Use the Web:
IV. Interactive Conversation (Teacher and Student Web Authoring)
Experiences from Serendip
- Large amounts of material created by teachers are available
online and can effectively be used not only to supplement
standard materials but also, in at least some cases, to
- Student authored materials made available online have
very substantial appeal to a wide audience.
- Traditional materials can be made more accessible
to wider audiences by being made available on the web.
- The online environment encourages distinctive and still
evolving forms of presentation of materials and perspectives
that may in some circumstances be more effective than those
used in more traditional publication arenas.
- The online environment allows for availability of more
innovative and experimental ideas and perspectives.
- The online environment makes available a much wider
sample of the diversity of human thought and forms of
- Student and teacher authoring on the web engages both
in meaningful participation in worldwide conversations.
Commentary on Serendip's Experiences
The web as an authoring environment for teachers and students
has some similarities to online forums, but relates as well
to significant issues well beyond those of forums. As with
forums, students and teachers can think of their activities
not only as meaningful to themselves but as significant contributions
to a larger process of developing understandings, and so as
meaningful in a the broader world community. Beyond this,
however, teacher and student web authoring challenges many
of the traditional presumptions that meaningful knowledge
needs to pass through an authorization step. And since
such authorization steps are most commonly discipline-based,
it further challenges conventional categories of knowledge
and encourages new knowledge alignments.
alternative to traditional authorization steps is to allow
material to be evaluated by a distributed and public process,
i.e. to make materials available freely with a presumption
that the quality of materials will become clear as a natural
outcome of their patterns of use. Here, as in thinking about
the web as an information resource, it needs to be acknowledged
that a requirement for achieving the benefits of a greater
diversity of information is that information users need
to become more thoughtful and critical in their use of materials.
This will be facilitated by making students and teachers both
consumers and producers, so they have a stake
in the process in both capacities. There also needs to be
a better understanding that materials, whether they have passed
through authorizing steps or not, are never "authoritative".
Serendip's Pedagogical Musings
One distinctive feature of student/teacher web authoring
is the need for some degree of technical familiarity
with the web and competence in skills needed to create materials
for the web. To most effectively exploit the potentials, teachers
and students both need to be comfortable with a necessary
set of technical skills. Class time can and should be committed
to developing such skills. This can and, ideally, should be
done not as a distinct process of skill-learning but rather
by creating assignments in which skills are developed as
a necessary part of other activities. Such skills can
be facilitated by and contribute to becoming a critical evaluator
of web materials.
Attention needs to be given in both use and production of
materials to differences in motivations and abilities at different
ages and in populations of students from different backgrounds.
This can, though, to some extent be handled by letting
students take the lead in web-authoring since they are likely
to produce materials accessible to others of similar age and
background. Here too, the development of skills as a producer
can and will facilitate development of consumer skills.
Student/teacher web authoring is a growing but still underdeveloped
aspect of web use and knowledge production, and is likely
to go through a number of future transformations before a
clear picture emerges. At the moment, there remain important
unsettled issues about not only the degree of authority
such materials have but also how they can be easily and appropriately
categorized and used, how stable they are, and what "authorial"
entitlements and prerogatives should be associated with them.
Among other things, there is a need to establish a presumption
that materials are always "works in progress" rather than
definitive and unchangeable statements of an author's position/understanding,
and that "works in progress" are beneficial to the ongoing
evolution of understanding both by authors and by readers.