Inspired by Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (London: Fontana, 1975); expanded from Literacy in the Information Age: Inquiries into Meaning Making with New Technologies; definitions for a variety of terms related to learning and new technologies.

Affilliate, reseller, or Value Added Reseller (VAR)

a web site that links to another site for profit. For example, links to with a special code that tracks visitors and assigns 5% of the sales as a commission on purchases.

ALternate Text for images (ALT text)

a term used in web page design, referring to the use of text to convey information to a user of the web page, primarily when the image is not being displayed. This can be useful for a blind reader who can still understand the web page content through the use of a speech synthesizer. But it is also helpful to a user who has a text-only browser, such as Lynx, or for one who has set the browser not to load images (as might be done with a slow Internet connection). Nearly everyone who has looked into the issue of web page accessibility strongly recommends the use of ALT text. For example, the following HTML code

<a href=next.html><img src=”downarrow.gif” alt=”more”></a>

might be used on a web page to indicate a link to additional information in the file “next.html.”. Assume here that the image represented in the file, “downarrow.gif,” shows a down-pointing arrow to a sighted reader who is using an appropriate browser, while the word “more” provides comparable information to other users. Unfortunately, most editing programs for web pages do not treat ALT text as the norm, but rather as the exception. So, authors of web pages need to remember to include the text alternative. In addition, they need to think about the function of the image. In the example above, both a down-pointing arrow and the word “more” or “next” would indicate to most users that additional information could be found by clicking on the hyperlink. Sometimes, the designer simply says something like “link” or “image17” which turns out worse than no ALT text at all.

Alternative education

Alternative education emphasizes programs that reach underserved students and/or employ innovative designs of curricula or instruction.


a network of computers designed to allow researchers to share expensive computer resources. It was created in 1969 at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and was the forerunner of the Internet, the infrastructure for the World Wide Web.


the American Standard Code for Information Interchange is a code for computers, which was developed in the days of teletype machines. It allows programmers to represent familiar symbols in terms of numbers, on virtually all computers. Using 8 bits, ASCII can represent 128 characters, including upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols. ASCII significantly expands access to computers. It makes possible the use of familiar characters, such as the letter “a” instead of a string of binary symbols, such as “1100001”. But ASCII also defines classes of users in terms of ease of access. Because it is limited to representing characters in use in the American alphabet, it cannot fully represent the characters in the major European languages, such as the Spanish tilde, the French cedilla, or the German umlaut, much less ideographic languages such as Chinese. American users can represent the dollar sign (36), but there is no representation for the British pound. Nevertheless, ASCII is the primary code used on the Internet, and in many software packages. Thus, it enables, but differentially enables, access to the tools of the new information age.

Asynchronous communication

the exchange of messages in a medium that does not require the simultaneous presence of the sender and the receiver. By this definition, ordinary postal mail qualifies as asynchronous communication, but the term usually refers to asynchronous electronic communication, such as e-mail.

AUP (Acceptable Use Policy)

The policy of a company, school-district, or owners of computer networks that explicitly states what is and is not acceptable, including, for instance, how and when computers might be used for personal use, what sort of sites can and can not be viewed, what sorts of email are allowed, and what specifically may be posted on their web site.


a Web site that is linked from many other pages (see Hub).

Bazaar model

a style of interaction, originally applied to software development, in which large numbers of people contribute, often without monetary compensation, to build some larger whole. Proponents accept and applaud diversity. They argue that people committed to a particular area will produce results whose value far offsets any problems due to lack of uniformity of overall structure. See cathedral model.

Boolean expression

an expression that evaluates to true or false; for example, used in a Web search, the expression travel and France is true for every Web page that contains both travel and France. Expressions that contain logical operators such as and, or, and not are Boolean, but all Web searches implicitly involve Boolean expressions.

Cascade effect

a series of effects of an initial perturbation of a social system. This happens, for example, when a new technology is introduced and practices shift to accommodate it. Then, there are effects of that initial change, which lead to even less predictable changes. This is one reason that it is often said that people overestimate the short-term impact of innovations, but underestimate the long-term effects.

In a school, we might observe small initial changes with the introduction of Web browsing. Students would spend some time doing a new activity. But, over time, teachers might see how students could use the Web for research, and later for publishing. As these new uses develop, the entire ecology of reading and writing could shift to a new center of activity.

