Email from Bowers to List

Vol. 3. No. 1 — November 1997

Date: Sun, 3 Dec 1995 07:21:34 -0800
Message-Id: <9512031521.AB18899@www.tnis.net>
Reply-To: neteach-l@thecity.sfsu.edu
Sender: neteach-l@thecity.sfsu.edu
From: Roy Bowers
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: Using HTML for editing

Greetings again!

I have received many questions about using HTML for editing. Here is how I used the “help files”. I can envision may variations to suit other learning/computing environments.

I wrote “help files” to explain twenty of the most common writing errors of our students. When a student submitted a paper, I blocked the errors, then link those errors to their corresponding help files. For unusual errors I simply linked my comments a separate page. When I finished editing, I put their paper on our server.

During the rewriting process, a student would “multitask” between two programs: the WWW browser and the word processor. In other words, they would have their HTML document loaded in their browser, and the same document loaded in their word processor.. both at the same time! Starting in the browser, the student clicked on an error which pulled up one or more remedial documents. The student continued clicking through the pages until arriving at a satisfactory solution to the error. The student then switched to the word processor and attempted to correct the error.

For this type of editing, a multitasking environment is crucial as it allows the student to continually switch from the learning process(the browser) to the writing task (the word processor)… all with a single keystroke.

In my brief flirtation with this form of editing, I noticed that students spent more time on the learning process in their browser than on the writing process in their word processor. I interpret this as a good sign since beforehand, students would simply enter the corrections I suggested without analysing the problem. I was trying to get students to focus on the *reasons* for their errors. I don’t know if I succeeded, but it was fun, anyway.

When a student clicked on an error, the first help page was a simple reminder. If that wasn’t enough, the student could continue clicking for more help. I believe that in half of all errors, a simple reminder was sufficient since the students were already aware of the grammar rules governing their errors, but simply hadn’t applied them.

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