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Reports, Studies, and Research on

WFW: Writing for Webheads

I started this page at a time when Webheads were starting to document their accomplishments. Recently (2005) it seems that reports on Webheads are cropping up everywhere. Consequently I have largely stopped updating this page.

Writing for Webheads is a cyber-social phenomenon. It is a case study in community building on the web. Participants in the group “found” each other online as early as 1998 and have since drawn gradually together, becoming a close-knit community of friends, the great majority of whom have never met face to face, with many participants having enjoyed many aniversaries already.

The ostensible purpose for the group is English language study, but for most participants it is a bit more than that. The nature of that “more” is what the following studies all examine.

Vance has recently published: Chapter 10. Webheads Communities: Learning Tasks Interleaved with Synchronous Online Communication and Web Page Development for a book entitled TASK-BASED INSTRUCTION IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE EDUCATION: PRACTICES AND PROGRAMS coedited by Betty Lou Leaver and Jane G. Willis, Georgetown University Press.

In June, 2003 Lesley Shield made the following request:

Hello Vance,

Markus Weininger and I are currently engaged in writing a book about the language of synchronous text exchanges in terms of its major features and what this can tell us for using synchronous online text environments for language learning. We have a large corpus of native-speaker MOO data and a smaller one of non-native speaker MOO data. We're currently trying to develop a corpus of logs from language learners using chat (not MOO - though MOO logs are always welcome!) so that we can a) anonymise and b) concordance the data and analyse if statistically. I notice that you have a lot of chat logs available on your site and wondered if you would be prepared to let us analyse them? What we'd do is *totally anonymise* the logs - in fact, nobody would ever see the actual content, except for maybe one or two very short examples (which we'd seek permission to use). We're looking at structure and collocations more than content, so that we can compare native and non-native speaker use within the same environment. We're trying to limit the context to education (of various sorts) which is why your logs would be so good!

What would you get out of this? Well, an upfront acknowledgement in the book and a link to your site in the references section. I know it's not much, but would be very grateful if you'd consider allowing us to use the logs in this way - while we could set up our own logged chats, we feel it would be much better to make a broadly-based rather then extremely narrowly-focussed corpus (if we use corpora made up entirely of our own logs, there'll be a degree of bias that we'd like to avoid if we can!)

Thank you for considering this.

Lesley (Shield)

Vance's reply, June 14, 2003

Regarding the permission you request, gladly granted.

I would appreciate very much the recompense in the form of upfront acknowledgement in the book to both myself and Webheads and a link to our site in the references section.

Two other points:

  • I think we would appreciate having any reference to ourselves in your book attributed to actual names of participants as given in our logs. I understand that you will obtain permission to use these references, at which time any participant having any objection to his/her name used can opt to refuse permission, or grant permission using a pseudonym.
  • Second request, that you keep us informed of the progress of your work so that we can link to it as appropriate from our site.

Thanks for your interest and for the opportunity to collaborate.


Some Webheads teachers and students participated in the online Teaching in the Community Colleges Conference, April 22, 2003 - Click here for more information - Eighth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference April 22, 2003 from 1000 GMT to April 25, 2003 at 0930 GMT ; Writing for Webheads had their presentation Tuesday, April 22, 2003, 16:00 to 16:50 GMT in the Hibiscus chatroom, accessible from . For more information on the presentation, see; chat log: (tcc / kumu03)

In the October 2002 Issue 59 of ...ON THE TAPIS which can be read online at

In This Issue
[1] Smooth Sailing for TAPPED IN and Global Learn Day VI
... etc. ...

Quote of the Month - "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden

[1] Smooth Sailing for TAPPED IN and Global Learn Day VI
The 24-hour marathon global voyage, which showcased highly innovative activities in education and Internet technology, has docked for another year, but the ripples and waves that this ship generated will linger. Several TAPPED IN members participated in the event, which was "imagineered" by TAPPED IN member John Hibbs. Vance Stevens did a terrific job showcasing the WebHeads, a group of language teachers and learners that meet each Sunday in TAPPED IN. Antonio Diaz, a member of the GLD crew, served as an important bilingual resource as the ship sailed through the South American time zones. Antonio has a bilingual newsletter online at Several TAPPED IN members came aboard during the voyage to offer much appreciated support to the TI community presenters and were inspired by the rich diversity of the GLD presentations. Archives of the event can be seen at

Webheads featured in Learning from the innovators: Internet Communication Technologies Changing Business Practices Vol. 1 Issue 3, August 28, 2002 - ICT's in different cultural contexts

EFI - English Language for Internet with Webheads,0
If the above link doesn't work 'live' then find a cached copy here

English Language for Internet: Webheads using the internet to teach language across cultures, from David Sanders;

With the increasing use of Internet communications technology (ICT), cross cultural communications is becoming an important issue for educators, employers, politicians and anyone needing to co-operate across languages and borders in a virtual or online setting.

