Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hyperlink Heaven

I have rediscovered my love for writing. I remember crafting a major paper on the late novels of Charles Dickens during my senior year in college. It was a strangely luxurious experience as I drafted and redrafted my treatise. When I was in my twenties, the principal asked me to help compose our application for "exemplary school" status. I was honored and actually enjoyed trying to find just the right words for this composition.

I'm not sure exactly what "day the music died", but its been at least a thirty year hiatus since I've actually enjoyed a writing project. Oh yes, I have continued to teach writing and I have continually written for work. But it has been work.

Recently, I rediscovered the joy. The key? Hyperlinks! I am intoxicated by the way they allow me to add another dimension to my expression. In fact, though I know I should restrain myself from overusing them, I still compulsively hyperlink whether blogging about vlogs, proposing a staff-development plan, or preparing a collaborative project for my students. I am excited by the way hyperlinks have animated the study guide for my film class. I actually enjoy searching for the links, just as I have done in this paragraph.

Now for the dark side. I have developed a sense of indignation over traditional "research". As I indicated in Oh, How I Miss Ibid. . . . , I can't imagine anything more outdated than "Works Cited" when hyperlinks allow us to jump directly to the source. I also think that presenting research on paper verges on the preposterous. Learning to search, discriminate among sources, and then remix them. At my school, our students have laptops have more access to information than we could have even dreamed of ten years ago, but my department is still paying tribute to the antique "accoutrements of scholarship". It staggers that hours of instruction are still spent on teaching a teaching a traditional "research paper" in the year 2009. Teachers chronically complain that they don't have time to learn about Web 2.0 technology. Well, gang, here's some time for you: chuck the research paper of yesteryear and let your students compose with hyperlinks.

"Moleskin Concept Diagram 1" Creative Commons Flickr Photo by jazzmasterson


aml said...

When I brought up this subject, a couple of college students told me that they are still writing the papers. A recent Mercy grad said, "as for writing research papers, I am so grateful for the knowledge base and experience Mercy provided."

We are in the position of having to prepare students for a world in transition. It's not time to let go of traditional research until colleges let go, too. But we have to introduce our students to "hyperlink heaven" too. And, well, yes, that does seem to be a lot more fun!

Larry Baker said...

Transition? In my hall there is little transition. The sage on stage model of teaching holds sway and hours and hours of instruction will be spent teaching the good old-fashioned research paper and hundreds of Works Cited will be generated that no one will ever use. The old guard is in a very strong position to stick with the tried and true. Seniority pay raises and tenure allow teachers and professors to ignore change.

Katy K. said...

I just read this...and as it is Sophomore Research time at school, I find myself weighing your comments heavily. I agree that modifications should and could be made to this exercise to benefit all - both students and teachers. However, I think there is mental value in learning and following a process to produce a body of written work, though modifying the current one has merit.

Students seem increasing unwilling to spend time gathering information, comparing and evaluating it, summarizing their obserations and research and sharing a conclusion. Perhaps it is the topic??? Perhaps the rigidity of Format/presentation/requirements? Maybe all or none of the above. Sophomores frequently seem bored by instruction, but not surprisingly, are clueless when faced with the tasks required of them - many involving the technological components with which they profess to be so proficient.

When one of the teachers involved in this project stated this year that, based on comments from last year's classes ("Students claimed they hadn't learned anything new when lib staff spoke with them"), they were going to skip any library visit re: methods of finding information from the myriads of sources....I was understandably upset. I certainly know there are vast opportunities for gathering, sharing, teaching and presenting information/knowledge and that I am woefully behind in the pursuit of many of these. Conversation is good and discussion encourages thought and adaptation. Thanks.

Larry Baker said...

I completely understand your frustration. The whole process needs to be rethought, I believe. Sure there is some good in it. But there is good in knowing how to make a horseshoe and then shoe a horse. I'd rather my kid know how to access information, critically select it, synthesize it, stir in her own creativity, mash it, post it the WWW in a dynamic enticing way so as to add something new to this world.

Please read my post on Diigo, April 27. My research project would be a group collaboration with social bookmarking and annotation. Each student would do her own piece of the final project. Sources would be linked (as I do meticulously in my blog-- no complaints about lack of MLA. This would be real world stuff with lots of critical thinking.

In my vision, project is team taught with Media specialist in middle of mix.

But then again my curriculum renovation would match our brick and mortar plan in terms of creative destruction.

Blog Archive