In the past year, I compiled a bibliography of writing-instruction and text-analysis programs. I sent out an inquiry to software development projects around the country and received back information about programs both available and under development. Research in Word Processing Newsletter recently published an abridged version of that bibliography. A working copy of the complete bibliography is being distributed by the Temple University Working Papers in Composition. A sample entry in the bibliography appears in Figure 1. In each entry is listed the program's author(s), publisher, or marketing organization, with relevant addresses and phone numbers. Also included is information about the availability and price of the software, the hardware it runs on, the operating system and memory it requires, and the language in which it is programmed. A brief description of the program is also given. This software survey does not include spelling checkers or word-processing programs, unless they are part of an integrated package, like HBJ WRITER,
TITLE: HOLTCOMP (The Holt, Rinehart and Winston Composing Software Series) AUTHOR: Deborah H. Holdstein, Governors State University PUBLISHER/MARKETING ORGANIZATION: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston CONTACT PERSON: Charlyce Jones Owen ADDRESS: 383 York, NY 10017 PHONE: (212) 872-2553 AVAILABILITY: 1986 HARDWARE: IBM PC OPERATING SYSTEM: PC-DOS 2.0 MEMORY REQUIREMENT: 128 K LANGUAGE PROGRAMMED IN: Pascal PRICE: Not yet determined BRIEF DESCRIPTION: A major "writing environment," HOLTCOMP will enable the writer to compose, prewrite, write, and rewrite essays, reports, etc., for various writing tasks. This sophisticated program features brainstorming and prewriting sections, responses to which are stored and visible for use during writing; a word processor designed for the program; and specific rewriting-diagnostic aids. The package is accompanied by a workbook. Figure 1. Entry from "A bibliography of text-analysis and writing-instruction software." Temple University Working Papers in Composition.p. 9
formerly called WANDAH. After compiling the first version of the bibliography, I acquired grant support to help me buy and evaluate the programs. I began the evaluation with the brainstorming. invention, and prewriting programs, research that I summarize briefly in this article.
For the most part, the first-generation invention and prewriting programs run on the standard instructional machines: the Apple II series and, to a lesser extent, the IBM PC (see Figure 2). Some of these programs are being moved onto other machines; BRAINSTORM and HBJ WRITER are being written for the Apple II, and an IBM PC version of QUEST is in progress. A DECMATE II version of QUEST is also complete. The only programs that are not readily available are Michael Spitzer's BRAINSTORM and Debbie Holdstein's programs, THE PARAGRAPHING PROGRAM and the HOLTCOMP program; however all three are in the last stages of debugging and testing. Helen Schwartz is working on a program for the Apple II called ORGANIZE, which, as I understand it, is in part an aid to the formulation of topic, thesis, audience, and rhetorical purpose. Figure 3 shows that few of the invention programs require more than 64K memory, and their price is fairly low--ranging from free programs available for the price of diskettes and mailing to $120 for WRITER'S HELPER, a package that includes text-analysis programs in addition to prewriting aids. Also, most are written in BASIC; only CREATE/RECREATE, HBJ WRITER, HOLTCOMP, and WORDSWORK are programmed in Pascal. Finally, nearly all of the programs are aimed at the first-year-level writing course. SEEN is the only program tailored specifically to liter-
APPLE II MACINTOSH COMMODORE IBM PC BRAINSTORM X BURKE X COMPOSITION STRATEGY X COMPUPOEM X CREATE/ReCREATE X CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING X X HBJ WRITER X HOLTCOMP X THE PARAGRAPHING PROGRAM X PREWRITE X QUEST X SEEN X TAGI X TOPOI X WORDSWORK X WRITER'S HELPER Xp. 12
Figure 2. Computers Running Invention Programsp. 11 MEMORY REQUIREMENT LANGUAGE PRICE BRAINSTORM 64K BASIC $49.95 BURKE 48K BASIC FREE COMPOSITION STRATEGY 48K BASIC $39.95 COMPUPOEM 48K BASIC $17.95 CREATE/ReCREATE 512K Pascal UNDECIDED CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING 64K BASIC FREE HBJ WRITER 128K Pascal $50.00 HOLTCOMP 128K Pascal UNDECIDED THE PARAGRAPHING PROGRAM 68K BASIC UNDECIDED PREWRITE 48K BASIC $84.95 QUEST 48K BASIC FREE SEEN 48K BASIC $89.95 TAGI 48K BASIC FREE TOPOI 48K BASIC FREE WORDSWORK 256K Pascal UNDECIDED WRITER'S HELPER 64K BASIC $120.00 Figure 3. Memory Requirement, Programming Language, and Price of Invention Programs
ary topics, and CREATE/RECREATE is the only one geared to the junior and senior technical writing student.
