Thursday, March 24, 2005

Article: Technology Enabled Scaffolding for Young Writers

Englert, C., Manalo, M., & Zhao, Y. (2004). I can do it better on the computer: The effects of technology-enabled scaffolding on young writers' composition. Journal of Special Education Technology. 19(1), 5-21.

Found at:;jsessionid=F15KVQPLYCFURQA3DILSFGGADUNGIIV0?_requestid=3350

Although this article was not specifically related to technology and deaf and hard of hearing students, it did have implications for ESOL students. Futhermore, the study conducted was not conducted with deaf and hard of hearing students in mind, but I feel it could be used as a beneficial tool in assisting the writing development of deaf and hard of hearing students. The purpose of this article was to summarize the results of a study conducted to discover the impact of a web-based software program on the writing of lower elementary students in a low socio-economic urban setting. Englert, Manaol, and Zhao attempted to answer three questions through this study: (1) does the use of certain scaffolds influence the writing performance of certain students, (2) what are the effects of the scaffolds on students that face particular challenges (i.e. ADHD, ESOL), and (3) how well are the scaffolds internalized over time. Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments on the Web (TELE-Web) was the program used throughout this study. This program allowed teachers to develop prompts to meet the needs of individual students that could be seen by clicking a button but disappeared when the student began writing again, directions for activities that could be simplified or expanded for specific audiences, and an “Information” box that allowed certain information to remain visible throughout the writing assignment. In addition, students could access online support, have their text read back to them using a text-to-speech function (this could be used with hard of hearing students with a very mild hearing loss), share their work with fellow students or the TELE-Web community, and could turn in the assignment through an online feature.

During the use of TELE-Web, students were prompted with text boxes that provided them with a direction in writing. The first box was for the topic sentence, and the remaining boxes were for detail sentences that answered the questions of who, what, when, where, and how. Students were allowed to collaborate with classmates throughout the writing process, and when they were finished writing their story, the computer program composed the text boxes into one comprehensive paragraph that followed narrative text conventions. Results of the study showed that when students used the mediational-technology they experienced an increase in the level of sophistication of their writing. Students' writing was longer, contained more detailed, more directly followed the rules of conventions, and followed the story-like nature of narrative text to a greater degree when using the TELE-Web. In addition, results indicated that the use of scaffolding in the program had long term effects and transferred into the students' paper and pencil writing.

Deaf and hard of hearing students often have a difficult time writing because most of the time English is not their first language (unless they are raised orally). Therefore, this study had direct implications with deaf and hard of hearing students. I believe one of the most valuable functions of this program was its ability to be individualized by the teacher and provide scaffolding for students in areas where they needed it. The teacher controls the scaffolding provided for the students and can determine where the student receives assistance. Furthermore, teachers can take assistance away as students develop the necessary skills on their own. The explicit reminders and visual representations of each portion of a complete paragraph would assist deaf and hard of hearing students in understanding the writing process. It almost seems as though TELE-Web is another, more advanced form, of a concept map. It extends the ideas of a concept map for a paragraph into separate text boxes, which are then combined to form a complete paragraph. In my experience with many deaf and hard of hearing students, understanding the "format" of a paragraph is just as difficult as understanding the correct "format" of a sentence. This program allows teachers to provide the necessary assistance. However, I do feel it is important to remember that such a program should never replace the teacher, rahter assist the teacher in further meeting the needs of students.

When I read this article I was pleased with its ability to individualize and provide visual cues, but I was slightly concerned about the ability of certain students to read the visual cues. Students that have a difficult time with writing often have a difficult time with reading and in this program the two seem extremely interdependent. However, I then thought of the prior post regarding the Sign Smith software. I remember that the information on this software stated the graphics could be used through hypermedia and web based programs. Would it not be wonderful if the Sign Smith software would allow a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students using the TELE-Web program to provide visual cues for writing using the sign characters?! I believe the combination of both these programs, if they could be used in conjunction with one another, would allow a teacher to truly scaffold and make instruction and individualized assistance meaningful to the students. Furthermore, students often love writing on the computer (much more than paper and pencil) and these programs would provide students with additional practice in writing through forms of "personal tutors" in the signing characters and scaffolded assistance established by the teacher. The use of these two programs (or at least two similar ones) in conjuction with one another would provide a wonderful tool for developing the writing skills of deaf and hard of hearing students...this "partnership" is something to possibly look into further???


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