I just got done reading the early release articles of the upcoming Journal of Second Language Writing special issues on computer-mediated communication (CMC) in second language (L2) writing. And, I can safely say that it seems like it’ll be a rather exciting collection, guest edited by Binbin Zheng and Mark Warschauer, that covers topics ranging from multiliteracies in CMC-moderated L2 writing classes to facilitating collaboration through the thoughtful deployment of CMC in our classes (Zheng & Warschauer, 2017).
I used to work for the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) as a graduate administrator. Despite this, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that my use of technology-supported instruction in the writing classroom has been…limited. I usually fall back on saying that it is because my students have more pressing higher order concerns and rhetorical issues that need to be addressed before I worry about layering on additional task-based confounds by building out a tech-heavy assignment. That being said, the June 2017 special issue of JSLW are beneficial in giving an educator research-based tools for thought to help better integrate CMC into their writing courses. One thing that Zheng and Warschauer point out is that CMC can actually provide a significant site of engagement with writing for our students, as so many of them are daily engaging in writing in and for CMC environments—whether it be posting to WeChat Moments, pounding out updates on their Facebook pages, or humblebragging on Twitter.
CMC environments can also be a good avenue to get students to reflect critically on their linguistic practices. In my Language, Identity, and World Englishes seminar, I have a CMC research assignment about which students get very excited. In it, I require them to analyze their use of language in a short CMC exchange by paying attention to how they use their various linguistic resources to enact their identities in these interactions. The students are apprehensive at first, but I then model the kind of analysis that I want them to do by sharing my CMC exchange with them. They then begin to think in-depth about their language practices. Their outputs last year were rather enthusiastic and well thought out. In their reflections on the assignment and on the course, they found this task type as a useful introduction to writing research reports and to stepping away from topics that they deemed to be, “too academic.”
All of that to say, if you’re looking for a good read, and one that can give you ideas for how to better incorporate CMC into your teaching of writing, you should check out Volume 36 of the Journal of Second Language Writing. If you want to see the assignment sheet for my CMC Analysis assignment, you can check that out by clicking here.
Zheng, B., & Warschauer, M. (2017). Epilogue: Second language writing in the age of computer-mediate communication. Journal of Second Language Writing, 36, 61-67.