The Nature of Children's Interactions While Composing Together on Computers

CIERA Report #2-005

Adrienne Gelpi Lomangino, Julie Nicholson,
and Elizabeth Sulzby
University of Michigan

CIERA Inquiry 2: Home and School
Can young children write together on computers? What impact might their interaction patterns during such collaborative composing have on their literacy learning?

Patterns of interaction, including power relations and social goals, were investigated over a five-month period by observing first-grade children. Children worked in small groups to compose stories on the computer. Three groups selected for in-depth analysis represent the wide range of observed interaction patterns. Differences in interaction patterns included emphasis on fairness, control, exploration, and social cohesion. Several social goals guided children's actions, including appearing competent to peers, dominating peers, and creating solidarity with peers. Differential status within the partnership was reflected in the variation in types of social behaviors that children displayed. Commonalities in interaction patterns among groups included using one another as resources, expressing opposition, directing versus instructing, and using self-monitoring and repetition. Agreed-upon strategies and plans emerged as facilitative in maintaining positive affect in contrast with negative and conflict-ridden exchanges. Focus on local concerns in composing was observed in all three groups, consistent with the level of development of first graders' writing off the computer. Suggestions are provided for modeling positive social interactions and higher-level compositional planning.

University of Michigan School of Education

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Forthcoming in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly under the title, The influence of power relations and social goals on chldren's collaborative interactions while composing on computer.