Hypertext in the Computer-Facilitated Writing Class

Of course, proceeding in a linear fashion is entirely appropriate when plowing a field or performing a ceremony or doing the wash or carrying out any other task in which some things must come before others, in which sequences are regulated or, as we say nowadays, "rule-governed." But when we move from any such process to learning something new, to any act of making meaning, to symbol making of any kind, these linear models will not serve.

-- Ann E. Berthoff, The Sense of Learning, 1990, p. 87.

         The advent of new print-based communication technologies (such as multi-user domains, synchronous and asynchronous networking, and hypertext) can facilitate the convergence of composition theory and praxis in the computer-assisted composition classroom. Composition pedagogy has moved from the current-traditional model toward a process-oriented, more collaborative, less authority-centered model, focusing on an epistemology of socially constructed knowledge; computer mediated communication technologies afford the classroom instructor the medium through which a social-epistemic rhetoric can be enacted in the classroom, serving as both a focal point for the building of community and a method of collaboration. In this essay, I am most interested in the application of hypertext as a computer-facilitated medium of composition and communication to the computer-aided writing class.

          Hypertext is particularly useful as a way to introduce computer-mediated dialogic interaction in any writing class because it can be applied in much the same way in non-networked classes and networked classes alike (both with and without access to the web). Thus, even computer-facilitated classrooms which have no access to email (much less MUDs or electronic discussion groups) can move computer-facilitated pedagogy from simply using word-processors in class to providing a collaborative, interactive mode of composition by using hypertext.

I see three main pedagogical benefits provided by the incorporation of hypertext in the composition class:

  1. Hypertext promotes dialogue.

  2. Hypertext can be constructed as a collaborative medium, and it makes possible forms of collaboration that emphasize the social construction of meaning.

  3. Hypertext can be used in nearly any computer-facilitated classroom.

         This hypertext, like all hypertexts, allows the reader to choose the course of his or her reading; however, I'd like to recommend two paths that I have created as a starting point--the reader should, of course, feel free to wander from the paths, and indeed, there are many places where one may cross from one path to another. I have given these main paths the titles "theory" and "praxis." The theory path shows hypertext as an extension of Bakhtinian dialogics while the praxis path provides concrete examples of hypertext at work in computer classrooms. Additionally, at the bottom of each lexia, the reader will have the opportunity to view an index of all the available links in this hypertext.

Praxis Theory

View the Index

Contact the author!