Telematics, Narrative and Poetry: The Parole in Jeans Project

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Network communication is primarily based on the written word. Conducting interpersonal exchange in this manner opens up a range of possibilities, offering direct educational benefits through interaction and debate. It also presents a number of indirect advantages.

One such regards the ability to use the written word and the motivation for doing so (Roberts, Blakeslee, Brown and Lenk, 1990). While writing in school traditionally involves producing essays to be marked by the teacher, with computer-based interpersonal exchange it becomes a means of communication, of sharing ideas and experiences, and, in the final analysis, a social tool (Mason, 1993). In this way telematics can change attitudes towards writing and, in all likelihood, help to improve writing skills.

Drawing on these aspects, learning paths centered on text-based communication may be devised that use technology in a creative manner, offering students the chance to become poets and storywriters.

This was the idea behind "Parole in Jeans", a two-year project run jointly by Institute for Educational Technology (ITD) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and the Schools and Educational Services Department of the Genoa City Council. This pilot project aimed to promote literature and foster collaborative poetry and story writing in lower-secondary schools.

The classes involved in the project produced simple hypertexts of two types: poetry-based in the case of Parole in Jeans - Poetry and Telematics (1996/97), and narrative-based in the case of Parole in Jeans - Narrative and Telematics (1997/98). In both cases the objective went beyond linguistic-literature aspects, seeking to emphasize the importance of the students' physical and cultural environment.

GENERAL PROJECT STRUCTURE

Conducted over a two-year period, the project comprised similar paths both for poetry and for narrative. These were based on two principle activities:

* approach to the literature genre;

* network-based creative writing.

Phase one (approach to the literature genre) is clearly of an introductory nature, preparing the way for phase two. The classes are organized into learning groups and explore the topic separately through study, lessons and by drawing on resources available locally (writers, documentary sources, etc).

There is a degree of flexibility in this stage, in the sense that one school (the so-called "flag-bearer") follows the suggested path by drawing on a range of local resources and acting as a kind of model. The other schools also focus on literary writing but do not necessarily draw on the same set of resources. This concept is represented in figure 1 (Phase 1) by the arrows of varying length, symbolizing paths that are more or less the same as the one followed by the flag-bearer.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

By contrast, in Phase Two (network-based creative writing) there is considerable interaction between the various classes. The goal is to work together to create pieces of text that follow the dictates of the genre being studied. Far less flexibility is possible here, as the collaborative, network-based activities call for carefully timetabling and coordination to ensure that the classroom activities are carded out in parallel. This aspect is represented in figure 1 (phase 2) by the parallel arrows occasionally in line.

Now let's see how this framework was used over the two years of the project.

PAROLE IN JEANS YEAR 1: TELEMATICS AND POETRY

The Languages Division of Genoa City Council's Schools and Educational Services Department presented the first year of the project in the following manner (Barisione and Scarrone, 1998):

      Cohen notes that poetic language represents the systematic violation of
   the rules of normal language and that "remnants" (at various levels of
   meaning) constitute metaphor and originality in poetic communication. …