9(1), November 1992, pages 77-88

The Daedalus Integrated
Writing Environment

Lady Falls Brown

Because of my positive experience working with one-to-one instruction in the writing center and my increasing frustration with writing in traditional literature and composition classes, I accepted the opportunity in the fall of 1990 to become part of the Beta test site established at Texas Tech University for the Macintosh version of the DAEDALUS INTEGRATED WRITING ENVIRONMENT (previously named the DAEDALUS INSTRUCTIONAL SYSTEM). Even though I had barely mastered WORDSTAR on a Kaypro 2X at the time and knew nothing about Macs, I learned the software and have used it for the past four semesters to teach developmental English, first-year composition (1301 and 1302), and technical writing in a Mac classroom. In addition, I have bought a Mac Classic, read more extensively about theories of collaborative learning and the social construction of knowledge, and changed my approach to teaching. As I review the DAEDALUS software (also available for IBMs), I shall comment specifically on the Macintosh version 1.2 and the impact of the software on writing instruction and teaching style. [1]

DAEDALUS INTEGRATED WRITING ENVIRONMENT, winner of the 1990 Educom/NCRIPTAL award, can make the networked, computer classroom an ideal place for students to learn writing collaboratively and to engage in the social construction of knowledge. In version 1.2, the software designers have changed the names of its features to make their functions more understandable. The new names (along with the previous names in parentheses) are DAEDALUS INTERCHANGE (INTERCHANGE), DAEDALUS MAIL (CONTACT), DAEDALUS INVENT (MINDWRITER), DAEDALUS RESPOND (DESCANT), and DAEDALUS WRITE (QUICKSTART) [2]. These features facilitate communication and collaborative learning by enabling students to share texts with one another for reading and evaluating, texts which they may then revise in light of constructive peer criticism. As I discuss the DAEDALUS software, I will use the term DAEDALUS classroom, meaning a classroom in which students engage in collaborative learning. As a result of working with the software for several semesters, I believe collaborative writing instruction in a DAEDALUS classroom can be more effective than much of what occurs in traditional classes.

Prewriting and Invention Features


DAEDALUS INTERCHANGE is perhaps the most significant feature of the DAEDALUS software in terms of collaborative learning because it allows students to develop ideas as they engage in synchronous discussions of topics. The medium permits any number of students to "talk" at once and still be "heard." Students read, write, and respond to one another via a split screen. In the upper portion appears the initial prompt about a topic--for example, "Describe in five to ten lines what you know about the Southwest." After students type their response in the lower half of the screen, they choose "Send" and their message then appears in the upper half of the screen. Students are urged to write four to five lines to discourage monosyllabic responses (such as "Great!") and "flaming" (making sexist or racist remarks or using profanity). Students may use their own names, or they may adopt pseudonyms, the latter revealing interesting alter egos and sometimes freeing otherwise chaste tongues. At any time during a discussion students can scroll through the material appearing in the upper window and respond to one another.

Instructors may stay out of the discussion entirely, or they may enter into the conversation. This past semester I used INTERCHANGE to discuss Death Comes for the Archbishop; and--because I wanted students to consider specific questions about plot, setting, and characterization--I typed the questions in all caps so that the students could distinguish my questions from their responses. Questions in all caps, however, caused the conversation to become more teacher centered than student centered.

INTERCHANGE is a good medium for brainstorming potential essay topics. An entire class can discuss an idea or issue in the main conference, or groups may join additional conferences as the conversation changes or fragments. For one paper, I asked students to list in the main conference three values they would teach their children. The students produced various platitudes about loyalty, respect for elders, and honesty. Because the comments on honesty seemed especially superficial, I created a new conference where I posted questions concerning what being honest means, whether one always can be honest, whether one always should be honest, when honesty becomes cruelty, and so on. The students became more thoughtful as some argued that honesty is always the best policy (foundationalists!), whereas others questioned the very nature of honesty or truth itself (social constructionists!). INTERCHANGE is a fluid medium that can be adjusted or adapted at any point in a conversation.

Group conferences can also be set up at the beginning of a class. During another brainstorming session, men and women were assigned--according to gender--to conferences discussing the reasons men and women stereotype each other. Later in the session, men entered the women's conference, and the women entered the men's. Fairly open discussions between members of the same gender became much more restrained, defensive, and in some cases hostile when the men and women came together.

