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Debriefing: Final Words

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Coming together as two authors in different parts of the country, we collaborated on this webtext for over a year, revising two distinctively different projects into one piece that hopefully reads as a collective effort. Through collaboration mostly by email, we came to better understand the importance of providing detailed explanations, being patient as ideas are exchanged, and trying to better understand the other’s project to be able to provide constructive feedback.

As an online instructor who has never taken a class in this format, Paige Paquette gained a better understanding of what it is like for an online student to collaborate with someone through digital or electronic communication. After writing an entire dissertation on this topic, she personally experienced the importance of social presence creating the personas of those collaborating. She also recognized how these interactions in which the other participant appeared to be more real encouraged her to think more critically about the topics of discussion. Most importantly, this experience has provided a means by which Paige can better relate to her students, reflect on this experience, and develop new ways to enhance collaboration, encouraging more opportunities for student critical thinking in her online composition courses.

This effort motivated Mike Warren to include a similar assignment in his composition class in which cadets collaborated on a portion of a research paper and then provided their individual conclusions. He used this webtext as an example for the class and talked about the challenges and rewards of working together in the creation of written work. Despite the frustrations typical of first-time collaborative endeavors, both of us found ourselves learning more about the other’s interests and ideas despite ourselves.

We would like to conclude by sharing our new thoughts and understandings with other composition teachers who want to try innovative projects in their classrooms, whether traditional or online. "Hope that is seen is no hope at all" (Romans 8:24 New International Version). We all hope our students will learn how to write more effectively from innovative projects and courses like ours rather than from traditional classroom settings, but we cannot promise it. That is what makes it hope. We hope more authors with inspiring stories will want to share their stories with an audience of their peers. But we cannot promise it. We hope that stories that need to be published will be, so that even a larger audience of composition teachers will learn from others’ innovations and lessons, but we cannot promise it. We can promise that through innovation, students and teachers will learn more about writing, more about community, and more about each other than if they were using a traditional model of instruction or teaching a traditional class. We can promise because we've seen what hope can do.