Van der Meij, H. & Boersma, K. Th. J. (2002). Email use in elementary school: An analysis of exchange patterns and content. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(2), 189-200.
E-mail was embedded in a project in design & technology education in elementary school. During a series of lessons children worked in groups on building a flying object. The groups communicated through e-mail with groups of children from another school. The analyses of the e-mails, as viewed from distributed cognition theory, focus on the exchange patterns and content.
Two characteristic exchange patterns are stacking and compounding. In stacking e-mails are sent out quickly enough to afford a just-in-time exchange of information. In compounding the e-mails transcend lessons. An old section of the e-mail reacts to the partners e-mail about a previous lesson. A new section deals with the current lesson.
Question-answer exchanges accounted for only about 15% of the communications. Connected discourse with explicit or implicit references to the partners e-mail was likewise scarce. Groups mainly connected to each other through adoption, leading to shared scenarios of We tell you our story You tell us yours.
The conclusion discusses the impact of the task on the childrens communication. Among others, a precise definition and teaming of the task is deemed necessary to favour embedded e-mail use. Because the genre of e-mail use in elementary school is yet to be defined the authors caution against imposing many constraints on what children should write to each other.