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Tips for Teaching • The Technology ClubWho am I?Why this Project? Writing with Hyperlinks

Tips for Teaching,
or basic, practical insights I've gained and that I hope will help me when I introduce hypertext into composition courses

  1. Determine Goals:
    As with all pedagogical practices, it is essential that I first determine why I want students to learn something before worrying about the how's and what's of the practice. Sometimes it seems too easy to hop on the technological bandwagon without first analyzing the effects that introducing hypertext into the composition classroom will have.

  2. Incorporate Hypertext Activities Frequently:
    I am going to try to incorporate hypertext activities throughout the course. Rather than assigning just one big hypertext unit, I envision including shorter assignments, like taking a paragraph or page from a traditional essay and hypertextualizing it in various ways.That way students can become familiar with composing hypertext before the pressure of "The Project" bears down on them. Also it allows for a dynamic interplay between linear-based composition and hypertext composition. (Depending on departmental requirements and course goals, many first-year courses are simply not long enough to include a massive project, unless that project becomes the focus of the whole class.)

  3. Recognize Students' Varying Attitudes toward New Technologies:
    I think it takes a lot of courage for a student to say, "I don't understand," or "I don't like computers," especially in a course that might be geared toward writing with computers and where more tech-savvy classmates may be bantering tech lingo about as if they were talking about the weather. I think an important component of any computerized composition classroom and any hypertextual assignment is allowing for people to express their feelings about computerized technology because their feelings shape their interactions with the new technologies. Also their feelings may vary depending on the assignment, and they may change over the course of a semester.
    (While doing this project, I have experienced a number of conflicting emotions, yet even at my most frustrated I still felt excited.
     The Joys of Hypertext)                      

  4. Allow for Enough Time:
    The importance of this cannot be overstated. Creating a hypertext document, even one as simple as this site, takes A LOT of time. If I think something will take two class periods, for example, I will plan for at least three. Rushing adversely affects students because it privileges those already privileged by prior experience,and it makes it more difficult for all students to be able to fully explore, understand, and develop their composition practices.

  5. Know the Software (and Hardware) Used in the Course:
    Having to struggle with the basic workings of the programs, like how to insert named anchors (internal links on a page), is a waste of class time. Students do need a run-down on how to use hyperlinking technology (along with opportunities to practice), but their focus should not be on simply how to use the software, but on exploring the possibilities (and limitations) of this new medium for composition. I don't want to add up the number of hours--probably days--I spent trying to figure out how to do something that once I figured it out, I realize could have been done in a few minutes.So my students don't have to experience too much wasted time, I will want to develop very clear directions about how to do basic tasks on whatever computer programs being used.

  6. Incorporate Analyses:
    The greater awareness of and vocabulary for talking about hypertext that students generate--preferably self-generate--the better able they will be to assess the impacts of various hypertextual practices on themselves as readers and/or writers. To facilitate this development (and it did help me in designing this site), I will have students analyze various hypertexts and traditional texts, especially texts that they and their classmates produce.

  7. Plan for Collaborative Projects:
    Students often have little experience in joint composition, so a collaborative hypertext project where they can at least plan the layout of the document together if not every word/graphic included might be useful. I wish I had collaborated on this project with someone because, while collaboration does take more time, it would have been more fun. And perhaps with another person the technology problems, the simple "how to" questions, would have been figured out a lot faster.From my observations of classes that have required collaborative web projects, I think that groups should be no larger than four, perhaps even three, so that each student has more opportunities to participate.

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