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Introduction to the Interactive Shakespeare Project

The Interactive Shakespeare Project at Holy Cross is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, initiative to use the World Wide Web to improve the teaching of Shakespeare. Created by a cohort of English and Theater professors from across the country, the Project incorporates computer technology to create an active learning environment for secondary school and college students. To augment the pedagogical effectiveness of the program, teaching resources and a cohesive methodology are provided for educators. The Project's prototype site is the first Shakespearean teaching resource on the internet that combines text, video, performance activities, and pedagogical resources with interactive elements.

The Prototype Site

Utilizing available technology, the developers of the Interactive Shakespeare Project have created a completely self-contained computerized study guide for Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and a Virtual Globe Theatre that uses the cutting edge capabilities of VRML 2.0. The site combines both passive and interactive elements to make the works of the Bard more accessible, exciting, and manageable for students. The Measure for Measure study guide, using embedded hypertext and audio and video material, takes students on a journey of their own devising. Students are able to move easily and immediately from text to performance; additional background information is a keystroke away; multiple study prompts are present on every page; and suggested classroom exercises are provided. The multi-window format allows users to view slides, peruse the text, and consider study questions simultaneously. Individual educators are able to pick and choose from the provided study prompts, classroom exercises, Folio citations, and essays to tailor a curriculum to the level and interests of each class. The Virtual Globe Theatre complements the study guide by taking students on a guided tour of Southbank and into the courtyard of Shakespeare's theatre. Virtual modeling allows users to look and travel in any direction; open doors; click on informative icons; access essays and and to even move virtual actors on the Globe stage.

The site is intended primarily for use by students and educators with access to high speed servers. Although the site will function with lower capacity access (e.g. a 56k modem), optimal performance requires direct connection through a T1-Line. In order to access the Virtual Globe or to view video footage connected to the study guide, two plug-ins are required: RealPlayer G2 Plus [] and Worldview VRML 2.0 3D Browser []. The memory capacity of a server combined with the transmission capability of the internet has allowed the Project participants to collect and collate an extensive and exhaustive amount of material. On any given page, users of the site (gaining access with Netscape or Microsoft Explorer) will find embedded icons that lead to the following:

A) New Edition of the Text:
Students are able to scroll down entire scenes from a newly edited version of the text created specifically for the web site;
B) Glossary Annotations:
Definitions of words that are either unfamiliar to modern readers or words whose meaning have changed over time, and textual exegesis;
C) Study Prompts:
Over 300 specific questions generated by particular passages--ordered and numbered so that teachers may assign level-appropriate questions;
D) Pertinent Essays:
A range of essays dealing with thematic, historical, performance and pedagogical issues;
E) Exercise Prompts:
Intended specifically for educators, suggested pedagogical exercises for the classroom with explanations and directions;
F) Folio Facsimile:
In order to explore issues of editing and performance, teachers and students are able to compare specific passages of the Interactive Shakespeare edition to an original Folio version of the play;
G) Photographs:
Over 350 photographs accompany the scrolling text. This assists students in visualizing the action.
H) Video:
Students are able to watch key transitional moments in each scene of Measure for Measure that investigate performance choices. A full hour of video and audio will be available to users of the site.
I) Reviews:
A collection of performance reviews of various productions of Measure for Measure in the United States and England.
J) Virtual Globe:
The Virtual Globe enables students to enter the theatre where Shakespeare's plays were originally performed and to manipulate virtual actors in cyberspace. At the current time, a number of sites on the Web feature photographs of the Globe reconstruction. These pictures offer views of the stage and the theatre from various vantage points, but allow no freedom of movement or choice. Using VRML 2.0, the Shakespeare Interactive Project's Virtual Globe Theatre creates an environment that allows complete freedom of movement. The first component of the model allows students to take a guided tour of the theatre with stops at various locations that include links to scholarly essays and information icons. But any time, the user is able to wander off to explore the space at will. The second component of the model (to be introduced later in 1999) will allow student directors to move figures and furniture about the stage, Students wil be able to select scenes form the play, and using pre-recorded dialogue, manipulate cyber-actors to direct the play in virtual reality
K) Links:
To other pertinent Shakespearean sites on the internet

Institutional Context

The Interactive Shakespeare Project was conceived by participants in the 1995-1996 Folger Shakespeare Institute sponsored by the NEH in Washington, DC. This Institute, entitled "Shakespeare Examined Through Performance," sought to bridge the gap between Theater and English departments by bringing together a group of representative academics from both disciplines to find common ground and complementary pedagogical approaches.

