Friday, July 25, 2014

HyperText Writing CCS W3,6,7

With the ease of inserting hyperlinks within documents, students and teachers do not need to understand HTML in order to accomplish it. We consistently see hypertext documents in online media and it is a skill that students need to be able to perform. Learning how to hyperlink in a document can be a simple how-to assignment or as complex as creating a hyperlink paper.
To be clear, “Hypertext is text displayed on a computer or other electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access, usually by a mouse or keypress sequence. Hypertext, apart from running text, may contain tables, images and other representational devices.” (Source )

That got me to thinking how students might use hypertext in their writing to create something deeper than the actual writing itself - creating text with hyperlinks to provide additional detail, supporting detail, etc This hits multiple Common Core Writing Standards such as: 

W.8.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration,  but particularly: 

W.9-10.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products,
taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

Research and Non-Fiction

First- students can learn about research, finding valid sources of information and how to create hypertext in one short project. If this is the only goal a teacher has in mind, it is a valid one. Teaching kids what sources are credible and which are not and why- is an important life lesson if nothing else. Add to that search skills and then how to create hypertext links,  and you have a lesson crammed full of college and career readiness.

Next, You can up the ante. Students can perform mini-research projects and create blog posts or webpages (PowerPoint or Prezis) and hyperlink additional information within the piece. I can see videos or images adding depth to the writing, but fear that students might rely too much on the links for additional information rather than their own ideas and writing. It is important then that the teacher set parameters for what is and is not acceptable in the hypertext links provided. You can see my example HERE . I copied a couple paragraphs of a student’s research paper and played around with adding hypertext links to add layers to the written work. Some of those links work (like the video at the start- while not the best video in the world (I think it’s too long) it does add a layer of understanding before reading begins. The student might opt to provide a video from a person who has been bullied, etc. Other links I added- just more reading and frankly somewhat repetitive.

 So you can see that there may be a right and wrong way to do this and you would need to be clear in instruction and modeling so students used hypertext links carefully and cleverly. In addition, providing time for reflection on why a particular source was used as support/how it was found, how does this source enhance your overall piece? etc. would add depth to the writing and process they took. I found this link from Georgetown College- directions on ways a hypertext paper could be written- very helpful in what I should think about if I were to have my students create a hypertext paper. 

W.8.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences

Another idea presented in the #CLMOOC online Make Chat was the idea of a narrative hypertext and it  could evolve into a more in-depth assignment.  Students would most certainly have to write before they planned what to hyperlink, which would eliminate the danger of relying on links to express what you have to say.  As the Georgetown site mentioned, “using links as complements rather than substitutes” in your writing is what we would want students to accomplish.  

 Think of a narrative where the author shares the main action of the event or story. We see the action unfold, but we don’t always see the underlying motivations, what was done in the past that prompted a decision, what thoughts are going on- in other words, the inside information.  One might create a story that provides hypertext links to that inside information that adds complexity to the writing See Example- Luminous Airplanes.  

 If you have a NOOK check out Bartimaeus- The Amulet of Samarkand – where the ancient djinni’s narration is interrupted by a number notation, that when clicked, takes you to the djinni’s asides of witty background history that occurred in his lifetime as well as sarcastic side-comments about his master. Providing these asides gave the narrator’s character depth and certainly added humor to the story.   Both the paper and the e-book version have these number notations, but obviously it is dynamic in e-book form.

Two Excerpts from Bartimaeus- first shows the number annotation and the second shows the narrator's  aside (inside information).  Displayed on Nook Reader.

Depending on how clever your writers are, they could add layers to the characters, the plot, setting or overall theme using hypertext links.  

You might also have students experiment with choose your own adventure type stories, where they provide two options to the reader, who clicks on one and the story continues from the option chosen.  This provides a chance to write short stories and to learn how to hypertext as well, not to mention it is fun for the students to create and read! 
Try Twine! Here's my choose your own adventure story used for the beginning of the year to introduce my students to ME and the value of a positive attitude: The Classroom

PowerPoint also offers dynamic hyperlinking too! You can listen to a short screencast of how to link PPT slides with buttons HERE.

If your students are younger, they might enhance a narrative they write, giving the reader insight into what they saw, heard, etc. by linking certain words in the text to ** pictures or videos. For non-fiction writing, try using pictures and have students create a ‘hypertext’ link from the ** picture to their own written information. This may seem overly simple, but careful thought would be needed to decide what pictures, sounds, etc. would enhance a reader’s experience of their work, and as stated earlier, giving them opportunity to learn how to create hypertext links is a valid skill to learn.

**Note: It is important that students either use creative commons videos and images and/or to be sure to fully cite where the picture/video came from. Creative Commons image Sources

While I cannot say for certain that I will attempt narrative hypertext, I will have students perform short research projects to create hypertext pieces. Maybe we can create our own “Wikipedia” about cyberbullying for example….  The task itself, learning to research, recognizing valid sources and creating hypertexts is certainly a college and career readiness activity regardless of how deep one might go with instruction. 

Another Fictional Hypertext Example- Living Will.