Raymond Rodrigues and Dawn Rodrigues assert that
Among a variety of possibilities, a computer-based invention program may (1) guide those students who profit from concrete sequential learning to produce a preliminary outline of ideas; (2) using formulaic questioning, lead those who need help with an assigned topic to generate and structure random ideas; (3) provide open-ended inquiry approaches for those who enjoy generating ideas randomly or even abstractly. (Rodrigues, 1984, 79)
Rodrigues offers William Wresch's program WRITER'S HELPER as an example of the "concrete-sequence" variety of program, Helen Schwartz's SEEN as an example of the "algorithmic" program with a formulaic format, and Hugh Burns' TAGI and BURKE as examples of the "open-ended inquiry" approach to computer-assisted invention. These three principal designs make up a useful system of classification for invention programs. However, I see more clearly only two mutually exclusive categories. The first is Burn's open-ended inquiry approach used by Mimi Schwartz in her PREWRITE program and James Strickland in his program QUEST. This design is not content, topic, or format specific, so anyone with an assignment to write could use this style of program. These programs consist of a series of question prompts designed to initiate a dialogue with the student, who
responds to the questions with writing. The main drawback is that the inquiries are of a general who-what-where-when-why-and-how nature and can sometimes be a little too open-ended; as a result the questions may be irrelevant or inappropriate to the topic the student has named. Also, the computer cannot offer very meaningful responses in this kind of all-purpose invention program, so the interaction with the student is minimal.
The other category specifies a content of discourse type. I am increasingly confident that this kind of program is the transitional program into the next generation of invention software. Although more restricted in the kind of writing it can assist, it offers more realistic and believable interaction with the writer. The inquiries are not so open-ended, and there are more possibilities for interpolated instruction that is content-specific. For example, Cindy Selfe and Billie Wahlstrom's WORDSWORK is a program designed to help a student write a personal narrative. The program is broken into units on motivation, conflict, plot, chronology, flashbacks, purpose, point of view, and showing (as opposed to telling). Leading into each unit is an instructional section describing and illustrating the element or technique covered. The student is then asked to write text within that controlled context and exhibiting specific characteristics. Although this program--like all the other invention programs--cannot tell if nonsense is put in and cannot comment specifically on the writing, it does seem better able to create a potentially productive writing environment for the writer as learner. It is genuinely an instructional program as well as an
invention heuristic. I might add that Selfe and Wahlstrom's use of a function-key template and other aids for operating the program is very helpful but is not usually found in this first generation of software.
Other programs that fit into this category of discourse-specific design are SEEN, with its focus on literary subjects, and COMPUPOEM, a poetry-writing program. Dennis Horn's PROPOSAL WRITER--though not exclusively an invention program--is another example of the way that programmed inquiry and prompting can be made more concrete and specific by adapting them to a particular discourse type.
The weaknesses in the first-generation invention programs are weaknesses that have generally appeared in most early CAI software. First of all, sound instructional design is sometimes undermined by hardware and programming problems. The effectiveness of the software can be seriously weakened if disk access and screen building are too slow, if the user can only go forward through the courseware and not back to previous screens, if the user must memorize operational procedures because of inadequate prompting and assistance, if basic text editing is absent, and if there are bugs in the software that can stall or stop its execution. The latter can be particularly annoying if the user must reboot the program, because there often is no means available to return to the point where he or she left the program.
In general, the first generation of invention programs makes us think again of writing as three stages in a sequential process: prewriting first, writing second, and revising last. Developed concurrently with back-end text ana-
lyzers that put style and grammar checking into a post-writing slot, the front-end prewriting programs mainly guide topic selection and formulation, with some advice on organization and audience analysis. The three major software aids for writing--invention programs for prewriting, word processing for writing, and style analyzers for revising--have maintained this separate development until fairly recently. We are currently witnessing efforts to integrate these aids in packages of multiple programs. HBJ WRITER is a rare early development that supported this integration, surrounding an easy-to-use word processor with prewriting, planning, proofreading, and revision aids. ACCESS, a writing "environment" developed at the University of Minnesota, supports the integration of writing-aid programs with WORDSTAR and also offers utilities that a teacher can use to construct writing exercises and assignments and communicate with students about their writing, WRITER'S HELPER is also one of these integrated packages that works with BANK STREET WRITER and some other word processors.