Case sensitive

the property of paying attention to upper- and lower-case letters; each search engine has its own policy about this (e.g., is White House the same as white house?).

Cathedral model

a style of interaction, originally applied to software development, in which a dedicated few work within a guiding structure. Proponents argue that the need for consistency and quality control outweigh the advantages of enlisting vast contingents of volunteers. See bazaar model.

Constructivist learning

learning in which learners actively create their own knowledge. Its roots trace to Jean Piaget’s studies of cognitive development and to John Dewey’s theory of knowing, and before that to Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. For many constructivists, the term is redundant, since all learning is conceived as the individual’s construction of meaning.

As a curriculum development or instructional approach, constructivist learning usually means providing ample opportunities for students to explore interesting phenomena and to reflect on their experiences. It is thus almost synonymous with inquiry-based learning.


a small file placed on the user’s computer by a web site that allows them to track and remember visitors. Cookies must be enabled and can be disabled on your browser. They are relatively harmless in that they can’t damage or even access your system and don’t contain high-stakes information (such as credit card numbers) but they are a way of tracking you and thus infringing on your privacy.

Cooperative learning

an instructional approach in which students work in groups to solve problems, thus developing the interpersonal skills of communication, leadership, decision making, and conflict resolution. Cooperative learning models in the classroom the community of inquiry espoused by C. S. Peirce.

Blosser, Patricia E. (1992). Using cooperative learning in science education. Bulletin, ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education.

Johnson, Roger T., & Johnson, David W. (2001). The Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota.

Peirce, Charles Sanders (1868). Some consequences of four incapacities claimed for man. Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 2, 140-157.

Slavin, R. E. (1991, February). Synthesis of research on cooperative learning. Educational Leadership, 48(5): 71-82.

Slavin, R. (1995). Cooperative learning (Second Edition). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


CU-SeeMe is a system that allows two-way audio and video communication across the Internet, even at modem speeds. Miniature digital video cameras such as QuickCam can be used. Configuration can be difficult, but the payoffs for connecting distant classes may make it worth the effort.


a term used to denote art that uses, builds upon, talks about or in some other interesting way relates to the computer, internet, or web. See Rodney Chang’s list of 72 propositions in his definition of cyberart.


as coined by science fiction writer William Gibson, a computer network in which users mentally traverse large data matrices; now commonly used to describe the Internet.


usually refers to a being that is half machine, half living entity. Donna Haraway wrote that “a cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (1991, p. 149).


stripped from a relation to local place.

Digital library

a concept with varying definitions; the Association of Research Libraries has a definition, which suggests synonymy with “electronic library” or “virtual library”; key elements are that the library uses new technologies to link diverse resources in a manner transparent to the user.

Distance learning

distance education provides a unique opportunity for those who wish to study but cannot attend residential institutions because of personal circumstances or occupational obligations. The term was once synonymous with “correspondence course,” and later with educational TV, but has increasingly been used to refer to learning through an array of communication technologies, including video, teleconferences, e-mail, and the World Wide Web. As these tools have emerged as integral components of on-campus courses, distance (i.e., the physical location of the student with respect to the class) has become an increasingly peripheral factor. Thus, the concept of distance learning may fade away as it begins to define aspects of learning in general.

Domain name server

a computer accesses the Domain Name System in order to determine the correspondence between a domain name and an IP address.

Domain Name System (DNS)

The online distributed database system that is used to map human-readable addresses into IP addresses.

Domain name

a name that identifies an IP (Internet Protocol) address(es). For example, the domain name represents a numerical address signifying a location in cyberspace. A domain name is the first part of the URL used to identify a Web page. Each host computer in the Domain Name System has a domain name.


Alan Kay’s vision of a “personal dynamic medium,” a powerful personal computer that could be used by children and adults to explore and create words, music, sounds, and images and animations.

