The impact of e-mail use on fourth graders' writing skills

1998 1998

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

The growing interest in computer use at home and in the workplace has led to the incorporation of computer skills into school curricula. Numerous claims assert the benefit of computers, but questions remain concerning the nature of that benefit. The increasingly widespread use of telecommunications raises further questions regarding the effect of computer-mediated communication on language development. Unfortunately, few rigorous studies have been conducted to provide evidence of the actual effect of e-mail on children's writing skills.

The data for this study are handwritten compositions, e-mail messages, and surveys/interviews collected from two schools, matched for demographic and academic variables. The experimental school used e-mail as a part of their curriculum, while the control school did not. The data were collected from fourth grade students and their teachers during 1998. All of the handwritten and some of the e-mail texts were responses to persuasive writing prompts, based on Texas Assessment of Academic Skills criteria. Discourse analysis methods were used to analyze these texts for language-focused features in the areas of amount of text, grammatical complexity, control of the mechanics of language, organization, argumentation, audience awareness, oral and informal features, and a composite score for the text. Statistical tests were then conducted to identify areas of significant difference between the schools.

Two comparisons form the basis of the study. In one, an e-mail composition. from the experimental school was compared to a handwritten composition from the control school. Results reveal that the experimental group performed better in the areas of audience awareness and argumentation. In the second comparison, handwritten essays from both schools were compared following three months of e-mail use at the experimental school. Results show that the experimental group demonstrated better writing overall and in the areas of audience awareness, organization, and text length.

These results indicate that e-mail use has a positive impact on the writing skills of fourth grade students. The benefits produced by e-mail use are attributed to the influence of interaction with an authentic audience and the educational and technological contexts for composition.

Indexing (details)

Language arts;
Educational software;
Elementary education
0279: Language arts
0290: Linguistics
0710: Educational software
0524: Elementary education
Identifier / keyword
Education; Language, literature and linguistics; Computer skills; Email; Fourth graders; Writing skills
The impact of e-mail use on fourth graders' writing skills
Nix, Carole Ann Greb
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 60/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780599211001, 0599211008
Herring, Susan C.
The University of Texas at Arlington
University location
United States -- Texas
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.