This integration may soon include other aids to writing. Those of particular assistance to invention and planning are the idea processors and outlining programs. If the writer is a fervent outliner, as is often true of people writing technical reports and documents, then programs such as THINTANK offer outlining capabilities par excellence. Rodrigues' program, CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING, is the only invention program that employs "visual synectics," a design for linking visual and verbal concepts. The pictures that Rodrigues currently keeps next to the computer for students to use
can eventually be moved into a graphics library that resides in the computer. "Visual synectics" is a strategy for teaching writing that is bound to be used and explored further when graphics are better integrated with writing software. Increasingly, the computer is making of human expression and communication a mixed medium of word (both written and spoken) and picture (both static and dynamic).
When the early programs are compared with their more recent updates and adaptations, or with powerful integrated packages, or with speculations for future design, they can be somewhat disappointing. However, we should remember what the first designers had to discover that we can now anticipate. First, because the first-generation CAI software was developed with computer technology that was obsolete the moment it hit the market, the software was bound to have less appeal--dwelling always in the shadow of what-might-have-been-if-we-had-only-waited. Because this is the first lesson one learns in courseware development, most people decide to wait; as a result, there are not really many programs available from which to select. Those people who jumped right into software design and development did so mainly to acquire the computer skills they needed to ride the first wave of CAI development so that they could be sure of catching the second one that is swelling now. They explored, played with, and generally sized up the tool that promised so much while delivering so little. The rather modest and narrowly focused applications they created--though any developer will tell you the efforts required to not feel modest--were mainly designed to be used in their
own classrooms. However, because these programs were the first for the attractive and promising new teaching PC, word quickly spread about them, and people demanded to see them. Although greeted with much fanfare, the programs sometimes disappoint users who expect a tool that will amaze and impress them in the same way that they had been amazed and impressed by word processing. The programs often do not offer the power, diversity, flexibility, or novelty that people are hoping to see.
This major problem of trying to design instructional software when the jury is still out on hardware has been accompanied by other problems, which I mention briefly:
1. More time is required for development than anyone ever anticipates. The Office of Computer-based Instruction at the University of Delaware estimates that a 45-50 minute "typical tutorial lesson with good interaction," and with content already determined, takes at least 3 months to develop. The designer requires about 40 hours to design the lesson and an additional 20 hours to monitor its development. The programming takes around 135 hours. This is the time required of an experienced CAI "shop." A development project just starting out takes 2-10 times longer (Seiler, 1983).
2. Collaboration is needed, though seldom anticipated, from those who can program, test, implement, and evaluate the software. To develop a PLATO course, for example, Control Data Corporation coordinates subject matter experts, instructional designers, writers, editors, an editorial review board, program-
mers, project administrators, and students and teachers at testing sites.
3. For such expertise and assistance, financial resources are needed but are often underestimated. For a 45-50 minute lesson, the cost is roughly $2000 for routine drill-and-practice, $4000 for interactive tutorial, and $8000 for simulation (Seiler, 1983).
4. In addition to these logistical and resource problems is the nagging question of what to commit to programmed instruction. With so many resources, people, and time required to put together a CAI application, designers are hesitant to commit to computer screen ideas that might not be the right ideas for the medium. Certainly, we can learn something from the invention program called COMPOSITION STRATEGY that employs "neurolinguistic programming" to aid in writing (see Figure 4). In putting this bibliography and evaluation together, I came to realize that our profession needs to manage a systematic review and evaluation of software in the same way that we review books. The amount of software development going on is increasing rapidly, and we cannot rely totally on what the authors and the people marketing the programs have to say about them. As too often happens with software reviews, they are written to sell the software, not to evaluate it. The English profession has just begun this kind of evaluation effort for word-processing programs--by ACE members and the people writing for the Research in Word Processing Newsletter. However, we are beginning to
