Collaborative Spaces and Education
Forum Narrative

It was a classroom need that inspired a message forum script which lets readers interact in a web environment.

When my class and I produced an American literature site as part of survey course in the spring of 1995, I was excited by the possibilities for annotating electronic versions of texts. In particular, I wanted students to be able to attach comments to passages and key scenes. I used a mailform (a combination of a form composed in html and one of the popular early scripts that lets a web server interact with information from a browser). The form sent me e-mail from the middle of the text.
As students sent me their comments, I would paste them into the html file and repost it to the server. Needless to say, this got to be overwhelming. I worked with our systems administrator to refine the mailform script. The new script compiled the messages and wrote them out to the html file automatically.
In the revised script, readers could comment and subsequent readers could respond. It soon became apparent that the script was well-suited to discussion; it was not really a form but a forum. I added a version of the discussion forum to a section of our class site that explores The Yellow Wall-Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
What has happened at theYellow Wall-Paper forum speaks to the potential for the expanded audience of the web environment to more literally collaborate by adding their insights to the archive of the site itself.

What had begun as an attempt to annotate texts developed into a discussion mechanism. Interestingly enough, the latest manifestation of the message forum has been combined with a set of additional scripts that once again makes annotation of Web pages a possibility. As part of a literary hypertext courseware project I have developed a script that allows readers to add annotations to poems and texts. The Women of the Romantic Period Hypertext (WORP) is a sort of teaching anthology for women writers of the eighteenth century. If you're interested, take a look at the project and follow the links to some of the poems by Helem Maria Willams or Anna Seward. From these works you can use the script to add links to URLs, glosses or message forums to an original work.

OpeningTeachingTheoryThe WebMU*SConversation

Daniel Anderson
Joi Lynne Chevalier