Why CyberEnglish?

by Dawn Hogue

One of the main theories of CyberEnglish is that when students make their writing public they are more concerned with what they write in ways that are meaningful, such as the expression of their ideas and the sound of their language (fluency), as well as their spelling and grammar conventions. No one wants to sound "dumb" in public. Attention is also paid to the design and presentation quality of writing that goes on the Web. Students seem more proud of the writing they put on the Web not only because they know it is out there for "everyone" to see, but also because it lasts: writing on the Web is work they can come back to again and again. For this reason, students are more likely to continue revising their writing even after it has been graded.

All students in CyberEnglish9 create their own web site (on the school's student web server) in the beginning of the year. These web sites are valuable for several reasons:

  • as spaces to post writing
  • as models for future reference
  • easy viewing for peer review
  • as an outlet for self expression
  • In CyberJournals, students reflect on how computers in English affect how they learn.

    This is the fifth year for CyberEnglish at Sheboygan Falls. We were the first in the state to use this approach, which was modeled after work by Ted Nellen, a New York teacher who had been integrating technology into English for over a decade at the time. The standards for our cyber course are the same as for any regular English9 class, but we also layer our course with state technology standards. By the end of the year, students typically say that they are more confident and are more able to use computers for all kinds of applications. We believe this increased confidence helps them to succeed at a higher level in the years to come.

    Another advantage to the CyberEnglish approach is how accessible all aspects of the course are to students and parents. Each teacher has her own web site. Students go to Hogue's Chalkboard or Haag's Cyberspace to find links to current unit plans and the semester calendar, special notes, and other helpful links. Our "filing cabinets" are on the web and our expectations are clearly public. Besides the fact that they can watch their son or daughter's progress on their web site, parents also appreciate having easy access to unit plans, assignments, and due dates on the teacher's Web site. This leads to more open communication and involvement with their children, parents have said.

    Finally, CyberEnglish9 is based on a Constructivist theory of education, which focuses on the active engagement of students exploring, inquiring and experimenting. We understand that students learn by "constructing" new knowledge by connecting to what they already know. In CyberEnglish9, students are more actively engaged than in the traditional English classroom of the past. Students are self-directed learners, who come to rely less and less on the teacher for what they need to know and more and more on themselves. CyberEnglish students become skilled at seeking information from books, from people, and of course, from the Web.

    CyberEnglish9 is an exciting part of our Sheboygan Falls curriculum. We invite you to explore students Web sites, the teachers' sites, and to contact us with any questions or comments you have.