WILL THIS COMPOSITION PRIMARILY BE ABOUT SOMETHING <1> YOU ARE REMEMBERING FROM PAST EXPERIENCE <2> YOU ARE MAKING UP ENTER A NUMBER 2 Note: For both l and 2 responses, the following four screens appear, except that the arrows are arranged in reverse order. ********************************************************************************* 1 * * * * 3 LOOK UP AND RIGHT AND * * GET IN TOUCH WITH ANY FEELINGS PICTURE WHAT YOU WANT * * YOU HAVE ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT. * * TO WRITE ABOUT. BEFORE BEGINNING YOUR COMPOSITION, AND AGAIN THINK OF WHO YOU ARE WRIT- MAKE A PICTURE IN YOUR MIND'S EYE ABOUT ING THE COMPOSITION FOR AND WHAT WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT. RESPONSES YOU WANT. WHAT FEELINGS COULD YOU DESCRIBE OR PUT THEM IN TOUCH WITH WOULD GET THE RESPONSES YOU WANT? ALSO PICTURE WHO YOU ARE WRlTING THE COMPOSITION FOR AND WHAT RESPONSES YOU WANT FROM THAT PERSON OR GROUP OF ALSO TRY SHIFTING YOUR FEELINGS TO PEOPLE. WHAT PICTURES OR IMAGES COULD DIFFERENT CHARACTERS AND PARTS OF THE YOU PAINT THAT WOULD GET THE RESPONSES EXPERIENCE TO HELP PUT YOU IN CONTACT YOU WANT? WITH NEW STANDPOINTYS ON THE EXPERIENCE. YOU MIGHT ALSO TRY CHANGING THE * * PERSPECTIVES OF THE IMAGE YOU HAVE TO LOOK DOWN AND RIGHT AND * * SEE IF THAT HELPS TO GET YOU A FRESH FEEL WHAT YOU WANT * * POINT OF VIEW. TO WRITE ABOUT. * * * * ********************************************************************************* 2 4 NOW, LISTEN INSIDE OF YOUR HEAD WITH NOW, TALK TO YOURSELF IN YOU [sic] YOUR MIND'S EAR FOR ANY SOUNDS OR NOISES HEAD ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE CONNECTED WITH WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT. ABOUT. THINK OF WHO YOU ARE WRITING THE COMPOSITION FOR AND WHAT RESPONSES YOU ALSO THINK OF WHO YOU ARE WRITING THE WANT. WHAT WORDS COULD YOU USE THAT COMPOSITION FOR AND WHAT RESPON5ES YOU WOULD GET THE RESPONSES YOU WANT? WANT FROM THAT PERSON OR GROUP OF PEOPLE. WHAT SOUNDS OR NOISES COULD YOll WRITE ALSO TRY ASKING YOURSELF WHAT DIF- ABOUT THAT WOULD GET THE RESTPONSES YOU FERENT PEOPLE AND CHARACTERS WOULD WANT? SAY ABOUT YOUR TOPIC. FIND OUT IF IT TUNES YOU IN TO ANY OTHER WAYS OF TALK- YOU MIGHT ALSO TRY TUNING IN TO ING ABOUT YOUR SUBJECT. DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THE EXPERIENCE YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT AND FIND OUT IF * * IT HELPS TO CLICK IN ANY NEW IDEAS OR * * LOOK DOWN AND LEFT AND CONNECTIONS. * * HEAR WHAT YOU WANT * * * * * TO WRITE ABOUT. LOOK STRAIGHT RIGHT AND * HEAR WAT YOU WANT * * * * * * TO WRITE ABOUT. * * *********************************************************************************p. 20
Figure 4. Screen Displays from COMPOSITION STRATEGY.
need to pursue this effort for CAI and other writing-assistance programs as well. The Computers and the Humanities journal is trying to address this need, and its new software-review editor Terry Erdt at Chapman College is soliciting both reviews and reviewers.
English departments have been slow to come to instructional computing partly because of the logistical, financial, and time-consuming problems of finding, evaluating, and using software. The result is a Catch-22 situation: writing researchers and instructors know little about the software available or being designed; therefore they do not use it and as a result cannot contribute to its improvement in the usual cycle of implementation, analysis, and evaluation. This impasse also keeps us from overcoming our profession's technological naiveté and inexperience. Right now, we have two fledgling groups that have formed: the expert writer/naive computer specialist, generally coming out of academia, and the naive writer/expert computer specialist, generally coming out of industry. The groups will need not only to develop their weaker skill but also to cross traditional boundaries and coordinate projects to develop hybrid programs that are sophisticated and powerful. Then we will see what computer-assisted writing can do to help writers move through the recursive and cyclic process of prewriting, writing, and revising.
Rodrigues, R. and Rodrigues, D. (1984, February). Computer-based invention: Its place and potential. College Composition and Communication, 35(1), pp. 78-87.
Seiler, B. (1983). OBCI's costs and time for development. Report from the Office of Computer-Based Instruction, University of Delaware.