Thursday, August 18, 2005


Today was an intensive day of work on our "presentations" with a couple of breaks. Yes, indeed, you students out there can gloat a little, your professors are getting the same sort of presentation anxiety that they put you through.

We worked this morning on our sites, with special emphasis on styling, and making the final decisions on what exactly the presentations would encompass. The majority of us are designing web pages, either from scratch or based on one of the templates that Dan wrote up. With the new MySCSU available several people are planning to use that this fall and are loading syllabi, readings, and are trying to decide if they want to try the discussion boards and chat. We can't actually test the MySCSU/MyCourses discussion and chat, because they both only exist within a given course--and no one has access to more than one course at the moment, since they are all real courses.

We could try out the WebCT discussion and chat. After lunch we went to one of the new English Composition computer labs and, under Will Hochman's direction, tried the chat function in a dummy course set up for SummerTech. 15+ people trying to make substantive comments while working on a new interface is, um, challenging to follow. Several people commented on the difficulty of reading and typing at the same time. The messages were coming fast enough that if you tried to read everything as it came you couldn't type. Or at least most of us couldn't. Chat is not my favorite online communication, though it's not bad one-on-one. It's a little dizzying in a large group. I've never tried it with more than 4 or 5 people.

Something that came in the discussion that followed was the linearity of traditional text versus the non-linearity of hypertext. (Chat is sort of a non-linear discussion forced into a linear format--we are all responding to different messages, producing branches, but they appear in chronological order.) Hypertext allows branching, so that each person may approach a text from a different path. But the individual experience is still linear, in that you can only view one page at a time. (Books actually are more like this than we generally think--see Chapter 7 or the previous discussion in Chapter 2.) Similarly, if we have a threaded class discussion, I may choose to read and respond to one thread and you may choose another, but we each have a linear experience, just different ones. Hypertext just means that there is less likely to be a single path that most people will take.

Anyway, we also had the "bigwig" lunch. SummerTech participants from previous years, department chairs, deans, staff, admin...even Cheryl Norton managed to squeeze in a sandwich with us. We also found out that they decided that having laptops with software that you couldn't use off the network was as silly as we thought it was. So they will be working on getting Dreamweaver for all SummerTech participants. Too bad we couldn't have had it this week, but it's probably better not to have quite as much incentive to stay up until all hours!


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