Monday, February 4, 2008

Textbooks and Hypertext

In Stephanie B. Gibson’s essay about using hypertext to teach in the classroom, I agree with many of the statements she makes about the advantages and disadvantages of hypertext. The students might not be able to allow contributions or alterations, as Gibson has said, which does seem to be as limiting as textbooks, but perhaps it is because of the fear of someone providing the wrong information. Gibson says that it creates a type of hierarchy, (much like how a textbook is), but when it is information studied by scholars and professionals, is it really okay to allow anyone to add more information? “Any reader can add commentary and links, which then become part of the text” (279). This brings to mind the whole situation of who controls and corrects the information in Wikipedia. I suppose there would be some type of moderator to monitor any information though. (I’m not sure if I have the right idea here, so feel free to correct me in any misunderstandings I may have). In Gibson’s descriptions, it seems as if some hypertext acts like a “choose your own adventure” kind of book, where readers do not have any input, but just follow through until the end of the book.

On another note, I think that using hypertext would work best in an online course since it already provides the kind of setting necessary to use hypertext. If students have questions, they can easily post them for other students or the professor to answer. Plus, it is already an interactive environment and hypertext would just be addition to what is being taught in the online course.

Even if one were not given a choice in hypertext, students are still free to search out information on their own. I think that textbooks, though not as dynamic or interactive as hypertext, still allow students to search for more information if they want to. We all know the Internet serves as an effective research tool if you look in the right places. Hypertext, as Gibson mentioned, limits the students because they are given all the connections and information to them. With textbooks, yes students will have to read it, but they also have the choice to expand their knowledge on their own, and hypertext is just pushing that idea of choice in a smaller and more accessible package. Then again, maybe that’s just an ideal way of thinking, since I’m assuming many students are not willing to do the extra work, which is understandable because everyone has other things to do, nor do they often have to time to, in which case, hypertext would be a more effective method.

2 comments:

Lance Strate said...

Good points, and Wikipedia is an excellent example, albeit much more ambitious than the hypertext alternative to a textbook. The basic principle at work is collaboration as a form of error-checking. With the information made public, and enough people checking up on it, errors are in theory easily discoverable and corrected. But it isn't a guarantee, and you're right that some kind of hierarchy is still needed.

Melissa said...

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