One small group is doing something enormous, and it is Webheads.

Weheads is a truly international community, a virtual community of people from over 25 countries that has arisen from the teaching and learning of English. Many Webheads are from non-English speaking environments and have daily experience of interaction with the dominant language and culture of the Internet - English (which currently represents 40% of the world's online population).

This newsletter provides a few snapshots from Webhead students and teachers.

Click FULL STORY and see the Webheads working across cultures.

Across different business and cultural contexts, professionals are applying new communication technologies in ways that impact upon traditional practices. This newsletter will put you in touch with the latest applications and trends in three sectors entertainment and leisure, cultural contexts and business and education and show you how the technologies are creating challenging new frameworks for business professionals. This is Issue Two of three issues mailed over three consecutive days, each addressing a different sector.

Dr. John Steele earns his PhD. in Webheading

One of our members has successfully obtained a phd in Webheading! Read John Steele's dissertation "Herding Cats: A Descriptive Case Study of a Virtual Language Learning Community" here:

International conferences where Webheads have presented or been invited to present:

I have been keeping records of more recent conference events here; see for details.

August 8, 2001 at the Tapped In online "Summer Carnival" - Time: 12:00-1:00pm PDT/3:00-4:00pm EDT (= 7 pm GMT) Title: Writing for Webheads: An experiment in world friendship through online language learning

Webheads is a community of learners and teachers of English who have held regular weekly meetings online since 1998. In that time members of the community have experimented with a variety of text, avatar, and voice based chats, in addition to the MOO-like environment of Tapped-In. At this session, Webheads teachers and students will be on hand to show you around the community at and discuss with you its concepts and principles.

We received this letter of thanks for our participation:

Dear Vance,

Thank you for leading the Webheads Session of the TAPPED IN Summer Carnival 2001! Your contribution to the Carnival helped to make it a very successful event with an average of 12 people per event. Your enthusiasm and support of TAPPED IN were a major factor in the Carnival's popularity and smoothly running 12 hour marathon schedule. It was a pleasure working with you in planning and presenting this event. I look forward to future collaboration of Webheads and TAPPED IN.

Respectfully submitted,
BJ Berquist
Associate Educator, TAPPED IN


Thanks very much to you and Keiko for your keen interest in and ongoing support of Webheads. Although we have been around for the past few years, your encouragement through accepting us in the Tapped In community is a tremendous boost to us, one of many such boosts that have kept us going over the years. I hope we can continue to thrive in this environment, which we apparently find mutually compatible with our goals and interests.

A paper by Vance Stevens on the topic of Webheads is forthcoming:

Vance gave a plenary address and a workshop at a conference in Cyprus May 5th and 6th, 2001, Michael read a paper at the conference in Cyprus from his home in Adelaide, and Webheads were of course present at both events.

March 14, 2001 - Webheads figured prominently in Vance’s presentation on online chat tools at the 2001 TESOL Arabia Conference in Dubai, . At the conference, Moral and Michael appeared in our Excite voice chat room.  Moral said a few words to a rapt audience, followed by Michael’s explanation of the Webheads concept and how we had become good friends and productive colleagues without having actually met for three years.  John Steele meanwhile was holding down the fort in Homestead and Tapped In.

Webheads featured at an Australian online conference called Networking 2000 held between November 1 and 14:

We tried to present at the International Online Conference on Teaching Online in Higher Education, "Student Success in Online Learning", November 13-14, 2000:  However, tech difficulties with the MOO environment coupled with our first-slot-of-the-conference scheduling prevented our actually making our presentation, though Webheads were online and at their posts for the occasion. According to our 100-word abstract: “Students in Writing for Webheads have been motivated for 3 years to practice ESL authentically and communicatively through online meetings, listserv participation, and web page development. The group has an extensive web site of student writing and logs of online classes since September 1998, with class membership increasing to 50 since then.  The students often engage in international professional conferences where they demonstrate synchronous interaction in the target language with native speaker participants.  The presenters will discuss factors in the success of the class and its unique community of learners in light of a study conducted recently by the teachers.”

