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Erica Seidel's Comments

Here are my comments on some noteworthy issues that surfaced continuously at the conference.

Multiple Literacies

The intriguing notion of multiple literacies was emphasized by both Rebecca Sinker and Kenneth Foote. We can use technology to appeal to different ways of learning and doing. The linear, textual, and static learning that traditional books are steeped in can be augmented with the appropriate applications of technology. In her talk, Rebecca Sinker said that her art projects develop childrens' "dynamic and visual literacy," and hence improve both linear and non-linear ways of thinking. Kenneth Foote also encourages both visual and textual literacies by using various representations of geographical information. For instance, text is accompanied by maps, charts, and graphs.

Relevance and Concreteness of Projects

It seems like the most successful assignments are those that are directly relevant to students' experience. If technology is used in the right way, it can help amplify concrete assignments and unleash students' creativity. Children at the Rosendale Infants' School develop wonderfully innovative projects on such mundane topics as hair and food. Ted Nellen's students do assignments on concrete subjects (Internet Poem, My Favorite Book), and also engage in projects that tap the cultural diversity of the school. For example, the China/Business Watch Project combines cultural studies with technology.

Technology Does Not Always = Internet

It is important to remember that "using technology" does not always have to equate to "using the Internet." The conference highlighted compelling instances of teachers using technology like HyperStudio, instead of or in addition to the Internet. Neil Goldberg and Josh Reibel of the Dalton School stressed that one reason their HyperStudio program on archeology is so successful is because it is a constrained environment. The teachers have thought carefully about which materials to include in the virtual world, and this ensures the quality of the information that students encounter.

Outside Evaluation and Affirmation

Many speakers emphasized the potency of outside evaluation and affirmation which arises from people on the Internet coming in contact with on-line student work. Ted Nellen told an intriguing story about a former teacher from Hawaii who motivated his students to write clean prose and improve their work. Informal evaluations like this have grown into formalized programs, where every student is in regular electronic contact with a mentor. Nellen has developed the "Adopt a Student On-line" project, and the CoVis project offers a web-based Mentor Database.

One Computer, Many Students

One issue that emerged during HT&T is that the "one-computer, one-student" notion is not a necessary ingredient for success in teaching with technology. In fact, there can be substantial benefits when students share computers. Sinker noted that when children work on their projects together, they learn to better articulate their thought process, and they develop a language for explaining their work. In Nellen's computer classroom, student interns who took his class last year help the current students complete their projects. Students also work in teams on virtual archeological research at the Dalton School. These examples show that we can improve our communication and cooperation skills through sharing computer resources.

Student Privacy

I am concerned about student privacy once student work and the Internet are combined. Ted Nellen mentioned that one benefit of students saving their work on the server is that he can access works in progress, and "correct mistakes before it's too late." Certainly, this is a valid point. But the flip side is that the teacher can "spy" on students' unfinished and potentially highly-personal work. A related question is whether students will be more or less frank once they know that their work is accessible by a large public.

Unprintable Practices

Several speakers addressed the fact that we can not always extend new electronic paradigms directly into printed textbook form. Curtis described his frustration with publishers who want to "see what the printed version of calculus@internet looks like." We saw demonstrations that software can be uniquely used to map out electoral trends, examine artifacts closely, and take virtual field trips.

A Social Experiment

Kenneth Foote was the only speaker to think of his project as a "social experiment." His Virtual Geography Department Project can help other departments and projects that are less blessed with resources. Foote attributes this to the mellow nature of his discipline. I hope that this service-oriented type of sharing can apply to other disciplines and projects as well.


HT&T Table of Contents Selected Readings || HT&T96 Program || HT&T96 Speakers || HT&T96 Participants || Discussions Contact Info

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This Forum on Hypermedia Teaching & Technology is sponsored by NetTech, the Education Alliance at Brown, and STG. Email questions, comments, etc. to Roger Blumberg at Roger_Blumberg@brown.edu