of the poet's mind in which there is, practically speaking, no center,no beginning, middle or end-or rather, perhaps, the center is everywhere, and the process is more simultaneous, multiphrenic, and multivocal than it is orderly, linear, and the author H.L.Goodall has said, the only answer to life's strangeness if furtheer and deeper strangeness, not simplification and clarification. Certainly this is true of both poetry and the increasingly complex technical world" Claire Bateman (The Nearness of You, 1995, "Other Voices Other Rooms," p. 169, Teachers and Writers Collaborative: New York).

      As writers and as learners in a virtual classroom, we dove into the riptide of many-to-many communications. As trust developed and on-line communications skills improved, students began to move outward into new communities within the Metanet on-line forums. Students explored conferences of mutual interest including: Books, Seasonal Salons, Artist, and Paradigm Shift. The "Metacommunity," including lawyers, artists, photographers, teachers, writers, retired military men, and homemakers, among others, offered students additional knowledge and resources beyond my own capacity. One student commented: "Through the exploitation of this infinite resource, there is potential for infinite growth! Another adds, "The on-line world is immeasurably vast in its volume of knowledge and information, and no one person can master all of it."

 The Metanet company's underlying philosophy states their interests are in "closing the gap between the human condition and the human potential and in promoting values of curiosity, candor, cooperation and creativity in the on-line community." As one of the oldest computer server companies in existence, Metanet facilitates computerized interactions between "organizations interested in systems views, organizational development, and socially responsible technological applications for business and education." Our connections with the Metanet community continue to ripple.

     Just recently Metanet hosted an on-line Civicnet conference including 350 participants from around the world. While in this conference, I encountered administrators, whom I had never met in person, from our local Kalamazoo Community Network, Telecity ( Subsequently, Telecity hired three of my students to design a LearnNet component connecting parents, teachers and students in on-line forums. Another student is doing an internship this summer at Metanet headquarters. Yet another works with me as a student-researcher and editor. Creating these kinds of democratic partnerships between civic communities, education, businesses, and youth offers a promising vision for a hopeful future.

      Alvin Toffler in his book, The Third Wave, frames the cultural transformation we confront. "Humanity faces a quantum leap forward. It faces the deepest social upheaval and creative restructuring of all time.  Without clearly recognizing it, we are engaged in building a remarkable new civilization from the ground up.  This is the meaning of the Third Wave" (Toffler, 1980). The reality?  Former educational models, designed to train workers for the industrial age, do not prepare students to address the global concerns of the 21st century.

     We are standing knee deep in the waters of change. Technological advances increase at a rapid rate; the learning curve rises daily.  It is important that we find ways to transcend software and hardware limitations, and share the success stories of interactive technologies based on communication and the creation of vital on-line communities. The promise? Very real indeed. The hope lies with educators who are willing to envision the creative potential of the medium, and who are willing to dive into deep water without really knowing what's beneath the surface. Future schools may become community resource centers with teachers as facilitative mentors for student-directed, project-oriented learning.  In this scenario, school learning will become increasingly relative to life and work.

     Instead of qualifying our experiences in terms of black and white polarities, we must look at the colors of the spectrum. The following list outlines the strengths and complementary drawbacks gleaned from the first year of  the Creative Writers on the Net program:

A.  Not everyone acclimates well to the on-line environment;  Those who do are afforded freedom and flexibility in choosing how and when to engage.  Participants have the space to pause and reflect before responding.

B.  Students are responsible for, and must take ownership of, their own learning;  Some students are unaccustomed to self-directed learning and levels of participation vary.  Students who do not engage are  invisible.  Students who are offline for a few days are able to review all archived classroom communications, unlike students who are absent from regular classrooms, miss the day's interactions, and can only complete "make-up work"

C. External pressures are minimized on-line and students feel safe disclosing, especially normally shy students who find face-to-face classroom interactions intimidating; Some students may find it difficult to trust those they cannot physically "see".

D. Students on-line receive a myriad of responses to their work from an authentic audience instead of relying solely on the teacher for assessment and feedback; Some are initially hesitant to post their work knowing "everyone" will read it.

E.  Text-based medium necessitates daily reading and writing. This fosters attentiveness to clarity, creative composition, and audience. Writing well carries prestige in on-line communities; Potential for miscommunications may initially be high as users acclimate to the absence of "body language" and other physical softeners.

