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Ancient Concepts and Modern Implementation

    Three-dimensional writing is not a new concept. Its history predates ancient printing presses. The first form of it probably appears in the Talmud, ancient Jewish scrolls of wisdom and commentary from scholars on subjects in the Torah. Scholars and rabbis would write their thoughts and theories in the margins and refer to other sections in the Talmud and the Torah. Today, the concept is present in encyclopedias, dictionaries, web sites, and even choose your own adventure books.

    With today's technology, educators often deal with issues other than where to find supplemental and reference information. How do they teach writing and technology skills without wasting time on software features that aren't related to learning objectives? How can writers present information with access to additional information? Also, a lot of time is wasted fixing things that went awry through student experimentation, which is what they should be doing anyway. The solution to all this in the 21st century is 3DWriter.

    The Impact of Technology on Learning
    Not too long ago, National Assessment of Educational Progress test results showed that writing proficiency was extremely low amongst students nationwide.  While 83% had attained basic proficiency, only 1% had advanced skills. At that time, I was fortunate enough to be a reviewer for the US DOE’s Expert Technology Panel. We read more than 100 submissions seeking to be recognized as Exemplary of Promising Technology Programs. The results had interesting news. The good news showed there are many programs driving schools toward educational restructuring, focused on student-centered authentic learning. The bad news is that very few of the programs collected rigorous data on the impact of technology on learning, one of the major criteria for recognition. The committee wrestled with the Catch 22 of K-12 schools having to collect this kind of data, while having neither the resources, time, or money to do so. As I came away from that week, I began searching for a way to improve learning, and document the effectiveness of technology in a way that puts minimal demands on systems and teachers who are already over burdened.

    Seeing the Forest Through the Trees
    While discussing the problem with Nancy Sulla, President of IDE, she mentioned creating hypertext narratives with some of her clients. It was like a bolt of lightning! I had been doing that with students since 1983 in one form or another. However, it had been on computer bulletin boards, in a lab setting as part of multimedia media electives, or as web pages created to show the results of research or learning that took place in the classroom.

    Up to this point, hypertext writing had been done in isolation. Nancy's comment caused me to see the forest for the trees. The technology was now at the point where it was possible to bring this powerful form of writing into classrooms, which span the grade levels and curriculum.

    As Simple as the Hoola-Hoop
    Though the technology had reached a point where 3DWriting could be achieved, there was no software that met my criteria. I wanted it to be so simple that technophobes would be able to participate with almost no learning curve. I wanted it to be free from bells and whistles of writing programs and WYSIWYG web editors that distract students from the writing process. I wanted the software to be free and small enough to fit on a disk.

    After a year of unsuccessful searching, I decided to have 3DWriter created and in June of 2002, the beta version was delivered to me.

    3DWriter makes it possible to establish a 21st century writing program that crosses every grade level and every subject area. It can be done with minimal technology, with a learning curve that is as shallow as any software in existence today. However, since it can't be done without technology, it is easy to document the impact on learning.

    You can find out more about 3DWriting by reading the Frequently Asked Questions and exploring the rest of this web site.

    Art Wolinsky


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