Although most students like INTERCHANGE, some say they miss the "sound of voices." Even so, most recognize the tone of on-line comments. As an instructor, I found that I couldn't cover as much material during an on-line discussion of Death Comes for the Archbishop because everyone was responding to prompts--unlike in a traditional class where one or two students make more or less correct responses that the instructor either confirms or adjusts before asking the next question. That very problem, however, is also the virtue of INTERCHANGE because all students participate and help shape an answer.

At the conclusion of a conference, the instructor compacts the session into a transcript that is automatically saved on the network. These ideas can become the basis for subsequent papers, and students may retrieve the transcript from which they may cut specific examples, details, or comments and paste them into their papers.


Another aspect of DAEDALUS that facilitates communication and collaborative learning is MAIL, an electronic mail system for both public and private mail. Like INTERCHANGE, MAIL features a split screen. A list of messages indicating the sender (From), recipient (To), date, and content (Concerning) appears in the top window. Students choose "Read" to open a message and then in the editing window type responses or other messages that they send to peers and instructors. Students also may copy information from MAIL messages to a new file.

MAIL has multiple uses. Like INTERCHANGE, it can serve as a forum for discussion, but unlike INTERCHANGE, the discussion is asynchronous. The negative side of an asynchronous conversation is that comments appear as isolated units rather than as parts of a whole; the positive side is that discussion is not limited to a specific time. Outside of class, students can develop ideas in much greater detail on a separate disk, later copy the material into MAIL, and send it to everyone or to particular individuals. Students may use this feature for in-class journals, or they may place drafts of papers there to send to peers for review. Those working on group projects can communicate with each other through this medium, and instructors and students can discuss problems or progress with assignments. Many instructors use MAIL to take roll by posting a message entitled "roll call + date." When students read the message, MAIL automatically records their name and the time they opened the message.


In addition to INTERCHANGE and MAIL, both excellent for invention and prewriting, the software also provides INVENT, an invention heuristic that contains tested and recommended questions series. These prompts elicit from the writer a thorough self-exploration of the topic. I consider this module noncollaborative because the writer works alone. Collaboration, of course, is not the only mode of learning, and I can see that the questions series, if students answer them carefully, can produce concrete, specific information about topics. In earlier versions of DAEDALUS, the question series listed "Aristotle's Topoi," "Burke's Pentad," and the "Tagmemic Matrix," all suitable to composition classes. Version 1.2 includes four additional question series. Primarily appropriate for literature and/or creative writing classes, these are "Cultural Analysis" (12 questions), "Narrative (Invention)" (11 questions), "Poetry Analysis" (14 questions), and "Prose Analysis" (14 questions).

A feature common to all the questions series are three prompts asking students to comment generally about a topic, to summarize the topic in three to four words, and to discuss their purpose for writing. Once students complete this part, the subsequent prompts are specific to the particular series. These prompts appear in the upper portion of the screen, and students write their responses in the lower portion. Because the space is infinite, students may write as much as they wish. When students complete the questions, they may save the material as text to the network, making it available for future use.

To date, I have not worked with "Aristotle's Topoi," "Burke's Pentad," or the "Tagmemic Matrix" because each one presents 37 questions for students to answer--far too many in my opinion. Fortunately, instructors may design their own questions series tailored to specific assignments by using "Promptmaker," a stand-alone utility that enables them to create their own series of heuristic questions for INVENT as well as prompts for RESPOND. Nor have I used "Cultural Analysis," "Narrative (Invention)," "Poetry Analysis," or "Prose Analysis" because I am not currently teaching creative writing or literature (although I did make Death Comes for the Archbishop the common factor in a research course). However, after examining the questions, I think those in "Narrative (Invention)" would benefit the creative writer, and the other three series would help students in creative writing or literature classes to analyze systematically fiction and poetry. Students working through the prompts could generate a quantity of information that they could later shape into an essay.



After students develop drafts about a particular topic, they may use RESPOND (again a split screen with prompts and infinite space for responses in the upper half and the student's text in the lower half) to read and evaluate one another's writing. Influenced in part by Kenneth Bruffee's (1986) theories concerning learning writing collaboratively, RESPOND (like INTERCHANGE and MAIL) encourages "students [to] focus primarily on what each other has to say in response to tasks set by the teacher. They also examine the ways other students and they themselves make judgments and arrive at decision" (p. 6). RESPOND contains 10 prompts that I haven't used because they are rather general and the students consider them repetitive. As I mentioned earlier, instructors may use "Promptmaker" to create questions appropriate to a specific writing task. Because I encourage students in the first semester composition course to develop a strong proposition, adequate supports, specific details and examples, and finally, stylistic correctness, I use "Promptmaker" to make prompts that ask students to look for these qualities in the papers they read, and I then use these same prompts to evaluate their papers.

