My first project for Holt, Rinehart and Winston I brought the Holy Bible of all grammar texts Warriner's Grammar and Composition online. Old-testament style editors were horrified at the notion of changing this proven, age-old text even one bit. It seemed we would be destined to produce software that was little more than a static book on a screen.
I approached a reticent senior editorial staff by demonstrating how animation was not restricted to pictures. Text itself could be animated to clarify difficult concepts, and could be coupled with narration in both English and Spanish. The notion that the well-established content of Warriner's could not only survive changes but might significantly be improved by them began to take hold. In a traditional print-publishing culture, this was radical thinking.
difficult still was my effort to disabuse senior managment of the belief that
computer-based testing was the strongest and most valid reason for creating
a complete Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics course online. I fought to include
numerous unscored Practice activities... a reprieve, small perhaps, from the
mind-addling drills of traditional text-based grammar quizzes.
The positive effect of these unscored practice activities was significant. Student interest in the instructional sequences that preceded practice items was remarkably greater. In formative evaluations we confirmed the necessity of frequent unscored practice and identified best-practice for delivering feedback. Summative evaluations later showed that classroom instruction with Language Workshop corresponded with significant improvements in student performance on diagnostic tests as compared to instruction with printed materials alone.
Having won support for instructional presentation and uscored practice, next I relied on the early enthusiasm for computer-scored exercises and designed a large number of varied templates for scored exercises.
I designed twenty different templates, each of which provided detailed feedback and recorded the results of multiple attempts for each student in an integrated classroom management system.
The task of training editors to review and revise multimedia storyboards for such a wide variety of interaction templates was it's own sort of educational process. At full throttle, I had fifteen editors supplying content and revisions to three programmers, twenty multimedia authors, and four artists.
In an effort to address the "Why Bother?" questions that students rightfully ask, we included free-writing prompts with lively art and ideas that prompted students topay attention to relevant grammar concepts which appeared in the preceeding instruction, practice, and scored exercises.
Without a doubt, much more could have been done to emphasize writingas the context and purpose of mastering the rules of grammar. A more active, learner-centered,and peer-collaborative application should have been realized, however, for the first-ever transformation of the company's sacred text "Warriner's Grammar and CompositionHandbook" the 7 level CD-ROM series that we did achieve was a success. Language Workshop won several awards, including the Gold Medal at the CINDY's for best educational software, and is currently used in thousands of schools and universities worldwide.