processing words

I had a nice conversation before an esteemed committee at Tunxis recently about using Storyspace as a means of organizing college learning outcomes and other information related to assessment, which would be a big job for those close to the information, which I’m not, and for Storyspace itself. This could mean a huge expansion in the use of Storyspace as an institutional tool and more dramatic presentations to other colleges in the state of Connecticut, for the Federal Government, and to our regional accrediting agency.

The goal is to “link” course and institutional outcomes to readily available data, assessment tools and models, and to broader college learning outcomes in a space that easily makes those links clear, visual, and streamlined. The job is to explode lots of docs and to start linking in the non-linear space of the program. Of course, working in the environment calls for a rethinking of text navigation, moving beyond the word processor window and the critical element of the slidebar, to reading in terms of paths, keywords, and the fantastic invention of the “guardfield.”

This could mean more customers for Mark Bernstein, one of the chief developers of Storyspace and chief scientist at Eastgate Systems and a call for an enterprise version of Storyspace. Regardless of that, this is why I’m waiting hungrily for a new version of Storyspace that can flex it’s muscles given future demands of content, which may involve embedded video, customizable workspaces, and the involvement of different forms of narrative working inside a Storyspace environment, such as a vector graphic animation.

But this starts me thinking about broader issues related to education, because sometimes I wonder about our choice to involve the word processor alone in writing courses. Convenience or good thinking? Everything must be word processed, especially work to be turned in for evaluation. Fine, but consider the issue of an online writing instructor expecting emailed papers and something comes in in txt form or not in the safe rtf. The question is, should all students be expected to learn a writing technique in a wordprocessor? Why that model alone these days? Some people have a tough time reading Neil Gaimon’s designed art spaces, such as those in Sandman; they are otherwise fine upstanding citizens. Could problems that we attribute to lack of skill, such as organization and tight thesis, be attributed to the very space people are expected to use for development?