Walden's Paths

An Introduction to Walden's Paths For Teachers


Walden's Paths lets you organize World Wide Web material for your students' use. You can collect resources from widely-separated sources, annotate them, and bring them together into a single path. Students following the path obtain a cohesive view of the collected material, and may browse off the path freely, with the assurance that a single mouse click will return them to the path.

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Walden's Paths

The Internet shows promise of providing students with exposure to a wealth of new multimedia materials, especially through the extensive, encyclopedic materials available on the World-Wide Web. However, before such materials can be used in the classroom, they first must be tailored. The bulk of the material available is not aimed at the needs of K-12 students, although many elements -- collections of images, simulations, segments of digital video, audio, electronic versions of well-known works of fiction and reference materials, library indices, databases, and hypertextual documents -- have the potential to play a strong supporting role in the classroom.

Educators know best how to perform this type of tailoring: they have their own curricular goals, teaching styles, and understanding of community standards, and may best judge their students' reading level and interests. We are developing tools to enable this tailoring.

Walden's Paths is designed to enable teachers to make use of these materials by creating directed paths over the World-Wide Web. The directed path provides the means for directing a reader's traversal along a path of components extracted from a set of documents. The ordering of component pages on a path is not constrained by the structure of the source documents--there does not need to be a link between pages for them to be next to one another in the path. In essence, the directed path allows creation of a presentation, defining a meta-structure that was layered on top of the underlying documents' preexisting structures.

Besides providing an ordering of pages, a directed path can provide additional context for the page through annotation. By providing text or other annotations in addition to the content of the page, the path author may provide a rhetorical structure to the path as a whole, create transitions to fill in informational gaps between pages, and create emphasis to particular aspects of the materials.

Students following a path may follow encountered links to freely examine the information space. A student's need for detailed explanation, alternative discussion, or details on related topics are satisified by his or her own desires to explore, to construct knowledge, to find information. Such explorations don't cause the student to lose the organizing context provided by the path as Walden Paths augments off-path pages with controls that allow immediate return to the path.

Walden's Paths consists of two main components: the Path Authoring Tool and the Path Server. The Path Authoring Tool enables the teacher to create, modify, validate, and reuse paths. Authoring paths is a process of locating sites of relevant information on the Web, selecting specific pages for inclusion in the path, and annotating the pages to provide transition and emphasis for the materials. The Path Authoring Tool provides a single, integrated, straightforward interface to do just this.

The Path Server is the implementation means through which students use the paths. The Path Server is not used directly by the students--they interact with the Path Server through a standard Web browser such as Netscape.

A new implementation is being developed that will allow for a Student Quiz. The teacher will enter questions covering the path's material and the student will be tested in either a cumulative quiz or a quiz over a set of nodes. Work is being done developing various aspects of the quiz mechanism, such as adaptivity, as well as the design of the question entry and retrieval system.

For further information

Dr. Frank Shipman, EMail:shipman@cs.tamu.edu, Telephone (979) 862-3216, FAX (979) 847-8578
Dr. Richard Furuta, EMail:furuta@cs.tamu.edu, Telephone (979) 845-3839, FAX (979) 847-8578
or visit our project's home page at http://csdl.cs.tamu.edu/walden/

CSDL Comments to waldencsdl.tamu.edu
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Last modified on: November 13, 2002