Here at Haverford the "Professional Activities Report" (PAF) is a required annual ritual in which the permanent faculty report their new publications, summarize their teaching and community service, and are invited to engage every few years in a "reflective assessment" of scholarly and pedagogical goals and achievements. Looking for something else, I found a piece of mine from a few years back ...
April 10, 1995
8:28 AM: Heres how the PAF turned out:
IV. REFLECTIVE ASSESSMENT
I'd like to self-nominate for the Lindback Prize for innovation in teaching, based primarily on my two HyperSyllabi. These are better experienced than talked about (I'd happily install Netscape on the Mac of anyone who wants a test drive). What I've attempted --and begun to achieve -- here is not only an efficient way of presenting lecture notes and collecting student commentary during a course. It's a potentially revolutionary change in the extent to which students can enter the syllabus and explore the implications of each topic covered and hinted by the formal material in any depth they choose and by a variety of means. Let me elaborate a little on this.
I've been convinced for years that new information technology would revolutionize learning once it changed teaching, and I've used email, course newsgroups, and the sharing of networked information as steps in the direction of freeing the teacher-student interaction from the scheduled classroom and the (essential, important) vagaries of verbal exchange. These have been fairly conventional adjustments to word-processiing, data-analysis, and local network resources of a sort now used by many of my colleagues -- and they have helped. Now I'm engaged in something more fundamental.
The two on-line course projects I've undertaken this term are just the beginning of the reworking of traditional pedagogy I think inevitable. With constant personal access to the whole range of public data, assigned reading, on-line discussion groups, and personal notes it becomes possible for teacher and students to collaborate on the creation of a shared resource each can use in a unique manner. The key concept is hypertextuality: each topic in the HyperSyllabus is a link to a more fully elaborated set of professorial notes, background material, and suggested additional reading -- and each of these is in turn linkable to more text resources, searchable databases, and hypermedia in the world at large. Each student will explore and master the major linked material, but each will leave a different set of footprints across the Web in so doing, and each will contribute something potentially valuable to the resources the rest of the students use. The HyperSyllabus is a moving target, something some students find quite unsettling, as they discover that the file they printed on Monday has expanded and acquired pointers to other files by Wednesday. A successful HyperSyllabus will always tempt the client to be distracted by questions about the background or sequelae of the specific class topic, and to find Web resources to check a hunch or develop a deeper understanding.
Take, for example, the second lecture in Psychology 109g last January. The printed syllabus entry would look like this:
The topic is what Freud called "faulty actions" as an illustration of the central Freudian insight that most information processing in the psyche occurs outside awareness, and the illustration is his interpretation of the forgetting of the Latin aliquis by a traveling companion at the turn of the century. By the time the students have had their first-lecture introduction to the Web and have made it through the introductory paragraph of the HyperSyllabus using a browser they know that the two underlined items are hyperlinks, in this case to my files freud.slip.html and aliquis.html on the same networked server. Clicking these underlined terms (it's a lot more fun to do than to describe) gets them to a brief definition of Freudian slips and an irreverent cartoon of Freud in his first slip (I want this link to be recalled) and to a translation of the Latin in the second. The translation is accompanied by my brief commentary, the full text of the passage in which Dido curses the departing Aeneas ("Let someone arise from my bones as an avenger!"), a suggested contrasting passage illustrating the deductive methods of London's greatest consulting detective (and a link to the full text of "The Adventure of the Dancing Men"), and a mention of the possibility that the student might be curious about the Aeneid as a whole. The underlining indicates that clicking there (you could be doing it now if this PAF were a Web page, or you could copy and paste the Aeneid's Uniform Resource Locator
[URL, viz. https://classics.mit.edu/Virgil/aeneid.html]
to your own Netscape at this point. On returning from a bit of Virgil, the student finds another link. Three weeks later the student will discover in reading In a Different Voice that Carol Gilligan (like Freud) has read the Aeneid, and that she has interesting things to say about Freud's choice of this particular example. Indeed, the possibility that Freud may have made up the traveling companion who tried to express his anger at anti-Semitism by quoting Virgil -- and that it was Freud who was worried about a lady friend's pregnancy (a-liquis, missed period) -- has already been addressed by another link, to an unpublished paper of mine (from a paper session Gilligan chaired several years ago at APA) titled Abortion and Its Discontents, in which Freud’s preoccupation with fertility issues at this phase of his theorizing is discussed in detail. The truly diligent student could embark on a mini-career following recent Freud scholarship on the master's self-(de)construction in his theorizing. The average student gets a wealth of information in a handy form, and each can communicate with me via email or with the class via the newsgroup just by clicking a button in the HyperSyllabus.
I was interviewed yesterday about my experience over the past few years with College "Teaching With Technology" grants. I seem on reading this to have got the promise of the early Web about right, a decade ago.