Chapter 5. Promoting foreign language collaborative writing through the use of Web 2.0 tools and tasks
This chapter reports on the benefits of embedding chats and wikis, two Web 2.0 social tools, within a module designed to teach the process model of writing with argumentative and expository essays. Sixteen learners enrolled in an advanced Spanish writing course at a mid-sized, east-coast university in the United States completed two three-week essay writing modules working collaboratively in pairs: the first writing piece was in the argumentative genre and the second concerned expository writing. In each module, the same sequence of pedagogic tasks scaffolded the learners through the writing stages of planning, drafting, getting feedback, revising, and publishing. Students were asked to use chats and wikis at specific points during the completion of the modules. Content analysis of the chat and wiki data showed that the synchronous nature of the chats encouraged learners to focus on the content and structure of their writing, while the wikis allowed learners to focus more on localized aspects of text production, such as grammar, fine-tuning of chosen vocabulary, and editing. Comparison of data across the two genres further indicated that while working on the argumentative essay learners focused on syntactic complexity, whereas for the expository essay (completed later in the same semester) learners focused more on accuracy. We conclude that the task-based collaborative approach to teaching process writing, with the mediation of the social tools, allowed learners to construct and reconstruct their content knowledge, to engage with various writing conventions, and to adopt an appropriate, genre-specific language register.