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Reflections on EDMEDIA 2000
Anne M. Boyle, Co-Editor of IMEJ
Associate Professor of English
Wake Forest University

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
--And in fact we can't live like that: we take on
everything at once before we've even begun
to read or mark time, we're forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.1

Eight or ten years ago, when faculty around the United States and, indeed, around the world first heard of computer-enhanced learning, we imagined ourselves faced with a daunting prospect. Some of us found ourselves in circumstances where we felt "forced to begin in the midst of the hard movement," to "take on everything at once," and try to master this new "wild arpeggio," the dizzying technological fugue. Others, taking a more measured stand, held firm to chalk and book, and began "to read or mark time," hoping that others would tame the arpeggio, wondering if they would find themselves hopelessly out of time.

Beginning in 1998, Jennifer Burg and I, as co-editors of IMEJ, began traveling to conferences like ED-MEDIA to search out the best that was happening in computer-enhanced learning. Our goal was to identify and publish "the simple exercises first"-not, by any means, the simple-minded uses of technology in the classroom, but, quite the opposite, those straightforward and precise exercises through which teacher/scholars could assess the value of teaching with technology. We asked questions of those who had taken the technological leap in their classrooms; we tried to locate those innovative educational projects that seemed well-considered and had been thoroughly tested; finally, we were determined to publish these works in an interactive multimedia format so that the daring and the prudent could try these experiments and, perhaps, adapt them to their own needs.

Last June, we arrived in Montreal and quickly separated, each of us geared up for our annual quest. At least one of us, I must say, found this gearing up to be difficult and strove mightily not to imagine the quest as a chore. Was it not preferable to immerse oneself in one's own discipline, rather than to try to measure the wild performances of others, better to crack the codes of familiar language than to struggle to understand a strange and new technical vocabulary? Those strings of words--bandwidth, course management, CMC, active server page, NT operating system-seemed ugly and abstract. But I went forth, determined to understand and assess. As my partner and I came together at odd times during the day, I noted a growing excitement in her; this was matched by my own newfound confidence and, yes, pleasure. As we talked, we imagined we were witnessing a new stage in the development of educational technology-and we could not attribute the change to the development in the sophistication of our technological instruments. The change was in us, in the practitioners. No longer were educators striving to understand how they could master the new technology, how they could learn to play its wild music. Their focus returned to their primary mission-teaching and scholarship. They no longer boasted of how well they could play or perform for their students, demonstrating their professional mastery. Instead, they exhibited interest in how their students used technology, what they learned or failed to learn, and how different students seemed to be learning in different ways. Students were no longer depicted as a homogeneous audience; they were understood to be a heterogeneous population with vastly different desires and abilities. This change of emphasis was refreshing. We heard words and phrases I could easily decipher as an educator: collaborative learning, the construction of knowledge, interactive learning environments, meaningful learning.

That evening, back in my hotel room, I wanted to clear my head and turned to the more familiar, shutting my computer, opening a book of poetry. The words of Adrienne Rich have always exerted a powerful influence over me and that night was no different. As I read her poem, "Transcendent Etude," I was propelled back to the conference. Yes, I realized, we have been practicing hard and well. We have made progress, and now our strength and accuracy can become one with the daring. More of us no longer focus our attention on mastering a new instrument; we are designing and reconstructing that instrument ourselves and using it more wisely as we consider, first and foremost, our students. While we are not quite ready to make Rich's leap into transcendence and discover ourselves beyond a border where we have no need to practice and read and mark time, we have come to a new place. The six articles in this issue of IMEJ are indicative of the progress we have made. And those of us who work on the journal as editors and multimedia experts are beginning to understand that our journal, too, will evolve as our readers become more adept and sophisticated in their use and creation of educational technology. We have become accustomed enough with the instrument and are becoming intrigued by the radical ways our new knowledge and new practices are transforming our disciplines and teaching methods-and some of us have become confident or daring enough to transform the instrument given to us, to make it our own tool.

The editors of IMEJ judged the following articles, first presented as papers or poster sessions at ED-MEDIA 2000, to represent the best work being done in the field of educational technology. What first caught our attention was Teresa Chambel's poster session in which she demonstrated her interdisciplinary hypervideo. Entranced initially by the sophisticated ways she designed a complicated weave of literature and art, of audio and visual, of static texts or replications of paintings and rich hypermedia, we soon learned that she and her colleagues from Portugal, Nuno Guimarães and José Bidarra, were researching and assessing the ways that cognitive maps and hypervideos could be designed to accommodate different kinds of learners and ensure that learning is "active and conversational" rather than passive. Their article, "From Cognitive Maps to Hypervideo: Supporting Flexible and Rich Learner-Centered Environments" marks, for us, our studied approach to the hard movement Rich writes about in her poem.

All of our featured authors demonstrate a deep concern for pedagogy and design. Milton Campos in "The Hypermedia Conversation: Reflecting upon, Building, and Communicating Ill-Defined Arguments" weds Socratic methodology with threaded discussions and suggests that while written argumentative discussions are often more constructive than face-to-face encounters because they "demand deeper reflection," the current threading features do not conform to natural language and are "neither necessary nor sufficient for meaning linking."

Trude Heift, Janine Toole, Paul McFetridge, Fred Popowich, and Stavroula Tsiplakou ("Learning Greek with an Adaptive and Intelligent Hypermedia System") have developed an interactive course support system for teaching Greek. Their system uses natural language processing, adjusts to the different needs of learners, and provides error-specific feedback.

John LeBaron, Jyrki Pulkkinen, and Patrick Scollin in "Promoting Cross-border Communication in an International Web-based Graduate Course" urge us to consider the pedagogical implications of crossing disciplines and crossing cultures as we design our distance courses. Their experiences with cross-cultural learning prove that a "shared language" involves much more than proficiency in a second language; it involves an acute awareness of the ways different cultures use and respond to language.

Roxana Moreno and Richard Mayer's article, "A Learner-Centered Approach to Multimedia Explanations: Deriving Instructional Design Principles from Cognitive Theory," helps us understand how to design multimedia presentations for maximum effectiveness. In the final article, "The Internet Chemistry Set: Web-based Remote Laboratories for Distance Education in Chemistry," Frederick A. Senese, Christopher Bender, and Jennifer Kile explain how and why they have constructed a internet chemistry set that allows students to manipulate actual equipment, perform experiments, collect data, and share their finding with other students at remote laboratories.

The simple exercises we did first. In this issue, we focus attention on how our students have been and can be affected by our work.

1. Adrienne Rich, "Transcendental Etude" in The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Seelcted and New 1950-1984 (New York: Norton, 1984) 264-268.