In related developments, three of the major writing software companies have announced their intentions to include or to expand Internet components for their products. These announcements come at a time when the role of the Internet in education has garnered increased attention from local, state, and national sources, all of whom raced to distribute the Internet-related distance education findings of a sociology class at California State University, Northridge.
The distance education "experiment" revealed that students who used Internet-based materials exclusively fared up to 20% better on their examinations than did their "real-life" traditional classroom counterparts. All three software companies, whose recent announcements appear below, acknowledge that their products will now have the potential to become powerful distance education tools.
Technorhetorician Dr. Peter Sands uses writing software in his composition classes at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and conducts faculty development workshops in his role as an Epiphany Project leader. He notes
This may be the most exciting development in groupware for writing instruction since the birth of the Internet. At every workshop I conduct, every meeting with other teachers and every conference, people ask if they can use these programs at a distance, and their frustration is visible when they find out they can't. Students expect it and teachers can use it. I see it as the next step in the process of distributing power and responsibility--and education--beyond the confining and literal space of the bricks-and-mortar university and out into the very real virtual realm already filled with writers of all kinds.
CommonSpace and the Internet
Sixth Floor Media has always been committed to the Internet as a platform for education. From its first release in March of 1996, CommonSpace's real-time conferencing was not restricted to isolated labs and LANs but has taken advantage of the Internet to bring people together regardless of location. CommonSpace is designed to work in tandem with open Internet standards; for example, users can share their work via the Internet using email attachments or FTP rather than through a proprietary LAN-based system.
Today, the World Wide Web is becoming the preferred Internet platform for publishing, information access, and collaborative work. CommonSpace version 2.0, due out this summer, will incorporate tools to read and display HTML and to include hyperlinks to websites. By combining these tools, students will be able to access and annotate any document located anywhere on the web.
Looking farther, our goal is to continue to evaluate changing technologies and to quickly incorporate into CommonSpace those which clearly and effectively support the process of writing. Technologies like Java are changing the Web from a static publishing environment into a communicative and collaborative space. We feel this new Web is the perfect home for CommonSpace, and we are currently researching various models for supporting live annotation and document sharing directly over the Web. As collaborative technologies grow, CommonSpace will continue to grow with them.
For more information, contact Amy Coyle at Sixth Floor Media (800) 565-6247.
Twelve colleges and universities, from Georgia to British Columbia, are currently beta testing Connect.NET -- a new version of Norton Textra Connect accessible via the Internet. Norton Textra Connect is an interactive, collaborative program that runs transparently from inside your copy of Word or WordPerfect for Windows, or DOS Connect, a standard DOS word-processor; a single menu of Connect commands turns these otherwise ordinary word processors into a complete electronic classroom. Students and teachers work collaboratively on-line in much the same way they do face to face, with the added advantages of speed and efficiency in sharing information across a network.
Connect.NET becomes the perfect tool for distance learing by extending all the features of Norton Textra Connect to the Internet from inside Microsoft Word for Windows 6.0 or 7.0. Using Connect.NET, teachers create a class, complete with small workshop groups, that only enrolled students can enter. Teachers then create assignments of any kind, including embedding hotlinks to the Web, which cause Connect to load your local web broswer. Students read and respond to the assignments in the unique Connect split-screen environment. Using options on the Connect pull-down menu, students can read and comment on their peers' papers while they revise and repost their own papers. From their Connect menu, teachers can read and discuss student papers as a member of any group, then collect and grade the papers using editable, grading macros and hotlinks to the on-line handbook, all transparently via the Internet.
All versions of Connect and Connect.NET are licensed at no charge to the colleges or universities. Students buy a user manual in the bookstore -- just like a textbook. Instructors' Guides, technical support and user support are all available at no charge to technicians and instructors. Connect.NET will be ready July, 1997 for use in Fall classes. For further information visit our website or send contact Fred McFarland at 800-533-7904.
Daedalus, producers of the award-winning Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment (DIWE), are currently developing an Internet version of their popular InterChange program. Internet InterChange will combine the simplicity and cross-platform benefits of a web-based design with all of the functions of the current software. More than a simple chat program, Internet InterChange will also provide new search, threading, and linking capabilities, making it an ideal collaboration tool for virtually any group. With tests scheduled for later this year, Daedalus expects to make this new product available in early 1998. As always, Daedalus welcomes suggestions and input as they develop breakthrough software for the "Third Wave." Contact Daedalus at (800) 879-2144 or consult their website for additional information about their software and services.