Dynamic web page

a web page that changes in response to user input, the time of day, or other variable information, a consequence being that it cannot be easily indexed by a search engine.


electronic art, used here to indicate ASCII pictorial representations.

e-book and e-book reader

an e-book is a book presented in electronic form to be read primarily on a screen. It may provide interactivity through dynamic links, quizzes, or simulations. An e-book reader is a device, which may be in the form of a simulated book with two foldout screens, for viewing e-books.


a journal in electronic form. In some cases, an e-journal may appear as a World Wide Web page, with a URL; in others it is delivered by electronic mail, usually through a listserv.


a service that allows users to send and receive messages via computer and network; many services now support styled text, graphics, audio, or video.

eBook Network

a forum for writers, editors, publishers and distributors, software companies, makers of e-book readers and related devices, as well as customers and interested parties.

Educational Object Economy

Educational Object Economy links to thousands of Java applets, each reviewed by an educator; site visitors may add their own comments to the reviews. The website is a fine example of a Filemaker-enabled site; EOE even makes its source files available, for educators who want to use them as a template for their own sites.


refers to equality for human beings across different social settings. When applied to electronic environments, the term is used to argue that a lack of social context cues in online discourse results automatically in nonhierarchical structures across gender, race, sexual orientation, and a host of our other differences. In other words, because paralinguistic cues (e.g., appearance, facial expressions, and tone of voice) are absent online, what is said supposedly becomes more important than who says it.

Embedded systems

computer processors that work in appliances, cars, telephones, lights, and other devices; they are often invisible to the user and mean that nearly everyone is becoming a user of computer technologies, even without realizing it.

Filemaker Pro Web Companion

Filemaker Pro Web Companion is a database programs let information providers organize information (text, numbers or graphics) into records and fields which can be sorted, combined and otherwise manipulated. Many databases can now be read and modified via specially coded web pages.


a program that takes a list of documents and removes those that meet certain prespecified criteria; family filters are used to remove objectionable Web material, other filters are used to focus a search to retrieve the most relevant items, and any filter will occasionally let through unwanted items and screen out desirable ones.


a system that creates a partition between a private network and the larger Internet; it may restrict access both to and from the Internet. Firewalls allow a company, government, or other organization to keep its internal network files separate from the larger Internet community.

First-wave technologies

communication/information technologies, such as radio, television, audiorecording, videorecording, cinema, and telephone, which operate primarily with analog representations of information. These technologies have been primarily used for one-way delivery of information, but there are many exceptions.


a derogatory message sent online, either posted to a message board or emailed. A particularly harsh flame might include a deluge of such messages.

Formative evaluation

evaluation applied to a program under development in order to find ways to improve it; widely employed for technology-based programs because of the rapid technological changes.


an online discussion group, sometimes called a newsgroup or a conference. Web-based forums are often archived, so that participants can follow and post to past and current threads.


a technique for Web-page design that allows information to be displayed and manipulated in different portions of the screen. Although useful, it makes Web pages inaccessible to those whose browsers cannot process the frames.

Frequently asked question (FAQ)

Many websites now include a list of questions that users commonly ask along with the answers that have been the most helpful. The compilation of questions and responses has thus become a new genre of collaborative writing.


information included with an e-mail message such as who sent it, the date of sending, and the subject of the message. A full header can show the path that the message traveled, where an automatic reply will be sent, the message priority, and other features.


a computer connected to the Internet with a registered name, such as; used to refer to any single machine on the Internet, but a single machine can act like multiple systems, each with its own domain name and IP address, and so the definition now typically includes virtual hosts as well.


Hypertext Markup Language, a language for writing web pages. The first web pages had to be written directly in this language, with an expression such as the following to indicate a hyperlink — “ThinkQuest.” In this case, were the above link active, the reader of the web page would see only ThinkQuest. When he or she clicked on that word, the web browser would automatically connects to the web server (see glossary entries, below) containing the ThinkQuest site.


a Web site with many links to other sites (see Authority).

Hybrid literacy

a way of producing and interpreting texts that combines aspects of two or more sets of literate practices. For example, discussion on a moderated list may call for a unique blend of certain academic conventions for writing along with other conventions about friendly social interchange. The particular blend is in turn dependent upon technological features such as how the listserv program displays messages and headers.


HyperStudio is a stand-alone product which permits users to create their own multimedia programs incorporating pictures, sounds and animation. It is used by pupils in many schools around the United States. There are browser “plugins” available from the developer which enable HyperStudio stacks to be displayed across the web.


a text in which “hot links” allow the reader to move to another text; these texts can be sounds, images, and video, as well as familiar printed texts. Hypertext blurs the line between author and reader, as each collaborates in the construction of the text to be read. It is the format for World Wide Web resources.


the set of practices originally envisioned for a technology, rather than the realized practices. This is analogous to an intended, as opposed to an enacted, curriculum.

