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Linking Inward

Tim Berners-Lee stated, ” Let’s use the web to create neat new exciting things.Let’s use the Web to help people understand each other.” For learners, it should be ‘hard fun’.

Extensive research examines the connection of theory to practice with constructivism and hypertext. Constructivists believe in the power of problem solving to create meaning and knowledge. Reading and writing hypertext provides opportunities for problems to be solved. Since “man’s problem-solving capability represents possibly the most important resource possessed by a society” (Englebart, 1963) there is an identified need to encompass problem solving within hypertext reading and writing tasks. Barthes argues, “the goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text”. (S/Z, p. 4) Meaningful knowledge constructing opportunities for students at all ages and stages can come from producing personal stories, applying hypertext structures, and building links between stories, through constructing artifacts and solve problems.


By establishing learning in a sequence of creating, manipulating, and reflecting on artifacts learners will “come to know and understand the material under study”. (Nicaise & Crane, 1999, p. 30) By actively engaging students in the process of inventing and self-organizing personal stories, resolving challenges, reflecting on the process and building connections to other’s stories, learning will be meaningful and constructivist. “A reader must navigate the terrain of hypertext, constructing his or her own unique text (Landow, 1997) resulting in an open-ended, ‘unfinished’ reading environment”. (Lawless, Mills, & Brown, 2002, p. 274)


Research indicates that reading and writing with hypertext does not always provide significant improvements (Jonassen, 1991; Miall & Dobson, 2001), can be cognitively challenging (Harrison, 2002; Hannafin, Hannafin & Gabbatis, 2009) and can be disorderly, leading to idiosyncratic connections. (Nelson, 1981) Awareness of challenges surrounding the application of hypertext to constructivist learning does not deter those who believe it provides authentic, problem-solving opportunities. Despite all the challenges and issues, there is support for the idea that ‘hypertext enables learners to construct, organize, and convey personal knowledge.” (Jonassen, 1991, p. 84) Producing stories within personal context can deepen learner’s “understanding of how we fit in and why that matters”. (Pink, 2006, p. 103)


Children love to tell stories, hear stories, and write stories. By engaging them in shaping their personal narratives, looking for connections and inserting links to the stories of others’ and reflecting on the process, can lead to self-discovery.  Constructing knowledge through actively interacting with narrative, dialogue, text and media will lead to understanding. “Story is high concept because it sharpens our understanding of one thing by showing it in the context of something else.” (Pink, 2006, p. 103)


Will this be easy? Certainly not, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Jonassen (1999) outlines several ways for educators to support this knowledge construction process for learners. Through strategic processes of modeling, coaching and scaffolding (Jonassen, 1999) teachers can bring hypertext and story together in a constuctivist learning environment.


Papert sums it up he writes “We are talking here about a special kind of fun … “hard fun.” Let’s have some hard fun creating hypertext links from my story to yours. We’ll construct our learning by looking inward so we can look outward.

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