'CALL for THE 21st CENTURY' - IATEFL Computer Sig event held at ESADE, Barcelona, Spain.  June 30th - July 2nd, 2000; for the conference site, Vance’s ‘handout’ for the Webheads presentation at and the logs of the chats during the session linked from

The presentation started with Ying Lan giving the opening presentation via HearMe of who she was and who webheads is and what its importance is.  Then Michael and Maggi came on and took it from there.  Moral was in the Palace and had a long conversation with Antje, a delegate at the conference.  This was displayed at the front of the room, though unfortunately, the palace had been cloned and not installed separately at each station, so no others from the conference could join us there virtually.  But Moral did a great job carrying that part of our conference, and all in Barcelona was watching from their seats at their own computers.  Meanwhile, Maggie in China was at the Homestead chat having conversations with whoever dropped by there.  And at the very end, just as we were wrapping up, Sorsah came along.

In sum, another great presentation by Webheads at another successful conference.  I was particularly impressed with the contribution of our two online students, Moral and Ying Lan, who gave what amounted to an eloquent presentation of their Writing for Webheads class and the work they've been doing in it for the past couple of years. You can read what they said at:

We presented from 10:30-12:15 GMT (3:30-4:15 p.m. at Zayed University in Dubai) on Thursday May 11, 2000, at the May 10-11, 2000 conference, Current Trends in English Language Testing 2000. 

· The logs of the text chat from the conference is at

· The conference website is at

· The conference is sponsored by the TESOL Arabia's Testing and Teacher Education SIG (Special Interest Group):;

· Streaming Real Media video feeds of keynote addresses from the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dubai: . 

· Anyone wishing to join our presentation online can do so by joining us in voice chat at, text chat at , or in The Palace, on port 9998 between 10:30 and 12:15 GMT, May 11, 2000. 

· See or (mirror) for further instructions.

· Vance’s presentation handout is at

Webheads presented in Abu Dhabi on May 3, 2000, at the Military Language Institute’s Teacher to Teacher Conference 2000 “Tools of the Trade” held May 3-4, 2000 at Al-Nahyan Base, Abu Dhabi, UAE.  The handout for the presentation is at  Webheads present were Maggie and Moral at the Palace, and Maggie and Nicia in the voice chat.  Maggie was also at the Homestead Chat.  Teacher Webheads included Shabana from Dubai, Claudia from Austria, Jason at ESADE in Spain, and Chi-Chin in Illinois, all at the voice chat site.

Michael Coghlan and Vance Stevens presented at the Fifth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, April 12-14, 2000 - Michael’s report is cited as:

Coghlan, M. and Stevens, V. 2000. An Online Learning Community -- The Students' Perspective. Paper presented at the Fifth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, April 12-14, 2000. Retrieved May 6, 2005 from (presenter website).

At this presentation, besides Michael and Maggi and Vance, there were also Gloria, Ying Lan, MaggiE, and Dave Kees, or dk on the lists, from Guangdong. DK had become interested in our class through his interactions with Vance on TESLCA-L, where he had learned that one of our students, Maggie, was from Guangdong as well. A log of the presentation was also made (see below)

· The log of our chat was retrieved May 6, 2005 from:

· Post conference threaded discussion was retrieved May 6, 2005 from:

· Conference archives retrieved May 6, 2005 from:

These logs were also here May 6, 2005 but the links from these pages are no longer valid:


· Ensuing discussion:

The annual TESOL Conference in Vancouver, March 2000 - Vance presented at several sessions on topics related to Webheads. Most were discussion sessions and cameo appearances at other people’s presentations, but one was a presentation on the community building aspects of the class, and there was also a live and online demonstration as part of an invited presenters session. Michael, Maggi, Ying Lan, and Moral performed online before an audience of around 100. The handouts and reports can be found at (this link discovered not working April 22, 2005 and I have written the host for an explanation)

Presentation on Writing for Webheads at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, February 2000 – WFW was the subject of a demonstration held live and online in Abu Dhabi.  After cameo appearances at web fairs mentioned below, this was the first time the Webheads appeared at a conference presentation live and online as a session in their own right.  Michael appeared at the Palace and in the voice chat along with Ming.  The handouts and writeup are at .(this link discovered not working April 22, 2005 and I have written the host for an explanation)

Questionnaire research done on the class - In February, 2000, Michael Coghlan and Vance Stevens collaborated on a 3-part study designed to elicit opinions from the students on what they liked about the class and why they stayed with it for so long. You can find the Questionnaire data and crude analysis here.

This site was featured at the Fourth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, April 7 - 9, 1999. Click here for a revised version of the paper, Writing for Webheads: An Online writing Course Utilizing Synchronous Chat and Student Web Pages. The log of the presentation (given on WebChat) is at If this link dies, try this one.

This site featured at the New York TESOL '99 Web Faire, March 10, 1999, CALL-IS Electronic Village, at Maggi and Michael both appeared at the Palace and chatted with passers-by.  Student reactions:

In 1998, this site was the subject of a study by EdD candidate Jerry Bicknell.

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Last updated: May 6, 2005 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0
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