Image viewer

a program that allows the computer to display and control a visual image. Plug-in versions can be incorporated into a web browser. Some, such as DjVu allow panning and zooming on an image.

Inquiry-Based Learning

most broadly, activity in which the learner extracts meaning from experience. Defined in this way, inquiry-based learning is essentially a description of human activity, but it has also been invoked as an explicit approach to teaching and learning. More.

Internet Protocol (IP)

a system of conventions that allows computers connected to the Internet to exchange data with one another regardless of the manufacturer, the operating system, or location.

Internet Protocol Address

a computer address in the form of four numbers, each one between 0 and 255, separated by dots. The Internet uses the numeric IP address to send data. For example, you may connect to a World Wide Web server with the domain name, but to the network you are connecting to the Web server with the IP address Every time you log on to the Internet, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigns you a unique IP address number that allows your computer to communicate with others (usually servers) to browse the web and exchange email. Your IP address can make you vulnerable to hackers as this is their way into an unprotected computer, but those most vulnerable are computers who are continually linked to the Internet with the same IP address, such as ones using cable modems or servers.


the global communications network that supports the World Wide Web, and increasingly, voice and video communications.

Investigation-based learning

— Investigation-based learning, and closely related terms, such as research-based learning, put students in the role of scientists, in the broad sense of inquirers attempting to make sense of phenomena. Students ask questions based on their interests and on what they observe. They design methods to collect and analyze data pertinent to these questions. They formulate and revise hypotheses based on the data they collect. In the process, learn about science as they learn scientific content.

Java applets

Java is a full-fledged programming language, similar to C++ or Pascal. An applet is a Java program which runs directly within a web browser, rather than as an independent program. Many Java applets are available free across the Internet.


JavaScript is an authoring language for Netscape browsers, which extends HTML with more interactive features. Authors add JavaScript code directly to their pages. Microsoft browsers can understand Jscript, a similar but not identical language.

Latent function

a function of a new technology that becomes apparent only through practice. For example, complex computer technology may lead to greater collaboration as people are forced to help one another in order to use it at all. That collaboration might be considered desirable or might not, but it was not a conscious motivation of the system designers.

Learning technology

— a tool or medium that helps learners construct new knowledge. It usually refers to a new information or communication technology such as visualization software, virtual reality, electronic bulletin board, simulation, tutorial, or interactive game. The term “learning technology” is multiply ambiguous. It can mean the tool that helps one learn, but also has been used to mean a technology that itself learns. For example, genetic algorithms in effect learn how to perform more effectively in some environment based on feedback about their success. Other meanings are “learning how to use technology” or “learning about technology.”

Legacy system

a computer system that was developed long ago, but still has value today. Typically, the organization has invested considerable resources in its development or in collecting data in a particular form for use with the system.

As conditions change, these systems risk losing some of their capabilities, or, in the case of the Y2K problem, begin to produce errors they never did in the past. A large amount of software and hardware development is devoted to maintaining and updating legacy applications, or to designing new products that can work with existing applications or import data from them.

Linux operating system (

a version of the Unix operating system, which works with a variety of computers, including PCs, Macintoshes, and Amigas. As an operating system, it enables the user to invoke word processors, Web browsers, and other programs, as needed. In that sense, Linux is similar to Windows or MacOS. However, it is unusual in the way it has been created and in its cost. Linux development has been led by Linus Torvalds, but its continuing development occurs through an unusual collaborative arrangement in which programmers around the globe contribute pieces of the system. The software is free and represents the bazaar approach to software development.


an Internet service that allows a group of people to communicate via e-mail by sending mail to a single electronic address. Messages are forwarded to each person on a designated list and are often archived for future reference. Listserv communications vary greatly, including informal conversations, moderated list discussions, and formal publications, such as e-journals. The term today has been generalized to refer to the electronic discussion group itself, such as WAC-L, a list or listserv on writing across the curriculum.

Manifest function

the purpose built into the design of a new technology or inherent in the reasons for its adoption. These are the expected or desired functions of the innovation, which may or may not be realized.

