Some good issues are coming up here.
1. I agree with Marcy that there's no point in making "a pile of student
papers" available when no-one wants to read them. This means, as Darrell
says, they have to be genuinely interesting on there own--interesting
enough that people might actualluy wander into them while doing wither a
random or a specific needs-driven Web search and stop to read a few.
Volumes could be written on how to make student papers "genuinely"
interesting, but for me, one key is to make them fairly heavily
research-based. Students can scury through the bibliographic resources
of the library and the net and find things we'd never find in a million
years. Locating and digesting that material can be of real importance to
others. (I have for many years photocopied the bibliographies of
students' hard-copy papers and handed them out to other students looking
for starting points--why not do this on the net?)
The point about net publiccation, I suppose, is that you typically don't
get a clear sense of who is reading it, unless someone happens to email
you a comment. You just put it out there in space and hope an audience
But there's no reason why we can't _combine_ that with the usual
mandatory reading and responding within a classroom. That can be part of
the process of building the material in the first place, and we can also
ask students to read and respond to each others' web material at the
end. That way they get at least the audience they'd get in a standard
process classroom, and maybe more.
Darrell--isn't product part of the process. (I think I'm borrowing
something from Rick Coe here.) How can you have a process without a
sense of working toward some sort of final product--some sort of
publication. For some time I've been borrowing Russ' idea of having
students end up with a spiral-bound book at the end of the
class--publication in a press run of about 30 copies. I still like this
idea, but web publication also seems like a way of giving the process
something to point to.
2. My somewhat facetious comment about printing materials has sparked
some imprtant questions. We can leave stuff on line because we work in
front of our coputers and can call it up when we need to. Not all
students have this luxury. Also, if it's material I want to refer to in
class, it has to be printed out unless the class is the lab. These are
all matter of context that are frequently overlooked in discussons of how
wonderful it is to put taching materials on the net.
The one that particularly gets me is the idea that we should put out
"lecture notes" on line, thus presumably saving students the trouble of
coming to class. This in fact is what is often meant by the virtual
Nw, I ask you--how many of us would like to think that what we do in
class can be reduced to the mere text of what we say? (Even if we do
lecture from detailed and inflexible notes, which I certainly don't.)
This is not to say the the virtual classroom is not possible, but it must
be created in the context of the classroom as a set of activities. The
lecture-notes-on-line model priviledges the worst kind of teaching: the
talking-head lecture. And even that kind of lecture is not usually
reducable to a stable text. Otherwise, why do people turn out in droves
to hear a "famous lecturer" when they can get all his or her ideas
already by reading books?
U of Calgary