Presentation Abstract

The "Toolness" of Known Anonymity Through First Class Client and Multi-Geographic Collaborative Peer-Groups

When teaching strategies in classes with writing are reexamined through the methods and contexts of cyber-learning strategies, both practices (re)become refreshingly effective. This student and teaching reflection on learning and practice promotes metacognition, offers educational empowerment, and enables content and method to become reconciled.

For example, many students are becoming quite familiar with the benefits of anonymity and the elimination of time and space when communicating through email for purposes outside academe. However, they may still struggle with fluency and voice in their academic writing. By reflecting on this electronic medium's relationship to the audience, the writer, and the text-as a class-and by examining such related issues as fluency and voice by sending (virtual) email inside the classroom without computers (passing notes), the opportunity for students to learn about audience suddenly becomes useful. Reading develops into a truly interactive process. This same strategy can be adapted to other relationships: freewriting on a piece of paper can offer immediate visual recursion whereas freewriting on a computer (with the monitor off) exercises mental recursion; familiar handwriting suggests a rhetorical self to the reader whereas a common font may suggest different relationships between reader, writer, and text (what effect do colored fonts have?); re-processing a draft composed on a computer by writing out the succeeding drafts on paper suggests a much different idea of re-vision; face to face collaboration holds different expectations than collaboration through electronic mediums.

In fact, consistent collaboration through electronic mediums can offer known anonymity (the virtual "you-understood"). That is, while there exists the opportunity to express ideas freely without the nonverbal intimidation that a walled classroom can hold, the community of learners strengthens each time these necessarily-responsible "anonymous" collaborators reconvene. Students build a sense of free-responsibility in their particularly anonymous groups. What happens when a student from Oregon, a student from Indiana, and a student from New Hampshire regularly meet in synchronous chat as a peer-group? The social distances between each student and their relative academic community is (re)explored in terms of the social distances between each student in the group. That is, because each student in the group has some reference to institutional marginality in common with each geographically distant peer, the students can discover a common link bridging social distances. Further, social differences between the teachers of these students and their discourse communities are (re)explored.

As we strive to move the view of technology in teaching from less instrumental to more substantive, real techniques on how to integrate technology into our teaching practices need to be examined. The theoretical hypothesis of the power of "known anonymity" in electronic collaboration can be investigated through many different computer programs. One program which has helped students discover the usefulness of peer-collaboration through "known anonymity" is First Class Client. Through synchronous and asynchronous process-writing curriculums, teachers in Oregon, Indiana, and New Hampshire have pooled their learning communities together in such a way that fosters a rich collaborative tool. Perhaps the most effective teaching strategies are those which are useful tools and provoke a special kind of response from the faces of students: something that says "coolness." Exploring "known anonymity" through First Class Client has created inhabitable hyperspace, and has been total "toolness."

Author: Rich Rice


Target Audience: Intermediate

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