Materials-based learning

Materials-based learning is a term popular in writing on science education, and more recently, in distance education. In both cases there is an emphasis on rich, authentic materials that promote student inquiry. An excellent source and justification for it is the book by Brenda Lansdown, et al., which argues that both challenging materials and opportunities for dialogue are needed for meaningful learning.

Lansdown, B., Blackwood, P.E., & Brandwein, P. F. (1971). Teaching elementary science through investigation and colloquium. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Metasearch engine

a computer program, such as Dogpile, that collects the results from several search engines at once. This is especially valuable because no search engine indexes more than one sixth of the Web.

Metcalfe’s Law

the value of a network for users is proportional to the square of the number of users.

Mirror site

a Web site that maintains a copy of another site so that the access load is distributed more evenly across the Internet, or users in a distant part of the world can have faster connections.

Moderated list

an electronic e-mail list with a moderator who may initiate and guide discussions, review messages for appropriateness, or issue periodic summaries.


an acronym for MUD, Object Oriented. A MUD is a Multiple-User Dimension (also Domain, Dungeon, or Dialogue), a computer database that permits multiple users to log in by Telnet and interact in real time. In MOOs, users can also create, manipulate, and move among virtual objects (including rooms).

Moore’s Law

the processing power on a microchip will double every 18 months.


a scheme for compressing audio signals without sacrificing sound quality. This allows a sound file to be small and easily transferred over the Internet. A musician could use MP3 to distribute a performance directly to a listener without need of a record company.


several modes, including the visual, aural, and written, are all part of the society’s meaning-making apparatus. With the rise of electronic communication technologies, increasingly our senses are assaulted with sound, images, and even smells that conspire to gain our attention.

Network effects

the phenomenon that the effects of a particular technology may depend on how it is interconnected with other devices, and how those effects depend on the structure, size, and operating characteristics of the network.

Open school

an approach to education in which the school is “open” along various dimensions. It often means that the curriculum is open to student interests and issues that arise in the life of the school; that the school is open to the community, through service to community needs and by drawing from community resources; that the teachers and students are open to new roles and pedagogical relationships; and that this openness is reflected in the physical facilities.

Easthope, G. (1975) Community, hierarchy and open education, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Nyberg, D. (ed.) (1975) The philosophy of open education, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Puckrose, H. (1975) Open school, open society, London: Evans.

Open-world learning

highlights the need for students to learn how to engage in productive inquiry within dynamic contexts, which accommodate massive amounts of richly interrelated data. Open-world learning sets up learning experiences that go beyond working on fully-specified problems, static and restricted data bases, and predetermined answers. But these approaches do not guarantee clear learning outcomes, and require greater access to information resources and more educator support. New computational tools such as Biology Workbench highlight the need for open-world learning: They make powerful tools availble to learners–tools that make possible exploration of new and complex domains.


option to get out; reputable companies using email lists usually give directions somewhere in their email or on their site to have the user removed from the email list.


Platform for Internet Content Selection, developed as a common symbol system of rating content, specifically to allow control over what sorts of web content a browser is allowed to view, mostly by parents controlling their children’s web viewing.

Problem-based learning (PBL)

a curriculum development and instructional approach, whose purpose is to help students develop disciplinary knowledge, skills, and problem-solving strategies. PBL confronts students with an ill-structured problem similar to a real-world problem. Students actively formulate their own approach to solving it, while teachers model, coach, and make explicit the students’ learning processes.

Barrows, H. (1985). Designing a problem based curriculum for the pre-clinical years. New York: Springer.

Project-based learning

a curriculum development and instructional approach in which students work together on a major project, requiring specific content knowledge or skills. The project typically raises various problems which students must solve. Project-based learning has much in common with cooperative learning.

Blumenfeld, P.C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26, 369-398.

Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project (2000). Project-based and problem-based: The same or different?

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (Eds.). (1993). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Katz, Lilian G. (1994). The project approach. Urbana, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Katz, Lilian G., & Chard, S. C. (1989). Engaging children’s minds: the project approach. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Sharan, Schlomo, & Sharan, Yael (1992). Expanding cooperative learning through group investigation. New York: Teacher’s College Press.

