eScroLLs: Open story spaces for English Language Learners (ELLs)
The purpose of the project is to encourage second language learners to explore the creative aspects of writing in English as a means of engaging with such issues as: word choice and vocabulary expansion, sentence structure and paragraph cohesion, the use of modifiers to extend and enhance meaning, and narrative and thematic development.
The basic concept is as follows:
- A new story scroll can be initiated by any user. (How to start a new scroll)
- New content can be added to any existing story scroll by any user.
- Any existing story scroll can be edited by any user.
The notion of a "scroll" has been appropriated to emphasize that each story is one of unlimited "dimensions", with a limitless number of co-authors. While each scroll has no set limit in length, and can be continually added to, this is not to suggest that texts are linear constructions. Just as a scroll may continue forwards in narrative time, it can also extend "backwards". That is, the beginning of each scroll is just as open and malleable as the end. Likewise, a text is capable of being "stretched" from within. That is, it can be added to and expanded from any point along the narrative.
The rationale behind this open structure is to place an emphasis on the process of editing and to encourage English language learners (ELLs) to apply those editing skills which they use every day in their first languages to the prospect of writing in English. Good writing is essentially a non-linear process, as it is in deeply indebted to the practice of editing, which involves a returning to and reconnaissance of the text. Indeed, be it at the conscious or the sub-conscious level, writing is just as much about putting down words, as it is about taking them away, substituting words for other words, recasting phrases, etc.
Given its inherent flexibility, the wiki format is beautifully suited to exploring the editorial process. Further, providing the opportunity for collaborative authorship of texts, wikis allow for the possibility that peer work, which is considered an essential component of the modern ESL/EFL classroom, can be carried out on a very large scale across the World Wide Web.
What follows are some additional notes on the eScroLLs project:
- While the project hopes to target ELLs, it is open to any user of English, whatever level.
- Users are encouraged to check in periodically, to see how the text has transformed. Users are asked to correct any mistakes they may encounter in spelling, grammar, and word choice.
- While users have the opportunity to expand any text, it is with the understanding that they will refrain from making significant deletions to the work of other authors. Obviously, corrections are encouraged, and some substitutions will occur (eg corrections of word choice), but the "categorical imperative" of the eScroLLs project is to preserve the content and style of contributed text, so that the voices of many authors can be heard throughout the work as a whole.