The Interactive Shakespeare Project is a continuation of work begun at the Institute. The Project seeks to find a concrete means for translating theoretical, pedagogical discoveries made during that year into a practical guide for teachers in classrooms. Although a high degree of scholarship informs the Project, emphasis is placed upon functional teaching strategies that address current academic needs and concerns. The sixteen project participants--from twelve different institutions (California State Polytechnic University; California State University, Fresno; College of the Holy Cross; Carleton College; Dartmouth College; Hiram College; Folger Shakespeare Library; Kennesaw State University; Marlboro College; University of North Carolina; University of Pennsylvania; and Western Illinois University)--bring their practical experience and expertise in teaching Shakespeare to the initiative.

The Interactive Shakespeare Project is being supported and sponsored by the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Holy Cross is a highly selective, coeducational, undergraduate liberal arts college of 2,700 students founded by the Jesuits in 1843. The student population is equally divided between men and women coming from 47 states and 19 foreign countries. The College has garnered national respect and recognition for its superior undergraduate programs, excellent faculty, and the intelligence, imagination and achievements of its students.

The College has made a firm commitment to furthering the use of information technology in the classroom. Holy Cross was noted in Wired Magazine and Yahoo Internet Life as one of the most technologically advanced and integrated campuses. CAUSE, the leading association for information technology professionals, awarded the College an Excellence in Campus Networking Award. Holy Cross has in place a mature information technology apparatus capable of supporting the present study guide and future initiatives.

Dissemination And Future Goals

Project participants have chosen to put the Measure for Measure study guide and the Virtual Globe Theatre on the World Wide Web in order to ensure that it is available to the widest possible audience. The site is currently disseminated through established Shakespeare links on the Web, and, at an appropriate juncture, notice will be sent to major Shakespearean journals such as the Shakespeare Quarterly and the Shakespeare Bulletin.

We believe dissemination via the Web is far more effective--from both a pedagogical and financial perspective--then using CD-ROM technology. Other similar programs now available on CD-ROM--such as the study guides offered by the Interactive Shakespeare Library --marketed by Film For the Humanities and Sciences--cost up to 149 dollars per copy. Commercial CD-ROM programs offer minimal benefit to schools with ever-tightening budgetary restraints. In addition, there are practical issues that limit the pedagogical effectiveness of even the best CD-ROM. For example, how many copies of a CD-ROM can a school afford? How are limited copies to be distributed and managed? Will students need to use the program in groups or will time slots have to be assigned? Most important, CD-ROM educational tools lack the versatility and fluidity of the internet. The Interactive Shakespeare Project can be updated, edited or expanded with a few keystrokes whereas a CD-ROM version would have to be re-cut and re-distributed multiple times. And finally, but of paramount importance, the net allows linkage, interaction and partnership with other pertinent sites.

Much has been written about the wiring of the American classroom, but little attention has been paid to the content being created for this new resource. The Web, however, is only useful in the classroom if the students can access material that is both compelling and educational. There are many worthy and groundbreaking Shakespearean sites on the Web. The M.I.T. Shakespeare site [], the University of Victoria's Shakespeare Editions [web.UVic.CA/shakespeare/index.html] and Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet [] offer a wealth of resources. These sites, however are not comparable in form or content to this initiative. The Interactive Shakespeare Project--created by twenty college and university educators actively teaching Shakespeare--offers students the first self-contained, technologically advanced and pedagogically effective study guide that can be accessed--without charge--in any classroom connected to a high-speed line.


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