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M. Brunke and K.

Taliaferro

Carlin-Menter, S. (2013). Exploring the Effectiveness of an Online Writing Workspace to


Support Literacy in a Social Studies Classroom. E-Learning and Digital Media, 10,
407-419. http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/elea.2013.10.4.407

The Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Social Studies enforce the notion that
reading in social studies is important to building knowledge and that writing is a key means of
asserting and defending claims, showing what students know about a subject, and conveying
what they have experienced, thought, imagined, or felt (National Governors Association Center
for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). Teachers have the opportunity
to emphasize the importance of historical thinking skills through literacy, by using writing and
research as key foundation in the social studies discipline. It allows students to practice
argumentative, informative, and narrative forms of writing. This study focuses on the effects of
having students create a wiki-like project in a middle-school social studies class (research
question). The research provided from the study of 3 eighth grade classes (total of 69 students),
allowed researchers to analyze students thought processes in their writing and their use of the
online writing tool Scholar to create their project. Students were to select a topic on issues of
historical military service. Students performance was measured through a numerical rubric
scored 1 to 4 based on the content and structure of the students wiki page. Students were also
questioned on the effectiveness of the online tool on their writing.
As a result, this research project revealed that the students thought processes became
more organized and sophisticated as they reflected on their new knowledge of the topic-- which
is evident of higher order thinking skills. In addition, it bettered students historical thinking skills
and extended their ability to make connections and draw conclusions from multiple sources.
However, some students found the writing tool to be too abstract and therefore not as useful or
effective for aiding in the writing process (only 40% of students found it useful). Overall, the
researchers felt that the Scholar online writing tool allowed teachers to better guide and promote
students literacy skills and helping them to become proficient at accessing, analyzing, and
evaluating information before writing. It enabled students to take ownership of their own
learning, and they are also able to show the teacher proficiency in their topics as well as their
use of technology. After reading the research article we realized that the research question was
broad and slightly misleading and seemed to be more focused on the effectiveness of the online
writing tool rather than promoting literacy. How could this be an effective tool when only 40% of
students responded positively to it?