What We Learned
1. "Love the One You're With"
As the song says, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." In other words, if you don't have the right tools, either get them, or, if you can't - go with the tried and true substitute. If we had used e-mail from the start, rather than pinning all of our hopes and communications on video-conferencing, we would have had much better results. We wasted countless hours trying to debug the CU-See me. We really should have started the e-mail in October and then hoped for video- conferencing as the icing on the cake. With e-mail the students could be free agents, contacting each other at will instead of relying on the teachers. In a sense, WE, the teachers, were the obstacle.

2. Audience, Audience, Audience

Jo Zarro reported that some of her students were initally reluctant to accept the West High students' criticisms of their stories. One of her students said, "It's my story and I can do what I want with it !" But with lots of coaching the students began to see that they were writing for an audience, and that when you create something for other people's enjoyment you have to "let go" of it at some point &endash; it isn't only yours. Jo's students also gained an appreciation for the importance of revising in the writing process. They learned that quality requires editing and revision. Having an audience for student writers (besides the teacher) can add a lot of motivation to their efforts.

3. Strangers Hold Romance

Many students reported enjoying working with a total stranger from a school they didn't even know about. There was a bit of "romance" in having a "mystery " partner "out there" somewhere, sending them hints and feedback on their stories. It was a novel idea to work with someone they never saw or even spoke on the phone with, but knew was really there. It gave them someone to keep in mind the whole time they were putting together the writer's brief or the story they wrote in response to it.

4. Plausibility

Jo Zarro's students also learned that good science fiction requires at least an ounce or two of believability. The students' first drafts of their stories were not based very much on science fact. As a result, Keith Abouaf's students had some rather strong criticisms about the stories not being believable, and revisions took place. Again, the importance of speaking to the audience was affirmed, and the students learned that fiction can take us further when it is anchored in some way to fact.

5. What We Discovered

At our "face-to-face" luncheon at California State University, Dominguez Hills at the end of May an experienced screen-writer spoke to the students and did a workshop on creating science fiction. Subsequently we administered the "Attitude Survey" we created and collected from students at the beginning of the project.