Hypertext for Teachers
David asks: why make hypertext optional? Answer: because the learning curve is too steep for time to teach the tools with the whole class. Because their habit is to add things on, not build - to create threads, not cross-linking or webs.
The scariness of the idea that the grade is dependent on reading everything affects the professor, too-- must the professor fight hypertext itself to read everything?
It's also scary for professors to make the transition to reading and grading hypertexts because it's not so clear where and how to 'comment in the margins'. (my own professor, who was comfortable with Storyspace and assigning hypertexts, still made me in one class hand out a linear version of a paper to my fellow students and that is what he graded and commented on.)
How do you explain to a class the utility of complex structure when other classes and the educational system privilege short stuff and argumentation along the five-paragraph model (intro, support, support, support, conclusion)
How do you grade a hypertext, especially if it involves programming code? It's probably better not to comment in the code, but to make a separate report on the code. You must be careful to communicate the criteria. You can have other students make comments with pointers (something that is especially easy in Tinderbox, since you can cluster comments in their own space, group them visually with adornments, but have them linking to anywhere in the main text. There's also no reason not to have comments accumulate, and it's easy to pull comments into a selection of "comments worth sharing" in class discussion or with later classes.
One aspect of student anxiety about hypertext is a matter of escaping the One True Reading model. This anxiety is fed by the game analogy-- repetition is often equal to failure in games unless there's evident proof of advancement. Another stone on a pedestal (thinking of Dark Castle, here), etc. In most hypertexts there's precious little evidence for a student's advancement outside of a reader's self-assessment... and we're teaching them how to be readers in the first place. Too few hypertexts make explicit that a circular structure in the reading is in fact a spiral.
An excercise for a class: "is this website hypertextual?"
"Who's Cribbing" by Jack Lewis - just tryto map it. ... trying to pushes students out of the comfort zone and gets them to see some of the difference between complex linear text and "native" hypertext.
Writers (among the students?) like "WOE", "Is me past" (?). No luck with "Afternoon". They also like "The Unknown".
You can create a hypertext physically with notecards, yarn, and colored paper. Using a physical example gets the metaphors, the paradigm, down and then you can bring it back to the writing: writing is a process of taking all those ideas, making each grammatical, and putting transitions (links) between them. This gets the visual learners. You can see them get it when they link words, rather than boxes (lexia).
We need forii (forums?) for pedagogical practice in hypertext that doesn't reduce to academic papers. That includes actual practice and discussion between practicioners as well as advice for those who might be willing to incorporate hypertext but unable to crest the learning curve.