September 1996

Root Page of Article: Scenarios for Computers in Composition , by Maureen Burgess and Lori Mathis

Where are we going?

The above descriptions may make our workshops sound smooth and flawless, which is not the case. It took two or three workshops before we finally developed the template method of teaching Web writing. And even this method, as we most recently used it, is flawed. The templates are too cluttered, with comment codes following quickly on other codes so that they are not easily distinguished from each other. Because of this clutter, two of the participants in the graduate student bibliography class took a long pause before their computer screens as they looked at my template. For them, the template became much clearer as I told them to ignore the comments and I orally explained what the codes meant. For them, the amount of text on the template was too much. We are now considering two forms of a template: one stripped of comments that could be orally described in a workshop and one with written comments included that participants could take with them for future reference. To see what you think about using templates as a learning tool, read our annotated templates again and compare them with the versions stripped of comments. Which would be more useful to you if you were in a workshop setting?

With these revisions, we will do a better job of flexibly addressing the needs of an audience with a variety of skills, but Web writing workshops will still be demanding.

At least two of us will have to be available during the hands-on workshop, literally shuttling back and forth among 15 participants, each of whom has a different question or position: I don't have any idea what I'm doing . . .How do I find a graphic for my page? . . . I inserted my content and went to Netscape but Netscape won't let me in?? . . . .

We will still have equipment failing and human error: a Mac Centris 610 crashing, the overhead not being bright enough to show an example of a Web page because the room's blinds are broken, Netscape failing because we forgot to go through Ohio State's security gateway for Internet access . . . .

But for us, because of the educational resources the Web can provide and we can provide for it, these inevitable problems in teacher training with computers are worth it. Moreover, by placing Web writing within a familiar context for our teachers and by concentrating on teaching basic principles of writing with HTML, we are now building a community of people in the English department at Ohio State who are interested in Web writing and who are thinking about contributing to the Web for education. --

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