"Why Real Time?"

This e-mail message, copied from the acw-l archives, was posted by Becky Rickly on January 8, 1998:

Thanks, CJ, for the list--I'm going to add a few things based on my
research in real time, local area CMC:

1) re: students who are "silenced" as a part of the normal oral classroom:
In my research, I looked at biological sex (m/f) and socially constructed
gender (using the Bem Sex-Role Inventory--it measures how much someone
identifies w/ the socially constructed "norms" of masculinity and
femininity) when I compared students' oral participation and InterChange
participation. More students, both M/F and masculine/feminine participated
more frequently in InterChange discussions, but there was no statistical
significance between M/F; only between Masc/Fem participation. BUT, the
bad news is that once "feminine" types found a voice on InterChange, they
all but STOPPED speaking out orally.

1B) along these lines, one of the most fascinating statistics I collected
was the HUGE difference in direction of discourse: in oral classes, almost
ALL discussion was aimed back at the teacher, reminicent of the "call and
response" pattern of old, rather than the student-centered process approach
we tend to espouse. In InterChange, however, almost all of the discussion
was student to student: they really came to see each other as "knowers".

2) CJ's right about the lack of interruptions, which has always been a
problem in oral classrooms, esp. in terms of power (men interrupt more than
women, teachers more than students, etc.)

3) The "all comments accessible by everyone" is important, and can be made
more so, as Joel suggests, by printing out sessions, encouraging students
to save them to disks for future reference, or by putting the discussion on
the web, as Wayne Butler and I did for our "Writing the Information
Superhighway" course.

4) I like CJ's "cognitive exercise" notion, but I'd caution that students
need several *types* of media to really bloom: the
"thought-coming-into-existence" (Mike Day's term, I believe) of real-time
discussion, the more considered "rhetoric" of email or web pages, the more
physcial and necessary oral conversation, and revised writing for various
purposes/audiences. BUT I'd say that CMC is a vital part of this whole
curricula, and it has far-reaching effects: in my research, the students
who engaged in CMC had more subsequent student-centered oral discussions.

5) the perceived anonymity of CMC really does break down traditional
boundaries of power, but it can also reinforce bad pedagogy and create new
problems, as joel, Susan Romano, Hawisher and Selfe, and others have noted.
We need to be careful to look critically at what we do, why we do it, and
then assess realistically what the results are. Joel notes that this
anonymity/power might make students go a little crazy, and while that's
true, I'd assert that a lot of what we see goes on in the oral classroom as
what Brooks describes as "underlife".....and the fact that the underlife is
made public is both problematic and wonderful. We just need to figure out
how best to deal productively with it.

I'm going to refrain from commenting on the rest of CJ's fine list for lack
of time, and I can't really talk to the power of Internet real-time
conferencing as well as I can LAN-based CMC, but I think this is something
that we'll *all* be expected to be proficient in in the near future. We
need to educate our students NOW in this new rhetorical medium.