Epiphany Summer Institutes

Although the constant focus in the institute was on moving participants to critically examine their pedagogy, one could hardly study computers and writing without looking at software and hardware. Accordingly, Institute leaders gave hands-on software demonstrations in both Macintosh and IBM-PC computer labs, in addition to using different packages as presentation software during whole-group meetings.

There are many available packages for synchronous conferencing and collaborative writing, but three packages dominated discussion at Epiphany: CommonSpace, Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment , and Norton Connect . Each of these packages allows users to share files, edit documents and engage in real-time electronic conversations--features that are increasingly in demand in software applications in the business world as well.

An add-on to Microsoft Word  or WordPerfect  for Windows that allows teachers and students to share files, grade papers, engage in real-time discussion, and work on projects collaboratively. The server software is provided free to colleges; students purchase a licensed disk for about the same price as a textbook, and can use the software at home or on the network. Includes an online grammar, style and research handbook.

This program is groupware that allows writers to collaborate in the writing, editing and publication of documents. A series of parallel workspaces on the screen allows users to make commentary and metacommentary on a given text. Using TCP/IP, remote users can engage in real-time, online discussions of a text visible on their screens. This is truly next-generation collaborative writing software. It includes an online handbook based on Anne Raimes', Keys to Writing .

Networked software that allows students to create DOS- or Mac-based files that can be exported to other commercial word processors. This is the best-known of the collaborative packages, having grown out of Batson's original work with ENFI at Gallaudet. DIWE 's most popular feature is InterChange , a real-time discussion component that has been the subject of many scholarly articles. DIWE  is particularly strong in its ability to assist teachers in encouraging simple fluency in the production of texts, a key element in improving student writing over time. It also includes heuristics modules called Invent  and Respond , which are effective tools for teaching academic writing skills and strategies.

Powerful utility software with hypertext-authoring tools teachers can use to build customized online environments for their courses. Ann Woodlief of VCU uses this extensively in her literature classes in conjunction with Norton Connect . Teachers and students use the software to create documents with expandable windows for embedded comments, i.e., a copy of a short story with embedded annotations and critical references. From Guide , instructors and students can launch other applications used in the course, such as a word processors, web browsers, email, or any Windows-based groupware. Guide  is costly, but repays that cost by being an excellent lesson package, syllabus site, presentation tool, and collaborative writing space. An extremely versatile and useful piece of software.
This is a hypertext authoring package that allows users to open up small writing spaces or windows that may be linked in a visual mapping strategy, which greatly facilitates creative writing and the making of connections between discrete pieces of information, whether graphical or textual. The application features a placeholder that allows writers to leave a thread of writing unfinished, while the program holds the link in a temporary buffer. Texts may also be presented as completed documents, although, except for hypertext fictions such as afternoon, a story , presentation has turned out to be less the emphasis with StorySpace  than text creation and organization. StorySpace  was among the first of the commercially available hypertext authoring tools, and the only one of the first generation to have survived to the present day. It has been used to write and present "serious" fiction, ethnographic field notes, and significant texts in philosophy and criticism.

A slickly packaged, user-friendly html tool that allows teachers to design a web-based syllabus and other materials right online. No knowledge of programming is required. The package is still under development at VCU (more information is available at this website).

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