Ranking function

a means used by a search engine to order documents found in a search in terms of potential relevance, quality, or other criteria.

Reader response

in recent years, literary criticism has shifted emphasis from the text to the interpretive processes of the reader. This apparently minor shift in scholarly methodology signals a major paradigm change for the study of the relations between language and thought. Reader-response theories have challenged commonplace assumptions regarding learning, comprehension, assessment, the knowledge and literature canons, multicultural education, the gender-neutrality of ideas, the teaching of writing, the role of texts in content learning, and the role of teachers and students in learning.

Issues include how meaning is constructed, how understanding across “horizons” is possible, how readers adopt different stances towards a text, how the meanings of authors, readers, and communities interrelate, what a text is, and what it means to understand. These questions have a direct bearing on changing conceptions of literacy and schooling, and on how we interpret and respond to student work in any area of the curriculum.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). Discourse in the novel. In M. Holquist (Ed.), The dialogic imagination (pp. 259-422). Austin: The University of Texas Press.

Beach, R. (1993). A teacher’s introduction to reader response theories. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Bohannan, L. (1975). Shakespeare in the bush. In A. Ternes (Ed.), Ants, Indians, and little dinosaurs (pp. 203-216). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Brewer, W. F., & Lichtenstein, E. H. (1982). Stories are to entertain: A structural -affect theory of stories. Journal of Pragmatics, 6, 473-486.

Cooper, C. R. (1985). Researching response to literature and the teaching of literature: Points of departure. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.

Crowley, S. (1989). A teacher’s introduction to deconstruction. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Crusius, T. W. (1991). A teacher’s introduction to philosophical hermeneutics. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Eagleton, T. (1983). Literary theory: An introduction. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Ebert, T. L. (1991). The “difference” of postmodern feminism. College English, 53, 886-904.

Fish, S. (1980). Is there a text in this class?: The authority of interpretive communities. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Flynn, E. A. (1988). Composing as a woman. College Composition and Communication, 39, 423-35.

Flynn, E. A., & Schweickart, P. P. (1986). Gender and reading: Essays on readers, texts, and contexts. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Foucault, M. (1972). The discourse on language. In M. Foucault (trans. by A. M. Sheridan Smith), The archaeology of knowledge and the discourse on language, pp. 215-237. New York: Pantheon.

Freund, E. (1987). The return of the reader: Reader-response criticism. New York: Penguin.

Pratt, M. L. (1987). Linguistic utopias. In Fabb, N., Attridge, D., Durant, A., & MacCabe, C. (Eds.), The linguistics of writing: Arguments between language and literature. New York: Methuen.

Rosenblatt, L. M. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Rosenblatt, L. M. (1983). Literature as exploration. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Flynn, E. A., & Schweickart, P. P. (Eds.), Gender and reading: Essays on readers, texts, and contexts. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Suleiman, S. R., & Crosman, I. (1980). The reader in the text: Essays on audience and interpretation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Todorov, T. (1984). Mikhail Bakhtin: The dialogical principle(tr. W Godzich). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Tompkins , J. P. (Ed.) (1980). Reader-response from formalism to post-structuralist criticism. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


the set of practices associated with actual use of a technology. These may differ markedly from the idealization represented in documentation, a curriculum unit, or a teachers’ guide.


RealPlayer offers “streaming” protocols which compress audio and video files to a small size and allow them to be transferred to a web browser a little at a time. Streaming is something like pulling a long rope toward you, an arm’s length at a time: the first few seconds of the file come across the Internet and begin playing, while the next few seconds are being brought in. Browser plugins are free. So are server versions which permit only a few connections at a time.

Revenge effect

an effect of using a new technology, which we never anticipated or wanted. This occurs when we use a new tool to accomplish one purpose without realizing how it would affect other aspects of our lives. For example, the introduction of gypsy moths to the U.S. was intended to make silk production a reality, yet led to massive destruction of hardwood trees in the Northeast. This is more than a simple side effect, which would have been anticipated and conceived as part of the bargain in adopting the innovation.

Reverse revenge effect

a revenge effect that appears with an older technology. This can be positive, as when we realize a benefit that was invisible until the new technology took it away. The benefits of a high-fiber diet are one example. As technology to refine foods became more commonplace, we created health problems that earlier food technologies had not created without our recognizing it.

