Hyperlinking text – a skill that needs some lovin’

Silvia Tolisano wrote a post the other day about something that’s been on my mind for sometime now. ‘Wondering About Hyperlinked Writing‘, encapsulates quite a few conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks that have made me consider what many aren’t doing in schools today.

But first, a confession. I had no idea how to hyperlink text until 2007. I was Head of Library (my first year in this position), and knew I needed to be creating online resources to support curriculum. I was aware that if I pasted a link into an email or a document, it seemed to automatically create a link you could click on to take you to the source document. Troubling for me, I had no idea how I could hyperlink text. What I did know was the feeling of vulnerability in a workplace, because I was living it. One of the members of my staff at the time was very Web savvy, and I eventually just admitted to her that I had no idea how to do this and she showed me just how simple it was. What a revelation!

Of course, a knowledge of how to hyperlink text assisted me greatly when I started writing this blog a few months later. Understanding the communication that can ensue when you link to the work of others was part of my learning curve, and it certainly helped me to gain an audience and form a learning network that crosses oceans.

Understanding the power of hyperlinked writing has changed my thoughts about reading. I welcome a hyperlink as I read. Knowing that I can easily move to the source of an author’s inspiration is something I find helpful, and not a distraction. It’s made me consider why students aren’t routinely taught this skill when they complete projects. I know many are insisting bibliographies are created using the correct formats, with links embedded, but it seems to me to be more helpful to have students hyperlink their text at the point where they have gained their inspiration or knowledge for their submitted work. I’m not suggesting they forgo the bibliography – it’s still essential they learn this skill, but hyperlinked text within a project will help a teacher move easily to check their student’s understanding, and to confirm that they have done their best to avoid plagiarising the work of others.

Here’s a potted version of the recent conversations that have got me thinking about this.

1. Talking to a colleague about hyperlinked text in projects. A few days later, he revisited this conversation with me, asking if authors of articles, websites etc. were OK with their work being linked into other documents. My answer was that it was good etiquette to do so, and many people appreciated their work being acknowledged in this way. It attracts visitors to the source document, and that’s got to be a good thing. This was obviously a new concept for him, but something I think he will be taking back to his classroom practice.

2. A phone call from a friend on a weekend. She was creating a PowerPoint for her Primary School students, and wanted to link a YouTube video into this so that they could easily access it on the day. She had no clue how to do this and I had to walk her through the process over the phone. I did give her instructions how to download and embed a video into the PowerPoint, but this was a bit too complex and we’ll have to master this skill face to face!

3. Asking my daughter (now in Yr 11) if she knew how to hyperlink text. Answer: No. She knew how to insert a link into a document, but had no clue about linking the text.

Our Edublogs platform at school has been a very good vehicle for a discussion of hyperlinked text/writing with my students. Getting them to understand that their voice can carry further when they hyperlink to the things they are referencing is part and parcel of the classroom conversations we have when I’m working with them. Making sure we embed this school into the Information Fluency certificates we are developing will also assist whole year levels to move through our school with this understanding.

Sometimes, I think we get so swept up in the acquisition of new skills that we forget about the basics. I know that for me, understanding how to hyperlink text unlocked doors that had been closed. Perhaps your students and fellow teachers are standing behind those locked doors. Time to give them the key.

Some handy advice about hyperlinking in Microsoft Word

Some handy advice about hyperlinking in iOS Pages

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Hyperlinking text – a skill that needs some lovin’

  1. virginia Yonkers

    I wrote about this is 2008. Part of the problem in the English language is that we teach writing as a linear process and hyperlink writing requires spatial writing. For me, using hyperlinks opened up a world for my writing. However, as I write my dissertation, I realize that many English and writing teachers are linear thinkers.

    When I write pen on paper, I have notes in the margins, arrows between ideas, drawings all over the paper. As a child I was reprimanded for this because I was considered “scattered.” Outlines helped me to put my thoughts into a linear format. However, I am very good at hyperlinks. I discovered a few years ago in a course I taught on computer based writing across the curriculum that “good writers” had a very difficult time adding hyperlinks.

  2. I was just reading about Dürer on The Metropolitan Museum website and enjoying the background information provided through hyperlinks. Even hovering over the hyperlink allowed me to see a picture which gave me supplementary information. It didn’t interfere with the flow of my reading, and it saved me a lot of work researching what I needed.

    Pity I can’t hyperlink in the comments section!

    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/durr/hd_durr.htm

    I also wrote down some thoughts about hyperlinked writing last year.

    http://tsheko.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/reading-in-a-whole-new-way/

  3. In reference to your point #1, I’d just add that it’s good manners to let the person/organization to whom your hyperlink leads know about the link.

    Some university website tell you to do that because they want to protect the integrity of their brand. They’ll check your work and let you know if you’ve got a typo in the reference or if you used the wrong nickname for their institution. That can be helpful.

    Also the link source may wish to publicize the fact that you value their work by mentioning (and hyperlinking to) your work.

    • jennylu

      Thanks for you reply Linda. I’m sure that advice will be helpful for readers. I used to find it helpful when ping backs appeared in the back end of my blog notifying me of places where my writing had been referenced. It’s a feature that seems to have disappeared unfortunately.

  4. Pingback: 2 Year 9 classes, a teacher, a teacher librarian, a couple of Australian YA authors and lots of blogs | Brave new world

  5. Pingback: Hyperlinks, Leo Strauss and the return of esoteric writing | Politics, Statesmanship, Philosophy

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