Saturday, March 12, 2005

Research Article: ENFI--An Approach to Teaching Writing Through Computers

Marlatt, E. (1996). ENFI-An approach to teaching writing through computers. American Annals of the Deaf, 141, 240-244.

Found At:

ENFI stands for Electronic Networks for Interaction, and it was a program established in 1985 by Gallaudet University. The purpose of ENFI is to provide deaf and hard of hearing students with real time, authentic uses of writing for communication. Using a computer and the program, students and teachers can actively participate in "online" dialogue with one another. The computers in the classroom are all networked together so that everyone is engaged in a literacy environment of reading what others wrote and responding with their comments through written English. (it works somewhat like an "IM" environment online)

Often deaf and hard of hearing students view writing in English as a chore, and ENFI allows these students to practice writing in English in an authentic manner without really feeling like they are being forced to write. It is being used for a more social purpose and students seem to respond to this use extremely well. Furthermore, instructions in phonics often do not benefit these students, and ENFI allows students to access written English in a whole language environment. The article mentions four popular activities teachers have used with the assistance of ENFI: open-ended discussion, discussion of a reading text, collaborative story writing, and creating and solving a hypothetical problem. Therefore, ENFI allows students to focus on writing in cross the curriculum activities that can be used with any subject area.

On a personal note, I believe the use of technology in the classroom always runs the advantage of increasing student motivation (at least in my experience), and ENFI provides students with a fun, less pressured way to practice written English. Students can be engaged in authentic writing experiences that can be saved and printed at the end of the day. I believe this is a valuable characteristic for both students and teachers. Students have the benefit of re-reading class discussions for studying purposes or literacy activities, and teachers can use the saved dialogue as informal assessments of students progress as well as a tool in individualizing writing instruction to the individual needs of students. One of the major concerns with deaf and hard of hearing students is that they are drilled with the grammatical aspects of a language they do not know, and ENFI allows these students to engage in real-life use of written English. Moreover, with ENFI being used to address the written aspects of language, teachers are able to address face-to-face communication with American Sign Language, a meaningful form of communication for deaf and hard of hearing students. This article did not present detailed information regarding the quantitative impact of the use of ENFI on these students, but I would be interested to find out more; my personal opinion is that the use of ENFI in a classroom would drastically improve the technical and motivational aspects of writing with deaf and hard of hearing students.


At 11:31 AM, Blogger trent said...

This is a really belated comment on Megan's post more than two years ago. I was the faculty member at Gallaudet who started ENFI and received large grant funding to develop the project. I left Gallaudet in 1998 for Seton Hall and then University of Rhode Island, so have not worked with ENFI methods for quite a while. But, now, with SecondLife, and the spread of social software, it seems to be a good time to be thinking once again of the learning value of real time English interaction.

Thanks for the Post
Trent Batson


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