Word Processing


WRITE, the word-processing feature for DAEDALUS, is easy to use for creating files and formatting texts. The default selection is plain text, 12 point Geneva, but WRITE also provides bold, italics, underline, outline, shadow (and combinations of these) as well as different font sizes and styles. Files created in WRITE, however, resist any formatting beside a standard essay page. Attempts to do any creative spacing or indenting (as with poetry or technical writing documents) usually fail, and the result is close to chaotic. Of course, students can use other programs such as Microsoft WORD in place of WRITE for documents requiring heavy formatting. But if these documents need to be pasted into INTERCHANGE or MAIL, they must be "Saved as text," and they lose their formatting in the process. For most first-year student essays, the lack of formatting options is not serious, but for the occasional document needing specific arrangement of text on a page, it indeed can be a problem. I have been assured that the programmers at The Daedalus Group are working on a new version that will translate Microsoft WORD documents directly into INTERCHANGE and MAIL without losing their format. Some instructors of first semester first-year student composition classes encourage students to write essays requiring documentation, and all sections of the second semester course focus on the research paper; therefore, the ability to format a works cited page is important. Version 1.2 now includes DAEDALUS BIBLIOCITE, which students may use to create automatically a works cited page in either Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) style.

WRITE also has a spell checker, but it runs as slow as cold honey and should not be used by all students at the same time. Not only will they miss their next class, they will miss lunch and supper as well. Yes, I'm exaggerating, but the spell checker is SLOW.

System Management

In order to manage all the information generated by instructors and students in a DAEDALUS class, the software provides a number of features listed under "Utilities" in the main menu. The most frequently used are "Class Assignment," "Post a Class Assignment," "Turn in a Document," "View a Document," and "Compact Interchange."

"Class Assignment"

After students log on, they may go to "Class Assignment" where they find the day's writing task(s). The class assignment tells students what to do during a class period and how to do it. Some instructors write the assignment in paragraph form; others set up a series of steps. Whatever method, instructors must think carefully through the activities they want students to accomplish during a class period. When people unfamiliar with collaborative learning and the DAEDALUS system observe the activities, some think the instructor isn't teaching because she or he isn't lecturing. Instead, the instructor moves around the classroom, talking to individuals. Those critics did not observe that same instructor spend 45 minutes to an hour or more before class planning and typing in the day's assignment.

In preparing and implementing the class assignment, instructors should be flexible about what they expect students actually to accomplish during a class period. Sometimes instructors set up too many tasks because they underestimate the amount of time students need to complete a writing task. For example, asking students to critique three papers in an hour is too much. If students read and critique carefully, they seldom finish more than one or two papers. If instructors seriously want students to go through the process of writing multiple drafts, they may find that they need to adjust due dates for assignments and/or reduce the number of assignments during a semester.

Instructors may want to provide hardcopy of the class assignment for the first couple of weeks until students become used to a classroom environment different from what they have experienced in the past. The DAEDALUS classroom is different because the students are active, not passive. They usually spend the entire class period writing, reading, and/or revising. Because students work at different speeds, instructors should insist that students learn to read and follow the instructions in the class assignment. Many students prefer oral explanations from the instructor, but repeating the same information 15 or 20 times is inefficient at best and encourages students to remain too dependent on the instructor.

"Turn in a Document"

First introduced in version 1.1, two features for storing and retrieving documents are also contained in DAEDALUS 1.2. The first is "Turn in a Document." When students are ready to save a draft (work in progress or a final version), they select "Turn in a Document" from the "Utilities" menu. The text is automatically saved on the network. When students want to reopen a document, they select "View a Document" from the same menu.