Scientific visualization

the use of data-driven computer graphics to aid in the understanding of scientific information. An online course teaches about “its evolution, its uses in computational science, and the creative process involved.”

Search directory

a database that organizes documents according to categories and, usually, subcategories; it provides an alternative to general searching for finding particular items.

Search engine

a computer program that returns a list of the documents that satisfy a Boolean search expression; it is usually used to refer to programs that search for Web documents that meet certain specifications given in search keys. Most search engines return a list of web pages ordered by how well they match the specifications.

Search index

a large database of document locations based on the words contained in each document; the index facilitates efficient, meaningful searches and is created by a program within the search engine.

Search key

a string of text used to guide a search engine (see previous glossary entry) to find web pages. The keys can include phrases as well as individual words or parts of words. Users can specify keys that must be present in the web page as well as those that must not be present.

Second-wave technologies

communication/information technologies, such as computers, the Internet, the World Wide Web, and digital video, which operate primarily with digital representations of information. These technologies present great opportunities for two-way communication.


a theory of signs aimed at studying how images and other kinds of social discourse are produced, interpreted, and come to “mean.”

Service learning

Service learning is a form of experiential learning emphasizing action beneficial to the community. Students learn through organized service that fosters civic responsibility while enhancing the academic curriculum. An essential element is opportunity for reflection on the service experience. The best of service learning exemplifies Dewey’s concept of reflective action.


Shockwave (Macromedia)

Shockwave is a browser “plugin” available in versions for both Netscape and Internet Explorer. It allows web users to work with programs created with Macromedia Director and Authorware, two high-end authoring environments. Director and Authorware have many features useful to educational programmers, but are rather expensive and difficult to learn.

Situated evaluation

an approach to evaluation of technology use that assumes the technology is not set a priori, but comes into being through use. Situated evaluation is a “new framework for understanding innovation and change. This framework has several key ingredients: It emphasizes contrastive analysis and seeks to explore differences in use. It assumes that the object of study is neither the innovation alone nor its effects, but rather, the realization of the innovation–the innovation-in-use. Finally, it produces hypotheses supported by detailed analyses of actual practices. These hypotheses make possible informed plans for use and change of innovations” (Bruce & Rubin, 1993, p. 215).

Situated studies

a research method that explicitly incorporates an analysis of the context in which literacy is practiced or learning occurs. It is particularly appropriate for investigations of the use of new technologies, because users typically find diverse ways to realize their potentials. In fact, to the extent that new technologies for learning truly empower students and teachers, we would expect that they would be used in unexpected ways.

Social informatics

the study of how information technologies are used in social contexts, how that use leads to social changes, and, conversely, how social practices influence that use.

Social spreadsheets

a term that arose when people saw that spreadsheets could be a learning tool as well as a tool for accounting and business planning. Used by an individual, a spreadsheet could fit in a category such as “data analysis,” but it could also serve as a collaborative medium. Students in a class might each collect data for one piece of a larger problem and then combine their data in a class spreadsheet.

An interesting example of this arose among small rural schools in Queensland, Australia. There is heavy rainfall there along the coast and an informal competition to see what town deserves the title of “wettest place.” Teachers had students measure rain in gauges and then add their weekly totals to a spreadsheet containing statewide data. Students everywhere could then make comparisons, analyze trends, and develop arguments for why their town was the wettest, the driest, most variable, or whatever. This was a good example of a project that engaged learners and afforded opportunities for many kinds of learning. It also made good use of the technology, because the spreadsheet tools and the network for sharing data made possible activities that would have been difficult to accomplish otherwise.

Sociotechnical analysis

an approach to the study of human activity that explicitly accounts for both social practices and the influence of material objects, such as artifacts, tools, and communications media.

Sociotechnical system

a system comprising human activity, spaces, artifacts, tools, and communications media.

Specialty search engine

a search engine that searches a limited database of documents, such as the telephone white pages; such an engine can be made more efficient for limited purposes and is more likely to return only the sorts of data that a user would want.

Spiders (search robots)

a computer program sent out by a search engine to find as many documents on the Web as it can.

Static (Web) page

a Web page that does not change and can thus be indexed by a Web search engine.

Summative evaluation

evaluation applied to judge the overall effect of a developed program; most suitable for the uniform impacts perspective on a learning program.

