Research and Preview of the Easy Writer Software Program by Jane Boris Hanser

Elizabeth Engler
Brunilda Peña-Febre
Paulette Santillo
June Van Slooten

Professional Development Project
May 1, 2005

Table of Contents    
Application of Theory     3
Results of Research and Preview    
Fountain Court   6
Bethlehem Center      7
Conclusion   8
Appendix A      10
Appendix B     14
Attachments-Student’s Feedback Responses    
References   15
Student’s Surveys    16
Bethlehem Center       I 17
ESL 2 AM Fountain Court II 18
ESL 3 AM Fountain Court III 19
ESL 3 PM Fountain Court IV 20
ESL Multi-Level Shohola V 21
Attachments with CD-ROM Software    22


Research and Preview of the Easy Writer Software Program by Jane Boris Hanser


Product: Easy Writer  System Requirements: Windows XP, ME, NT, 2000, 95, 3.1

Author and creator:
Jane Boris Hanser

Jane Boris Hanser describes her product in the brochure as software that is interactive for ESL students.  She states in her introduction demonstration package,  "Easy Writer  is a one-of –a-kind software program for ESL Students. Designed for high beginner/intermediate/high intermediate students of English…within this software is all authentic student writing, contributed by college ESL students.”  The concept was introduced to the students as students who learned ESL within the New York City colleges like them.  These students have experienced similar writing problems of which we would look and correct. This product would help them learn how much they have learned in class with NCC and how much more they will need to learn without anyone knowing.  In addition, though we did not request it at this time, nor did we print out a sample demo for our students to view due to time constraints, the author can provide us with tangible materials, “The Grammar HELP! Student Handbook: An ESL Student's Guide to English Grammar and Editing with Examples and Exercises.” (Software for Students, 1995-2004). Additional information may be retrieved from the reference page at the end of our presentation.

Application of Theory

Easy Writer  software is an ideal program for students and teachers alike. Learners are highly motivated because it is a self-directed software program reinforcing grammar skills. It assumes the learner is responsible for learning and involves group participation as well as self assessment.   A teacher who prefers to take on the role as a facilitator and partner in the teaching-learning exchange will find the software ideal because it supports this type of learning process. As Zinn described in “Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI); humanistic adult education…concepts and key words- andragogy, freedom, autonomy, individuality, entrepreneurialism, self-directedness, teaching-learning exchange, openness, interpersonal communication, personal meaning, authenticity” (Zinn, 1999, p. 27).  Teachers who would prefer this teaching style will welcome the software as meeting the learning environment's needs.

Teachers familiar with Knowles and andragogy theories in adult education agree that the characteristics of adult learners are different from the traits of child learners, on which traditional pedagogy is premised.

1. Self-concept: As a person matures his self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being.

2. Experience: As a person matures he accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.

3. Readiness to learn. As a person matures his readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles. 4. Orientation to learning. As a person matures his time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness [sic]. 5. Motivation to learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (Knowles 1984:12) (Smith, 2002, 15). The software will aid our adult learners’ maturity towards learning independently, allowing individual growth and empowerment.  To identify the learning qualities Smith further discusses,   Self-directed learning' describes, according to Malcolm Knowles a process:

... in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes. (Knowles 1975: 18)

Knowles puts forward three immediate reasons for self-directed learning. First … people who take the initiative in learning (proactive learners) learn more things, and learn better, than do people who sit at the feet of teachers passively waiting to be taught (reactive learners). 'They enter into learning more purposefully and with greater motivation. They also tend to retain and make use of what they learn better and longer than do the reactive learners.' (Knowles 1975: 14)

A second immediate reason is that self-directed learning is more in tune with our natural processes of psychological development. 'An essential aspect of maturing is developing the ability to take increasing responsibility for our own lives - to become increasingly self-directed' (Knowles 1975: 15).

A third immediate reason is that many of the new developments in education put a heavy responsibility on the learners to take a good deal of initiative in their own learning. 'Students entering into these programs without having learned the skills of self-directed inquiry will experience anxiety, frustration, and often failure, and so will their teachers (Knowles 1975: 15) (Smith, 20-23).

