Using Hypertext in Networked Environments that have No Internet Access

        As with non-networked environments without internet access, hypertext in networked classrooms can be seen as a shared textual medium--but with a network in place, the sharing of hypertext files and documents is far easier. Because students can more readily view and share their hypertext lexia, it is easier for them to visualize extended pathways of links which move between and among multiple texts. One of the benefits of not having internet access is that students' visions of what hypertext is and what it can be are not contaminated by the all too prevalent "list of links" style of writing for the Web; rather, they are free to create the World Wide Web for themselves, if in miniature. In this scenario, students can build their own comprehensive web using the classroom as a world in itself. I like to work in this type of environment before introducing my students to the web at large because I can make them think of hypertext in terms of composition and communication; that is, they have the opportunity to define hypertext for themselves as a medium with far more depth than its current incarnation on the WWW actually has. And the more we teach our students to take their writing seriously, and to see their work as a contribution to the larger activity of social meaning-making, then there will be a better chance that the Web itself will reflect this activity, rather than becoming a series of "home pages" which, although often at least entertaing, rarely contribute much original thought or argument.

        A networked classroom can be configured as an "intranet" or internal web accessible only to those with access to that particular network. If we encourage our students to see that they can create their own WWW right in the classroom, a wealth of possibilities for writing assignments presents itself; moreover, these assignments focus not only on the process of composing, but also on the goal of communicating. Each student, for instance could be asked to build a node on this web about a particular facet of a common topic which the class is exploring as a whole, or small groups of students could create sites which relate to their particular disciplines. For the first assignment, students will be able to link their work together by seeing where the facets of the common topic align themselves to form a recognizable subject; for the second, the students' projects could be linked to a central, class-designed index page from which a reader can go to any project. Additionally, these assignments can be continued with new classes over the course of several terms, constantly expanding and growing until it does become a world of socially-constructed knowledge in its own right. Aside from creating sites, students can also analyze and critique the sites of their classmates (and of those who contributed before them) and in turn make their critiques part of the growing web.

Putting theory into practice: The 'Discourse of Your Major' Assignment.

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