Synchronous communication

the exchange of messages in a medium that requires the simultaneous presence of the sender and the receiver (e.g., in an electronic chat system). The line between synchronous and asynchronous is a function of the sociotechnical system, not just the technologies per se. For example, one could use e-mail in a chat-like, synchronous fashion by requiring the “discussants” to be online at the same time.


a way of thinking about the use of technology that attributes all important changes to the technology itself.


a program that allows a personal computer to link to another computer, via the Internet or other network. Telnet has a history of being used for connecting smaller machines to larger mainframe computers, but is currently used to remotely access and control computer servers of all size via the Internet.


a trillion bytes of information, enough to represent a trillion characters; about 100 fairly large personal computer hard drives would be needed to hold this much information.


a phenomenon in which mind and reality, or a “knowing” and the “known” are conceived as a unified entity; from John Dewey and Arthur Bentley’s 1949 book, Knowing and the Known.


the Unicode Standard specifies the representation of text in software. It works in principle as ASCII does, but by using 16 bits, a programmer can represent 128 times as many characters. Unicode can represent European alphabetic scripts, Middle Eastern right-to-left scripts, and scripts of Asia, as well as punctuation marks, mathematical and technical symbols. It provides codes for diacritics, such as the Spanish tilde (ñ). There are currently codes for 49,194. With Unicode it is possible to provide a unique number for every character, regardless of computing platform or program. The code is currently supported in many operating systems, all modern browsers, and many other products. The Unicode Consortium is a non-profit organization founded to develop and promote this standard. Membership includes organizations and individuals in the computer and information processing industry throughout the world.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

an electronic address, typically one designating a computer file on the World Wide Web, such as The URL system allows millions of computers, each containing thousands of files, to refer consistently to specific resources.

Virtual reality

a system that gives the user the illusion of viewing or participating in a 3-D artificial world; current systems include 360-degree, 3-D visualization, surround sound, and even physical touch effects (haptic sensations).

Visual discourse

pictorial representation of language in action.

VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language),

VRML allows users to navigate “three dimensionally” around a web page, using the mouse or keyboard commands, as in games such as Doom or Quake. Educational uses for VRML might include 3-D modeling of chemical or physical structures. See the Web 3D Consortium.

VRML art

art integrating audio and video for 3-D digital imaging. Many different forms exist, making use of various viewers to display the art. The person experiencing the artwork can do so in a manner akin to exploring a real space, hence the “VR” or virtual reality designator. Today, VRML art is included in many web sites as a supplement to other content, not only as a separate art presentation. It is also being integrated with physical exhibitions of art in galleries and museums. See

Web browser

a computer program that allows the user to explore the World Wide Web by interpreting documents written in HTML or other hypertext languages.

Web client

a computer that allows the user to connect to a server program in order to retrieve (download) or post (upload) web documents.

Web server

a program running on a host computer that maintains web documents accessible via a web browser.

Web-page accessibility

the degree to which the content of a Web page is available to people in different groups, such as those who speak a language other than the author or who have a low-speed network connection.


a simple digital camera for transmitting real-time digital images (usually at speeds much slower than video) over the Internet.


a good online glossary of computer terms.

World Wide Web (WWW)

an Internet service based on hypertext links to organize and connect to Internet resources; as the Web begins to incorporate e-mail, telephone, recorded music and movies, radio, and television, it appears poised to become the all-encompassing communications media framework.

Writing process approach

— is a curriculum development and instructional approach that makes the process by which writing is accomplished integral to teaching and learning. It typically emphasizes writing within a community of writers, prewriting activities, peer and self review, and multiple drafts.

WYSIWYG (pronounce wizzywig)

What You See Is What You Get, is a term for word-processing and web-page creation software. The user sees on the screen a display that closely matches the final document appearance.

Y2K problem

a class of problems related to how computers represent and manipulate dates, which will become more apparent as we move from 1999 to 2000. The most common cause of this is that many programs written to minimize data storage used only the last two digits of the year, thus “05” means “1905.” On January 1, 2000, many users of computers encountered difficulties because the programs will not be able to distinguish 1900 from 2000. There are a variety of similar problems, such as programs that use “99” to indicate missing data, but also use two digits to represent a year.

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