With this in mind, the ESL learners at Fountain Court experienced and expressed enthusiasm with the facilitator who introduced the software program. Our students want to be self-directed learners. They want to learn how to motivate themselves to become as independent as most Americans are.  We hinder our learners when they are maintained reactive.  Easy Writer  will be an asset to the teachers who want to empower their students’ abilities.

We were impressed with our groups.  By allowing and giving our learners direction, as well as providing encouragement to proceed onto additional activities (once they worked on the first demonstration level with the instructor), students took off with the program inviting each other for responses and feedback.  Two ESL 3 level classes and one ESL 2 class participated for approximately two hours in a group activity on separate times and days.  All three groups were introduced to level one and two of the demonstrations, and one group actually skipped the third level to start the Expert level, but due to time constraints, they were not able to complete it.  Because of this initial success, the program was later introduced to a multilevel class.

Results of Research and Preview

Fountain Court

The first group introduced to the software was ESL 2 AM.  This group had requested grammar as a focal point of the lessons during the first week when this course began back in March 2005.  The Easy Writer Demo was a resourceful reinforcement tool; as well as a group assessment, allowing individuals to define their own strengths without any pressure or group acknowledgement. Only one student had ample computer experience; the rest had minimal or no software exposure. On the day of the demonstration the age range of the participants was from 18 to 51 years, with only one male participating.  On the average the students were comfortable with navigating the program and with the lessons.

The second group introduced to the software was ESL 3 AM.  For this group grammar lessons have been incorporated with reading assignments, interactive grammar Web sites and limited “grammar only” lessons.  This group only had one student who had no prior computer experience.  In fact, several students within this group actively use computers. Two students found the software to be too easy while one found it to be too difficult.  The rest of the students found the software program to be on an average level of difficultly.  One student verbally stated that it “was good to learn from.”   The age range of this group was from 30 to 50 years with one male student participating on the day of the demonstration.  The majority of the students never used a CD-ROM to learn ESL; therefore, they were impressed with the Easy Writer  demonstration.

The final group introduced to the software was ESL 3 PM. As understood by the instructor of that class, grammar was covered throughout the course, following the curriculum guidelines. The age range of this group was from 22 to 44 with one male student participating.  Only one student had computer experience.  This class was divided on their feelings with the level of difficulty of the lessons but found the software easy to navigate.  This group not only participated in helping each other obtain the correct answers, but showed each other how to use the mouse easily.  They experienced problems with the mouse but it did not deter them from reaching their goals.  They all left the class requesting the grammar software lessons to continue.

The Bethlehem Center

While using the Easy Writer at the Bethlehem Center for ESL 3 PM, the following conclusions were drawn.  Only one person in eight found this lesson difficult, and three of the students found navigation within the CD a problem.  Most of the students would recommend this program to others as well as would use this program at home.  All of them wanted to see more lessons like this.  Regardless of levels, it was learned that all of the students who used the program wanted more computer learning experience in the classroom whether it was this program or another.  Some were frustrated with the program, finding it difficult to understand, but all of them appeared eager to learn more.  When some of the students were having difficulties, other students would jump in and help them out.  This exercise quickly became a group effort. From what I observed, .the actual grammar lessons presented were challenging to the students.  Also, utilizing this software in the classroom immediately emphasized the need for a computer literacy course at the Bethlehem Center.  Several of the students at night inquired about such a course and were very eager to gain more fluency with computers.  I believe that this software will lead them in the direction of better computer familiarity along with improved grammar skills.


At both Fountain Court and The Bethlehem Center, we learned that though many students were not computer savvy, this particular software was user friendly.  It was a group activity and they realized that this program was not intimidating. Since the reward factor was always a positive response to correct answers with no negative feedback on wrong answers, students quickly became eager to participate. The method by which instruction was delivered made a significant difference.  As a supplemental tool, it would be an additional incentive to our learners. It added involvement, enhanced group planning of content, and students were actively projecting outcomes.  Including technological tools within the classroom setting, not only enriches the learning environment, but meets the needs of visual learners who would otherwise be intimated with tangible materials. This software program was a welcome change from the traditional textbooks and worksheets.  The appendices which follow include authentic responses from instructors.  Student surveys are also attached.


