Talk at the terminal: The relationship between the use of an Internet pen pal program and fourth graders' written language development and attitudes towards writing
Nancy N. Charron, University of Massachusetts Lowell, United States
University of Massachusetts Lowell . Awarded
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between 4th grade students' use of an Internet Pen Pal Program and written language development as measured by Form A and Form B pretreatment and post treatment normed Test of Written Language III (TOWL III) (Bucy, 1998) results. This study also examined how 4th grade students felt about themselves as writers as measured by the normed Writer Self-Perception Scale (Bottomley, Henk, & Melnick, 1997). This study extended the limited research base examining electronic discourse communities at the elementary level.
How 4th grade students and teachers perceived the Internet Pen Pal Program was also examined through the use of teacher and student interviews. Classroom teachers, 5 general education students from each classroom, 8 second language learners, and 14 students with individual education plans were interviewed before, during, and after treatment.
Quantitatively, this study noted no significant differences in written language development as measured by the normed TOWL III instrument, and no significant differences in writer's self perception as measured by the Writer Self-Perception Scale between students participating in an Internet Pan Pal Program and students not participating in an Internet Pen Pal Program via ANOVA analysis. An independent t-test conducted using mean change scores reported significant differences for the TOWL III Story Construction subtest with mean change scores higher for students who participated in the Internet Pen Pal Program.
Qualitative research results revealed that the Internet Pen Pal Program facilitated communication encompassing the use of authentic tasks and texts as well as facilitated students learning about a different culture. Enthusiasm generated by the program translated into student written language production. Special needs students, second language learners, and general education students reported enjoying writing to an authentic audience. This program motivated students to write due to the students' perception that writing in this venue was ‘fun’. It facilitated problem solving supporting critical thinking in written language acquisition. All parties noted students writing and asking questions in order to comprehend pen pal letter information. The social nature of learning was evident in the learnings that took place.
Charron, N.N. Talk at the terminal: The relationship between the use of an Internet pen pal program and fourth graders' written language development and attitudes towards writing. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts Lowell.
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