The tools noted in the examples described earlier are content-free; in other words, they do not have any preset substance. With a little creativity, however, the teacher can use almost any computer tool to facilitate production and creativity. Even grammar drill and practice software can support creativity and production if used in a principled way. Here is an example of one way to do that (adapted from Egbert, Yang, & Hogan, 2003):
Two students are working on a 10-question grammar drill about past-tense verb forms. The program presents each fill-in-the-blank question separately, uncontextualized from the rest of the sentences in the drill. Student A works at the computer; Student B sits close but cannot see the screen.
- Student A reads each question presented on the screen while Student B writes the question down on a piece of paper, writing odd numbered questions on the left side of the paper, even numbered on the right.
- Student A reads the four possible answers (or reads the first answer, and if the students think it is wrong, goes to the next, and so on). The students choose the answer together, Student A checks it with the software, and Student B writes down the correct one and repeats the completed sentence out loud.
- The paper is divided between the columns. Student A takes one set of sentences and Student B takes the other. Now Student B sits at the computer, while Student A sits close by.
- The students interact, not showing each other their sentences, and try to put them together into a cohesive story. They can use dictionaries and any other resources they need. Student B types the story as they agree on it, and reads it aloud for Student A’s approval.
- They share their stories with other groups who used the same sentences for their stories.
This activity works with adaptations even with large groups of students in one-computer classrooms. In such a case, while the teacher or other person reads the sentences, students can take the role of A or B to write down odd or even numbered sentences. They then pair up to write the story. During this activity both students have had multiple and multimodal exposure to all of the sentences, and both have produced each one more than once. Because their sentences have different contexts, they must be very creative to pull them all together into a story that makes sense.