Appendix A


Instructor Feedback and Commentary

Instructor I

When presented with this program for the first time to both myself and my class, I was immediately struck by several thoughts:

1.      Student feedback was immediate.

2.      Student risk-taking was very low as wrong answers went undetected except by the person using the mouse.

3.      Students were engaged for the entire class period.

4.      Students were so caught up in the program that when helping each other, they remained speaking English instead of lapsing into their native language as they are often prone to do.

At first many of the students were somewhat intimidated by the computer, especially those students with little of no experience; however, they quickly got over the fear. (I was surprised by the results of the survey which showed that most of the students in my advance class were fairly inexperienced with the computer).  Lack of computer experience was no barrier to using the program because essentially, all the students had to do was point and click.  Within one or two turns, then entire class was comfortable operating the program.  This is an important advantage.  By using a program which was so simple to operate, the students were able to focus, undistracted on the true purpose of the program which was to learn and practice concepts of grammar, instead of “wrestling” with the computer and trying to get it or keep it working.

Another advantage of this program was that it gave students extra opportunities to practice their oral reading.  As they tried to find errors, they found themselves re-reading sentences out loud to themselves and to each other.  Finally, an additional advantage of this program was that it can easily be used as an ongoing assessment tool to identify students’ strong and weak areas, and thus, the teacher can tailor and “fine tune” future lessons to those weak areas which were observed and noted.

Although this was an engaging and delightful program to use and was greeted with much enthusiasm by my students, there is a cautionary statement to mention.  This program is best used as a supplement to reinforce teaching, not as a substitute for teaching.  Supplements are good for adding extra practice opportunities for lessons taught and for providing material for review.  This program can also be used as a motivator for individual students to complete work given in order to get on to the program and have some “fun” practice opportunities.  This program can also be built in to the class schedule by allowing the first or last half hour of class to be devoted to using it, which may also improve punctuality to class and attendance as well!

Respectfully submitted,

Paulette Santillo, ESL 3 Instructor


Instructor II

When I notified my Multi-Level ESL class in Shohola that they would preview a CD grammar program, they were delighted and very excited.   The day of the preview, everyone reported directly to the computer room.  There were five computers already set up with the CD-Rom program Easy Writer .  Each student quickly mastered the basic keyboard operations and seamlessly accessed the Level 1 grammar program.  Students worked on their own, occasionally asking for assistance, but more often than not, sat figuring out the answer themselves.

I liked Level 1, as it gave immediate feedback to the students.  When they clicked on a noun or pronoun they thought was incorrect, either the correct version would appear in blue print, or the text would remain the same, indicating that there was no error.  Having students work in this self-directed and self-checking environment was a nice follow-up to the text grammar lessons they have been working on.

Level 2 was more of a keyboard challenge for the students.  This program required the students to retype the correct phrases, with accuracy being the key.  I was concerned that some students without good keyboarding skills were typing and retyping too often, but they told me it just reinforced their learning!  I found myself wondering just when a grammar lesson had generated as much enthusiasm as this lesson did! 

I was especially pleased to note that all of the students refused to click on the correct answer function.  Instead, they persisted until they found all of the errors on the page.  When they checked their work, the program noted how many answers they had located and how many more they still needed to find.  This particular challenge led the students to thinking on a much deeper level than they might have applied if we were correcting sentences as a group in a book.

After working for two hours, the lesson was over.  The students all expressed an interest in working with the demo CD again in the future.  They were all motivated to practice English on the computers in our local library.

June Van Slooten, Instructor

 Multi-Level ESL, Shohola


Appendix B

Students Feedback

The surveys conducted are attached for review. Students provided us with feedback, as a result we can summarize:

¨      The majority never used a CD-ROM to learn ESL.

¨      The majority would recommend this program to others.

¨      They all enjoyed the software program.

¨      The majority of the students would like to see more lessons on CD-ROM’s      

¨      The majority of students felt other teachers could use this program.

¨      The majority of students would like to see more activities using computers.

¨      Many students felt the program was edgy, or modern.

¨      The majority of students liked this change in routine.



Software for Students (1995-2004). Retrieved from the World Wide Web!%20Main%20Page.htm

Smith, M. K. (2002). Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy, the encyclopedia of informal education, .  Retrieved April 30, 2005 from the World Wide Web

Zinn, L. (1999, August). Philosophy of adult education inventory. Lifelong Learning Options, Boulder, CO.

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