Collaborative Spaces and Education

(Discuss Teaching)

The goals that we have as teachers are numerous, but we can state broadly that we want students to take an active role in their learning. We also want them to move more comfortably between the academic and personal contexts that frame our education

Discourse Learning and collaboration are some of the ways we implement these goals. We want students to generate their own knowledge and also bring to light the many (sometimes conflicting) perspectives that circulate around texts and topics. Below we discuss these goals in terms of specific projects.


Daniel Anderson will focus on two implementations of Web teaching that try to fulfill discourse learning and collaborative goals
One of the obvious advantages of researching with discourse communities is that positions are tested as they move through the group; the learning becomes dialectic. To capitalize on this potential, I wanted to have students send a research query through an Internet discourse forum. Students first worked through web-based assignments that prompted them to refine a topic into a research query and then to post that query to several newsgroups. The goal was to refine their thinking about the topic through dialog and also to provide discourse based resources for the research project. If you're interested in the process and the results, get more information about the student project. As part of a recent sophomore level writing class, I've developed a set of cgi scripts that allow students to collaborate on a work of hyperfiction. The Becomings project afforded our class with a number of opportunities to talk about the collaborative nature of the Web and issues of hypertext and postmodern genres of communication. For instance, as an early exercise, students browsed the Web looking for materials for their story episodes. By gathering pieces which might be woven into their episodes, students were able to use the Web as a collective grab bag. By using these materials and linking to the episodes being developed by other authors, students were able to think about the benefits and drawbacks of creating this global and cooperative collage.

Joi Chevalier will focus on discourse learning through MU* spaces and the World Wide Web.
Conveying cultural and social constructs often proves difficult when discussing Early Modern Literature. Demonstrating to students the relevance of not only historical information but cultural and social traditions and structures can be complicated by the lack of artifacts, material, and models for examination. In other words, it is difficult for students to get a 'feel' for a society and time which would then underlie and inform their reading of a text. As part of a continuing goal to provide methods of using current computer technology to allow instructors to represent and model the culture, even the very text, they are studying. This technology, Multi-User Shared Hallucinations (MUSH) or its counterpart, Multi-Object Oriented Dimensions (MOO) are tools which can provide for Early Modern Studies many issues which are essential for students to 'see' and understand, but are difficult to truly represent. Once students have reestablished a relationship with the text, then in depth critical analysis can begin. Here, the World Wide Web becomes another environment for examining and evaluating discourse learning. In self-generated discussions, students can, over time, see connections between periods, authors, texts and complicated social constructs, and also consider their own rhetoric and how they discussed those issues. With Web message forums and Interchanges and posted roleplaying, students can perform self-analysis and evaluation...discourse and metadiscourse, if you will.

Opening Teaching Theory The Web MU*S Conversation

Daniel Anderson
Joi Lynne Chevalier