The Design and Development of a Hypertext Environment for Adult Learners of Italian


This study consisted of two phases: (1) a prepatory phase in which I collected, selected and assembled materials for the construction of a hyperbase for adult learners of Italian, and (2) a participatory phase in which I used learners' interaction with the materials to design and implement a prototype for a hypertext environment. Using a variety of hardware and software, I conducted the research on a Macintosh multimedia workstation with two computer-literate adult learners. During the first phase, I selected the resource materials to be included in the hyperbase. The materials included video clips from Fellini's La Strada as well as from contemporary Italian films; it also included videoclips that I made of everyday patterns of interaction. In addition, the materials included audio clips of interviews, songs, texts, and pictures that represent various sociocultural contexts. During the second phase, I documented the participants' interactions with these materials in various ways: I videotaped the sessions while making observational notes; I asked the participants to make think-aloud protocols; and I recorded follow-up discussions in which the participants commented on their interactions and made suggestions as to how the hyperbase might be improved. As I analyzed all these data, I continuously modified the prototype so that it would better accommodate their suggestions and different learning needs. As a consequence, I discarded certain materials, incorporated new ones, redesigned the computer interface, and implemented new links within the hyperbase. The final version of the prototype radically differed from the one that was initially conceived. It took the shape of a workspace where multiple windows could be opened at the same time and where material in the hyperbase could be displayed by pressing buttons on palettes situated at the sides of the screen. On the basis of this study, I would claim that (1) the participation of learners in the design process is crucial for constructing a computer-mediated environment that is appropriate for language learning, and (2) a cooperatively-designed hypertext environment can transform the computer into an effective resource center that allows language learners to exercise greater control over their own learning.
Additional Notes
The process involved the implementation of a language program. The program was developed in Hypercard. I am now in the process to convert it in web format ... stay tuned