F.  Students get to know peers from the inside without traditional barriers of age, race, class, and geographic locations; Students miss physical connectors such as hugs, eye-contact, and laughter.

G.  Classroom distractions, such as bells and disruptive behavior, are eliminated; Loss of  "spontaneous" learning catalyzed by energetic classroom interactions.

H. On-line learning fosters improvement of literacy, computer and communication skills; Technological glitches may overwhelm and cause intermittently high levels of frustration or anxiety.

I.  On-line environment provides an infinite and generative resource;  Medium can be overwhelming to some, especially those with erratic levels of participation.  Few teachers have experienced the power of the Internet for enhancing regular classroom learning environments. School resources are severely limited and technology costs prohibitive.

J.  As we demonstrate positive educational applications, it prompts schools to upgrade their systems and to "connect" students to the resources of the Internet.  Equity of access issues continue to deny equal educational opportunities for all students.  Students accessing only from school are at a disadvantage to those with home systems. The gap continues to widen between privileged and marginalized populations.

K. On-line communications are time intensive;  Rewards are multi-faceted.
L. On-line interactive technologies provide students with an innovative experience, exploring the "unknown"; Politics and school systems who "fear" change can thwart possibilities for educational reform.

M. Curriculum may be co-created between students and teachers in a democratic fashion. In these kinds of classrooms, much of the curriculum is emergent, requiring a tolerance for ambiguity. Traditional teachers will translate former paradigms to on-line learning environments stressing skill and drill formats, or  transmission versus transactional models of teaching.  On-line learning environments necessitate new ways of thinking about the ways we engage with our students.
N. Teachers and authors with experience in on-line communications are rare; There is a need for schools to train on-line teachers, or in the least,  include technology and on-line communications as part of the core curriculum in teacher-education programs.

O. Students and teachers become co-learners in the on-line environment with the expertise of students often surpassing that of the teacher. This provides excellent opportunities for students to teach teachers; Some teachers resist relinquishing their authority as classroom "expert". Varying skill levels makes learning more difficult for some. Technical training and support are a necessity.

     Following this first year, many questions still remain unanswered. How will technology impact school systems? How responsive is our teaching to the ways technology impacts thinking and learning?  What is the preferred balance between combinations of on-line and face-to-face learning modes?  How do we best structure the on-line learning environment, establishing a line between creative freedom and chaos?  How will our evaluation approaches reflect the increasingly social, collaborative and interactive nature of writing within computer-mediated classrooms? How will ideas about literacy and writing process shift as a result of composing using technological applications?

     Next year the enrollment for the Creative Writers on the Net course has tripled with a long waiting list of interested students. First year students have requested to continue in an advanced class and will mentor incoming students. Twenty middleschoolers will gather on our campus in their own conference, The Writer's Guild. I will also link teacher-educators on-line with my highschool students, believing students are the best teachers of teachers. I look forward to how the process will continue to unfold.  Some of my questions will be answered. But more importantly; new questions will arise in an interminable quest for what's possible. Through establishing connections between technology and the arts, business and education, life and learning, we will continue to compose new realities as we ride the waves of change.

Edgar, Christopher, Susan Wood (1996) The Nearness of You: Teachers and Students Writing
     On-Line, New York: Teachers and Writer's Collaborative.
Fetterman, David M.  (1994), Empowerment Evaluation, Presidential Address delivered at the
     American Evaluation Association annual meeting.  Evaluation Practice, 15(1), 1-24.
Fetterman, David M., Shakeh J. Katarian, and Abraham Wandersman  (1996) Empowerment
     Evaluation: Knowledge and Tools for Self-Assessment and Accountability. Thousand Oaks,
     California: Sage Publications.
Fetterman, David M.  (1994)  Steps of Empowerment Evaluation: From California to
     Capetown, Palo Alto, CA.: Stanford University
Grabe, Mark, and Cindy Grabe  (1996)  Integrating Technology for Meaningful Learning.
     Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin Co.
Hawisher, Gail and Cynthia Selfe  (1991)  Evolving Perspectives on Computers and Composition
     Studies.  Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
Roblyer, M.D., Jack Edwards and Mary Anne Havriluk  (1997)  Integrating Educational
     Technology into Teaching. Columbus, Ohio:  Merrill Publishers.
Spender, Dale  (1995)  Nattering on the Net: Women, Power, and Cyberspace.  Melbourne,
       Australia:  Spinifex Press.
Toffler, Alvin.  (1980) The Third Wave. New York, New York:  Bantam Books.



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