Documents saved to the network are organized alphabetically; therefore, establishing consistent and coherent naming conventions is important. Students may file their drafts according to the following convention: SA1d1.???.lfb (SA1 = essay 1; d1 = draft 1; ??? = their initials; lfb = my initials). In this way, the students and I can find a particular draft of a particular assignment. Should students accidentally save their drafts to the hard drive or place it in another class, other instructors will recognize that the paper belongs in my class and will move it to my folder. Another method of naming files is to put the student's initials first. Files named ???SA1d1.lfb will be organized alphabetically by student. Files named SA1d1???.lfb, however, will be organized by assignment. The second method works better for grading purposes because all of the SA1F???.lfb (F = final draft) will be clustered together. Otherwise, I have to look under each person's name for the final draft of an assignment, a rather tedious operation.

Instructors may also use "Turn in a Document" to save general information documents on the network for student use. For my first-year student composition classes, I have a created a series of what I once called handouts. These handouts are now on-line explanations of writing concepts to which my students refer during the semester. They include files such as Propositions, Supports, Examples and Details, Paragraphing, Phrases, Clauses, Sentence Types, and Sentence Decombining, among others. For the discussion of Death Comes for the Archbishop, I also created files on setting, characterization, and plot. Using "View a Document," students may scroll through the list to find these files, which are arranged alphabetically by first letter of the title. In addition to accessing these files on-line during class, students may save them to their text disks for use outside of the classroom. These on-line files also save paper, an important environmental concern. An another benefit is that once these explanatory files have been created, instructors may use them in appropriate classes semester after semester or translate them into HYPERCARD files.

"View a Document"

Students and instructors use "View a Document" to retrieve files saved on the network. Once a document--SA1d1.???.lfb, for example--has been located and opened, the student must copy the document to a new file before making revisions. After completing the revisions, the student then saves the new version as SA1d2???.lfb. Of course, the student could save the revision as SA1d1???.lfb, but using the same name would cause the previous version to be erased. Instructors interested in examining the changes a student makes from one draft to the next would probably prefer the student give the new version a new name.

"Compact InterChange"

"Compact InterChange" is self-explanatory. When students have completed an INTERCHANGE session, instructors may use this feature to transform the on-line discussion into a transcript that is automatically saved to the network as IC + name + date ( for example, IC War of the Roses 2-4-92). Students access this transcript through "View a Document."

Other Items on the Main Menu

In addition to "Utilities," the main menu lists "File," "Edit," "Activity," and "Find." Under "File" are commands for opening and closing files, saving texts, choosing the page set up, and printing. "Edit" allows users to cut, copy, and paste text, undo and redo changes, select all the text in a document, and show the clipboard containing material being moved from one document to another. "Activity" is the menu item that contains the WRITE, INVENT, RESPOND, MAIL, INTERCHANGE, and BIBLIOCITE features previously discussed. Also located in "Activity" are "User Help" and "Instructor Help," both of which contain extensive explanations about the system and how to use the different features. The last item of the main menu is "Find," which makes it possible for a writer to locate specific words in the text.

Some Additional Comments About DAEDALUS

The DAEDALUS software can make a writing class just that--a writing class. Instead of the instructor talking to students about writing for the major part of the period, students write and think as they generate, share, and evaluate texts. Instructors, of course, introduce during the semester necessary information about propositions or thesis statements, paragraph development, unity, coherence, and organization, but students learn these concepts primarily by doing, not by listening. As students share ideas in INTERCHANGE or MAIL, they discover as they write what they know about a topic or an issue, what other students know about the same topic or issue, and what they think and want to say. Using RESPOND, students read and evaluate one another's papers, becoming better readers and writers as they point out strengths and weaknesses in the work of their peers. Teaching and learning in a DAEDALUS class, however, requires students and instructors to adjust to roles different from those to which they are accustomed.

Learning with DAEDALUS Software

Some students are initially apprehensive about using computers in a networked classroom, and they need more encouragement from the instructor. The instructor should assign a few, fairly simple tasks during the first couple of weeks while students become familiar with the DAEDALUS software and the computer. Once students develop self-confidence, they usually find generating and revising texts physically easy because they can type ideas into the network almost as rapidly as they conceive them.

However, some students think that because they work the entire period every class, they should be able to complete all assignments in class and have no homework. That is not the case. Students must work outside the classroom as well--on their own computers, on those in the dorms, or in the various computer labs on campus. Those with part-time jobs sometimes complain that the class requires too much time and work, but I argue that they are unaccustomed to an active learning environment.

