Publishing Student Texts on the WWW: The Hypertext Journal Assignment

        This assignment could also be adapted for use with creative writing or poetry classes.

For the Hypertext Journal project, students will be divided into small groups and assigned topics (or in the case of a journalism class "beats"), and asked to report upon or address the topics assigned. Ideally, the focus of the journal, and the topics themselves, will be generated by the class. The hypertext journal, then, becomes an online publishing venue for the class; in order to be successful, the students will have to consider their intended audience, the larger context of publishing venues in which their journal will appear, and questions of copyright and acknowledgement (the legal aspects of publishing).

There are many possibilities for the focus of an online journal, but I would suggest that a community-oriented journal which addresses community concerns or which can be used in conjunction with (or even instigating) community service is an ideal use of the hypertext journal. (This may work better in urban or suburban settings--where a greater portion of the local community may have access to the WWW, thus increasing the possible readership of a community-oriented journal).

For this assignment, I ask students to combine traditional library-oriented research on their topics with primary-source gathering activities such as interviews and attendance of public lectures, city council meetings, poetry readings, etc. Each group must work as a team in order to produce an essay for inclusion in the journal--but the essay (a hypertext essay) must be constructed of individually crafted lexia. In addition to writing individual parts of the essay, each student is assigned an additional role within the group--one person works with the 'editorial board' (made up of one person from each group in the class), one person is responsible for copyediting the entire essay, one person works with the graphic-arts design team.

Once completed, the journal (which may be modeled after existing online journals, such as Kairos) can be advertised on the WWW and responses (letters to the editor, or submissions for a 'feedback' column) can be included in the journal as well. Additionally, each term a new class can add an 'issue' to the continuing run of the journal (or new classes could create new journals altogether).

I have left the details of this assignment purposely non-specific; each journal created should be a product of its time and place--rooted in a specific context and brought into being for a specific purpose and allowed to grow and thrive under the editorial guidance of each particular class engaged in its creation.

Keith Dorwick (1996) has collected a list of classes writing publications on the World Wide Web entitle "Writing for the World: Student Writing For and On the Internet"; his resource points to a wealth of resources and examples for any teachers contemplating this assignment.

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