In contrast to printed books, newspapers and magazines, hypermedia is a fusion of computer text, audio, video, graphics and hyperlinks that combines to present information in a non-linear fashion while facilitating the active engagement between users and technology. The term hypermedia was coined in 1965, two decades before the invention of the worldwide web. Beginning in the 1990s, schools were wired for high-speed broadband Internet access, which enabled them to not only access the web, which has become the greatest embodiment of hypermedia ideas, but to take full advantage of a rich bounty of hypermedia in the form of linked online multimedia content requiring higher bandwidth. Today hypermedia drives variants of e-learning such as blended learning, computer-based learning, online learning, and distance education.
Keywords Aspen Driving Tour; Blended Learning; Blog; Broadband; Computer-Based Learning; Distance Education; E-Learning; HyperCard; Hyperlinks; Hypermedia; Hypertext; Internet; Online Learning; Web-Base Instruction; Wiki; World Wide Web
Technology in Education: Hypermedia in Education
In his seminal Atlantic Monthly article "As We May Think" that "Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex [an early conception of the Internet] and there amplified" (Bush, 1945, sec. 8). Two decades later in 1965, Ted Nelson coined the term hypermedia in his equally seminal 1965 article "Complex information processing: a file structure for the complex, the changing and the indeterminate." Reflecting on his work decades later, Nelson wrote: In 1960 I had a vision of a world-wide system of electronic publishing, anarchic and populist, where anyone could publish anything and anyone could read it. (So far, sounds like the web.) But my approach is about literary depth-- including side-by-side intercomparison, annotation, and a unique copyright proposal. I now call this "deep electronic literature" instead of "hypertext," since people now think hypertext means the web (Nelson, 2006, para 3).
Nelson's conceptualization became realized through a community of contributors to the global, distributed and multi-sensory knowledge base residing on the worldwide web. The worldwide web itself was not invented until 1989.
What Is Hypermedia?
Hypermedia took hypertext's simple, established concept of linking from one text page on the Internet to related pages - which itself was patterned after the human experience of one thought leading to another - and extended it beyond the passive exercise of reading words on the (digital) page. As Hughes (1994) put it, "Hypermedia is hypertext with a difference -- hypermedia documents contain links not only to other pieces of text, but also to other forms of media -- sounds, images, and movies. Images themselves can be selected to link to sounds or documents. Hypermedia simply combines hypertext and multimedia" (Hughes, 1994, para 3).
Hypermedia encourages the consumer of electronic information to become an active participant in the quest for connections between related pieces of information -- even as that information cuts across the boundaries of text, audio and video. By appealing to more of our senses simultaneously, hypermedia promises a richer intellectual experience through a deeper engagement with technology and the experience it can deliver.
Any discussion of hypermedia must get beyond the realm of abstractions and theory. Hughes (1994) provides some examples of hypermedia:
? You are reading a text on the Hawaiian language. You select a Hawaiian phrase, then hear the phrase as spoken in the native tongue.
? You are a law student studying the California Revised Statutes. By selecting a passage, you find precedents from a 1920 Supreme Court ruling stored at Cornell. Cross-referenced hyperlinks allow you to view any one of 520 related cases with audio annotations.
? Looking at a company's floor plan, you are able to select an office by touching a room. The employee's name and picture appears with a list of their current projects.
? You are a scientist doing work on the cooling of steel springs. By selecting text in a research paper, you are able to view a computer-generated movie of a cooling spring. By selecting a button you are able to receive a program which will perform thermodynamic calculations.
? A student reading a digital version of an art magazine can select a work to print or display in full. Rotating movies of sculptures can be viewed. By interactively controlling the movie, the student can zoom in to see more detail (Hughes, 1994, para 3).
This hypermedia engagement is simpler in the sense that this multi-sensory approach is more akin to how we interact with our environment -- our brains creating a rich, three-dimensional and coherent virtual reality from innumerable bits of sensory inputs -- yet it is dependent upon a whole series of advances in computer technology that needed to be made before the dream of hypermedia could become a reality. One of those advances was the prevalence of increasingly inexpensive broadband Internet connections that enable bits of data to be exchanged at rates that were once experienced only within government or university computer networks. Because images, audio and video take up more physical computer bits than text, hypermedia has blossomed as more and more users, particularly in the West and in Asia, have begun to use broadband.
Hypermedia in Education
Hypertext and hypermedia have been used in education in the United States since advances in computer technology and Internet connectivity made it possible. First came the personal computer. By the 1980s, computer technology had advanced to the point where more and more Americans were buying personal computers. Popular models such as the Apple IIe, the Apple Macintosh Plus/SE, and various IBM PC clones began to transform how students and their parents lived and worked. Educational software began to proliferate as increasingly powerful computers found their way into K-12 classrooms.
While examples of hypermedia date back to the Aspen Movie Map (a virtual driving tour of Aspen, Colorado made at MIT in 1978), the first popular use of hypermedia in education came in 1987, with the introduction of Apple's HyperCard application for the Macintosh, a widely used computer in schools. HyperCard consisted of a series of electronic index cards that contained related pieces of text and images. Most notably, it also featured a collaborative tool that later would become known as a wiki, but naturally this pre-Worldwide Web version lacked the online collaborative functionality.
Therefore, despite the advances made by computer technology in the 1980s, there were limitations to be overcome. Hypertext and hypermedia still had not yet arrived in force, though HyperCard and educational software titles such as "Reader Rabbit," "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" and "Oregon Trail" incorporated a limited version of the hypermedia in terms of their multi-sensory approach to conveying information to a student audience.
In the early 1990s, a new phenomenon known as the Internet began to transform hypermedia and e-learning, making it web-based rather than simply computer-based. Using the Internet, students were able to tap into a global community -- a worldwide web -- of teachers and learners to expand their educational horizons. In addition, textbooks that once had been limited to the contents contained between the covers were augmented with online resources for use by students and teachers. Some cultural critics however, noted that many textbooks were becoming more visual, and they argued that the growing number of photos and other illustrations per page was "dumbing down" textbooks by crowding out some important text-based content.
The reach of the worldwide web quickly expanded across the educational landscape: while only 35 percent of public schools were wired in 1994, the number climbed to nearly 100 percent by 2001 (Wells & Lewis, 2006, p. 4). Moreover, the ratio of students to Internet-enabled computers dropped from 12.1 to 1 in 1998 to 3.8 to 1 in 2005, meaning that more and more students had easier access to the Internet at school (Wells & Lewis, 2006, p. 6). Fast broadband connections provided quicker access to web-based information: only 3 percent of wired schools were using...
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