On the Path of Praxis: Levels of Computer Communication in Computer Classrooms

        One of the exciting aspects of hypertext is its availability to instructors in classrooms which are not necessarily "on the cutting edge"--and indeed, I do not want to link the idea of using hypertext as a pedagogical tool to blindly investing faith in new technologies which may or may not enhance our ability to teach. In fact, the idea for hypertext can be traced back at least as far as Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think," published in the Atlantic Monthly in July of 1945, and even then the connectivity envisioned was viewed as a tool for the advancement of interpersonal technologically-facilitated composition. I'd like to think of hypertext in terms of media rather than tool, though. I see hypertext as a communal canvas for all the world's artists to communicate upon, mixing styles, colors, textures, and motifs into a carnivalesque cacaphony of artistic visions and voices; contradictory visions of art existing side by side and even blending with one another in order to form new works and convey new ideas. This rich and varied landscape becomes even grander as other communication technologies are used in conjunction with it, but even alone, the advent of hypertext can take our students into new realms of discourse that they could not experience in print alone.

         On the path of praxis, I will not only offer some examples of "traditional" assignments which can make use of hypertext to engage in a dialogic discourse that is not confined to the traditional, monologic, student-teacher discourse, but I will show how hypertext can be introduced into any computer-facilitated classroom.

           I've defined the following levels of connectivity in computer classrooms, and I will show how each type of class can incorporate hypertext into composition pedagogy. Even if you have the best, sharpest, most state-of-the-art computer classroom, you may want to see what goes on in the classes of those less fortunate than you; each practice can benefit from, and to some extent builds upon, the practices that can be established in less technology rich learning environments.

Non-networked, without Internet Access
These classrooms have "stand-alone" workstations running on either DOS (Windows) or Macintosh operating system platforms. Since it is difficult to use the technology of these classrooms in innovative ways (most instructors must make do with simply using the word-processing programs available to them, which is certainly not very dialogic), these classes have the most to gain from incorporating hypertext as a medium for composition.
Non-networked with Internet Access
In the rare classes whose machines have access to the Internet (either graphical or text-only), but which do not communicate directly with one another, hypertext can be used to expand the medium of composition to include a much wider (and more interactive) audience than students traditionally experience.
Networked, without Internet Access
Although classes which are networked together have some advantages, instructors are often frustrated by the lack of access to a larger community of readers and writers. Hypertext can, however, be used in the networked classroom to simulate that community on a much smaller, more intimate, and ultimately safer level.
Networked with Internet Access
The classrooms which are both networked and enjoy access to the Internet may seem to be the ideal place to teach hypertext composition, but there are lessons to be learned from the strategies of the less technologically-enhanced classrooms.

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