Because students write, share, and critique multiple drafts, regular attendance is important. Students who consider attending class an option have to re-adjust their attitude. Having drafts ready to go on-line for critiquing is also important. Although students may grumble about critiquing other papers, from what I have observed, they want thorough, careful responses to their own work. The critiquing process encourages students to become a supportive community of readers and writers who take their responsibility to each other seriously. In addition, many students have remarked at the end of the semester that they enjoyed the class because they got to know each other--unlike their experiences in larger, teacher-centered classes.

Instructing with DAEDALUS Software

DAEDALUS software does not automatically create a DAEDALUS classroom. However--depending upon how much instructors know about collaborative learning theory and whether they agree with it--as instructors work with the software, they may find themselves reconsidering their role as teacher/instructor. I certainly have. Although I am still responsible for presenting information about writing to the students, I no longer lecture for any great length of time. Instead, sometime during a class period I may present small units of information for 5 to 10 minutes. The rest of the time I work with individual students as they apply the information to their own writing. Thus, I am a facilitator of class activities and a coach to individuals. After working in the writing center for the past 10 years, these new roles are not uncomfortable.

I do find the role of evaluator difficult in the DAEDALUS class because the old method of grading the finished product no longer works for me. In a collaborative classroom, students produce a prodigious number of texts during a semester, and I do not grade all the drafts--in part because grades can stultify effort. Instead, I give credit for work completed, particularly the critiques. As a result of using the DAEDALUS system to make writing truly a process, I want to record acceptable, keep working, and unacceptable on student texts instead of the letter grades I must finally assign. Granted, some papers are better than other papers, but I would argue that some students are better prepared than others. I would also argue as others have that the closer a student's ideas in a paper approximate those in the grader's head, the higher the grade she or he will receive (Huot, 1990, p. 210).

Objectively quantifying the elements that make a paper excellent is difficult. Whatever we decide to grade--product or process--we should make that decision before the class begins, we should inform our students of the criteria by which we will determine their grades during and at the end of the semester, and we should be consistent in our practice (Fulkerson, 1990). If we say we value drafting and revision but grade solely on final product, we are being inconsistent and unfair.

Working with the DAEDALUS INTEGRATED WRITING ENVIRONMENT is exciting. I continue to experiment with the different features and with new ways to use them in my composition and technical writing classes, and I also want to teach a sophomore literature class (Beowulf to Milton) in a networked classroom. I would encourage instructors interested in teaching with the DAEDALUS system to read about collaborative learning and the social construction of knowledge, if they have not. As a novice to collaborative learning, I have found Kenneth Bruffee's (1985) A Short Course in Writing and Bruffee's (1986) "Social Construction, Language, and the Authority of Knowledge: A Bibliographical Essay" as well as Harvey S. Wiener's (1986) "Collaborative Learning in the Classroom: A Guide to Evaluation" especially helpful. These works treat collaborative learning in noncomputer classrooms, but much of the information is applicable to teaching and instructing in a DAEDALUS class. Now, if The Daedalus Group will just speed up the spell checker and improve the ability to format, DAEDALUS will be nearly perfect!

Lady Falls Brown is a Lecturer in the English Department at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.


  1. The programs included in the daedalus writing environment are as follows: DAEDALUS INTERCHANGE, DAEDALUS MAIL, DAEDALUS INVENT, DAEDALUS RESPOND, and DAEDALUS WRITE. In this article, we will refer to these programs as INTERCHANGE, MAIL, INVENT, RESPOND, and WRITE.

  2. The DAEDALUS WRITING ENVIRONMENT is sold on a site-license basis and includes all Daedalus programs. Programs can be purchased individually and DAEDALUS WRITE, DAEDALUS INVENT, and DAEDALUS RESPOND can be purchased for nonnetworked computers. Programs are available in a variety of differently priced packages, and those interested in purchasing should contact the vendor.

The DAEDALUS INTEGRATED WRITING ENVIRONMENT is available from the following source:


Bruffee, K. (1985). A short course in writing. Boston: Little Brown.

Bruffee, K. (1986). Social construction, language, and the authority of knowledge: A bibliographical essay. College English, 48, 773-790.

Fulkerson, R. (1990). Composition theory in the eighties: Axiological consensus and paradigmatic diversity. College Composition and Communication, 41, 409-429.

Huot, B. (1990). Reliability, validity, and holistic scoring: What we know and what we need to know. College Composition and Communication, 41, 201-213.

Wiener, H. (1986). Collaborative Learning in the classroom: A guide to evaluation. College English, 48, 52-61.