Using Hypertext in Non-Networked Environments that have No Internet Access

        In the computer classroom which is neither networked nor has internet access, the "stand-alone" computer (whether the classroom has only one, or one for each student) becomes a shared pallette upon which groups of students can create, manipulate, expand and redefine each other's texts. Although it is certainly feasible for students to individually create hypertext multimedia projects for presentation, I see hypertext in the computer classroom as essentially an activity of collaboration which can promote composition as dialogue; hence my focus on collaborative and group activities.

         Hypertext has been called an inherent collaboration between reader and author, but it takes on an even more important role as a medium for collaborative authorship. Not only can building hypertext become a community activity, it privileges the social-epistemic rhetoric proposed by Berlin (1987) by stimulating interactivity and encouraging a multiplicity of viewpoints.

         Because hypertext does not privilege the individual writer, it would seem at first glance as if assessment of hypertextually collaborative writing would be problematic. However, because hypertext is constructed of lexia ("text chunks") which can be written by individuals, teachers need not worry about the usually nonequitable distribution of labor in traditional collaborative exercises: each individual's work can be assessed on its own merits, and the work of the collaborating group as a whole may be analyzed (and assessed) as greater than the sum of its parts.

         Hypertext, while working well within a social-epistemic rhetoric, does not always fulfill its potential as a useful classroom writing space if the emphasis of the class is expressionist. Joel Haefner (1995), for instance, found that his students were very resistant to the use of hypertext for creating links between individual's personal journals; they saw the appropriation of their private experiences by others as an aggression against them personally. In order for hypertext to work as a medium for socially-constructed knowledge, the students must be prepared to see their words and ideas as part of a larger context than their personal expressions; allowing textual manipulation without such preparations can do more harm than good, particularly for inexperienced writers.

         Conventions for textual manipulation within hypertext works may be stipulated by the authoritative voice of the instructor, but it is far more useful for students to engage in a critical debate about the nature of text ownership and derive their own mechanisms for linking and metamorphosing texts. This dialogic inquiry can itself become a first assignment in hypertext composition--the arguments can be demonstrated and experimented with as they are voiced, thus collapsing the distinction between theory and practice.

Putting theory into practice: The Hypertext Collage Assignment.

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