Collaborative Spaces and Education
The Web

(Discuss the Web)

We teach and learn in complex environments. This section addresses some of the issues that arise when we move the already complex classroom environment to the World Wide web.

Daniel Anderson would like to focus on the web environment with narratives about the development of some CGI scripts and discussion of student HTML projects.
At the Computer Writing and Research Labs we have an autonomous Web server where we can experiment with the development of more sophisticated Web operations. One of the first and most useful of these experiments was the development of Web-based message forums. Over time we've been able to develop scripts for Web-based conversations and text annotation.

A second script was developed to allow students to contribute links to their class pages. The narrative about the evolution of this script suggests that we don't always have to contort our pedagogy to mesh with technology; instead we can adapt technology to meet our teaching goals.

Over the years we've developed a number of scripts that we would like to talk about and share. If you're interested check out all of the cgi scripts discussed in this project

Perhaps the brightest spot on the Web for us as teachers has been the substantial amount of student HTML projects that we have been able to shepherd through development. One of our recent assignments worked at taking a print-based persausive essay and turning it into a Web project. A large aim was to avoid simply "pasting" the papers to the Web. We thought about the papers in terms of pieces of information and also tried to maximaize the potential for visual and hypertextual composition on the Web. The assignments for the process are on the Web. To see how we did take a look at the Web-based arguments.

Of particular interest may be a later project in which a student tried to encapsulate and teach the process. This project leads students through a process of editing text for a Web audience, working with layout, incorporating images, sounds and video and other aspects of translating print-based projects to HTML.
In my most recent class, I've tried to bring the process of teaching Web authoring full circle, by allowing students to teach something that they have learned. Some students created projects that demonstrated ways of searching on the Web. Others taught Web site construction using frames. One of the most developed projects was a student written introduction to HTML.

Joi Chevalier would like to focus on the intersections of web environment and MU* environment with two narratives.
Using WWW message forums to generate MU* projects and assignments. Using the WWW to further analysis of rhetoric and contexts.

We're also interested in what people think of the web as a hypertext.
We're prompted to ask this question after reading Stuart Moulthrop's Hypertext '96 Trip Report. Moulthrop's report is informative throughout, but his reflection on his own panel, especially the perspective of Michael Joyce, issues an important agenda item for our discussion of the web environment. Moulthrop reports on Joyce's critique:

[The Web is] about advertisement and self-promotion. It's isolating and onanistic. Its links are pure deferral, pointing nowhere but elsewhere and always back to what was there before, not along a reciprocal track to what has come after. The Web is a hierarchy, not a true network -- not a maze of treasures but a trivial cascade.
We do need to view the Web critically. We might use Joyce's definitions of exploratory and constructive hypertexts. Put crudely, constructive hypertexts allow readers to modify them. They are capable of evolving with the interactions of the reader. In this context, I'm interested in the depiction of web links as deferral, as pointing backward instead of reciprocally forward and backward. Perhaps we can whittle the complaint into a question and share it here: is the Web a constructive hypertext?

Opening Teaching Theory The Web MU*S Conversation

Daniel Anderson
Joi Lynne Chevalier