We have been continuing our study of electronic mailing lists (maillists) and newsgroups as great ways to stimulate discussions in and out of class (see Ramazani, J. "Student Writing by E-Mail" Teaching Concerns, September '94). Here's a summary of what we've learned so far.
Mailing lists are groups to which you subscribe your students; messages go directly into their e-mail accounts. Subscribers may post messages to the whole group or to individual contributors.
To form a mailing list, send e-mail to postmaster@ virginia.edu, and request setting up a mailing list. You will automatically receive detailed instructions about how to decide on an appropriate list name and establish the list.
Newsgroups, accessed through Unix, are open to a larger community, in that anyone with access to the UVa gopher can subscribe and contribute. Subscribers post messages to the group and follow up postings with their reactions and contributions. Messages are grouped by subject (or "thread"), and subscribers choose which ones they would like to read. Some instructors use this medium to post class notes and handouts (also a great way to save paper). In these instances, the threads are either class dates or subject headings.
Finally, if you teach a very small class, you can have each student make a class alias for e-mail. For larger classes, however, this takes up a lot of time, effort and space.
TEACHING RESOURCES ON THE INTERNET
On the Internet, newsgroups are forums for discussions that are classified by subject area. We'd like to help familiarize neophyte computer users with some of the teaching resources available on the Internet. In other words, we'd like to help you "surf the Net".
The best way to find a group to suit your needs is to browse the subscription list in the newsgroup section of gwis. There are around 4,000 groups, so this can be time consuming. Here are some suggestions to help you find groups that meet your needs or interests. This is somewhat like perusing the library stacks, knowing one call number and finding a gold mine of information in the books around it.
To browse, type in one of the slashes below, then one of the following "call numbers." This will take you to newsgroups that start with the "call numbers." Please note that many are only the first part of the address. Slashes: "/" search forward and "\" search backward.
Before posting to a group, be sure to read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) file, if there is one. This gives the ground rules of the group.
Various colleges and universities offer either newsgroups that deal with teaching or databases of teaching information. One such database at the University of Minnesota, for instance, offers resources for less commonly taught languages. To access this information, part of a project of the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, connect to the University of Minnesota server through Worldwide Internet Services on gwis. From there, follow this path:
If you're feeling adventurous, search other university servers for teaching information. And try our own TRC listing on the gwis. Watch for our Mosaic Home Page, too.