a class i’m happy with
Today’s class was pretty good. First I asked the students to individually read one of four different web fictions for ten or fifteen minutes. The options were Tor ?ge BringsvÊrd’s dictionary story Faen. NÂ har de senket takh¯yden igjen, Liz Miller: Moles: A Web Narrative, Gavin Inglis: Same Day Test or Olia Lialina’s My Boyfriend Came Back From the War. Then they discussed the way in which the piece was structured with two or three other students who had read the same piece. I asked them to see if they could draw the structure, and while that didn’t really work with all the works, they figured out some important stuff doing it. For instance, in BringsvÊrd’s piece there’s an index with links to all the other pages. It’s not the entry page of the site. Students decided that since it was called “indeks” and had links to everything else, that must mean the piece is hierarchically organised, which made it obvious that we hadn’t really figured out what hierarchies are in previous discussions.
After that, I talked a bit about hypertext in general, Bush, Engelbart, Nelson, various systems, the web, hypertext fiction, a brief demo of afternoon, and a sampling of some print “hypertexts”. I think I talked for about ten minutes. Yes, it was the short version. Then, after a break (we’d already used 55 minutes) the class regrouped with four to a group and each person had read a different work. They presented the works to each other and tried to work out which, if any, of Mark’s patterns could describe each work. Only two had actually read Mark’s article, and obviously had they read it it would have been easier for them, but they had it on screen and figured some stuff out, and they can read more later. Then I brought out the list of stages of learning we talked about on Tuesday and told them that so far, they’d described and classified, and done a really good job of it too. They’d also started comparing, which is one step up. Another move ahead would be to figure out whether there’s a connection between the patterns in the work and its content (explain causes), and perhaps even generate new ideas based on these reflections.
It all ran smoothly, the students came up with some wonderful interpretations, most of them were avidly blogging their thoughts by the end of the class, and I didn’t even get into a sweat worrying that I had to magically get them to summarise everything in a fancy plenary discussion. I usually worry about that. I’m just so impressed that the students worked so much out on their own. I actually managed to set up an activity where they could do their own learning. Yay!