SOCORRO, N.M., July 8, 1999 -- Lawrence J. Clark may not be the first New Mexico Tech English professor who's arrived at the university with a penchant for picking out tunes on a six-string acoustic guitar, but he's certain to become the first who'll include digital recordings of his original songs and musical stylings in on-line, multi-media classroom presentations.
Clark, who recently was appointed to the full-time, tenure-track position of assistant professor of English at Tech, is an avid proponent of using all the new high-tech tools of "The Information Age" to stimulate learning in his students . . . and, he also happens to be an accomplished musician and songwriter.
"People tend to learn better if they have different types of stimuli," Clark maintains, "and research shows that the knowledge they acquire through multi-media seems to stay with them longer."
This summer, Clark is "easing [his] way into the system," he says, by teaching two sessions of a technical writing course which is offered through New Mexico Tech's technical communication (TC) program.
"I've adopted an atypical approach to teaching," he says. "All the work being done in my classes this summer is on-line."
On the second day of classes, Clark asked his students to create their own homepages with graphics and links to web sites that interest them. Students are then required to submit their classroom assignments via links on their homepages and to create online versions of documents, such as instruction manuals, so they can be read both in a printed version and on the computers.
"Through this type of practical experience, they'll learn how to do linking," Clark points out. "They'll also do a lot of their research for the class on-line.
"The Web has a lot of interesting information," Clark adds, "although some of it is quite erroneous, so the students also spend time learning to evaluate the quality of information found on various web sites."
Most of Clark's recent research focuses on writing for computers, the Internet, and other electronic environments.
"In this new research field, half of my job is keeping up with all the changes which are continually occurring," he says.
Clark's doctoral dissertation at Texas A&M University, "(Re)entering Academic Discourse Communities: A Case of Computer Mediation in Teaching Writing and Literature," was completed under the direction of Professor M. Jimmie Killingsworth, a former New Mexico Tech professor who was instrumental in starting Tech's TC program in the late 1970s.
(As a Tech English professor, Killingsworth also was known to bring along his guitar and mandolin to Tech classrooms and pick a few tunes to further liven up his lectures. . . . He may have been the first.)
Clark, a poet, playwright, and novelist whose works have been published in various print and Internet venues, currently is working on an entirely new genre--hypertext fiction--which he calls "the newest avenue for creative expression."
Through a multi-media, hypertext-linked novel "published" on a computer screen instead of a book, readers can add their own customized elements to the story line as they scroll through the novel, ever changing the story's plot and outcome with their own personal twists and turns.
"Depending on what you decide to click on, you might experience a totally different plot line or ending to a story," Clark explains.
Some of the click-on variables Clark regularly includes in his own hypertext novels and poems are links to his original songs which relate back to characters or situations the reader previously encountered along the storylines.
"My songs are always about people," he says, "so writing them is kind of like writing a novel you can read or listen to in about three minutes."
Clark's talents as a songwriter and musician soon will be showcased on another venue in the form of compact disc which will be available for distribution and sale sometime this coming fall.
Clark also uses some of his songs in his classes to show students the similarities and differences between poetry and song lyrics.
"A lot of university students don't read poetry because they don't understand it," he observes, "but almost all of them listen to music."
Clark says he plans to draw on his experiences and expertise in teaching writing with computers to help improve New Mexico Tech's technical communication program.
"We already have a good quality program established here at Tech, and I'm really looking forward to helping the TC program grow, especially by adding innovations to teaching and learning," he says. "And that, in turn, will help both students and faculty to live more productively in the Information Age."
In addition to recently receiving his doctorate in English from Texas A&M University, Clark also has earned a master of arts degree in English from the University of Texas-Pan American and a bachelor of arts degree in communications from William Carey College.