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Teachers College, Columbia University
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The Teachers College Record Takes on Cyberspace

The Teachers College Record (TCR), the respected 100-year-old journal of research, analysis, and commentary in the field of education, is breaking new ground in cyberspace publishing.

After what Gary Natriello, Professor of Education and editor of the journal, calls "a good deal of consultation and exploration," he and the editorial board of TCR made the decision to begin publishing original material online in the fall of 1999.

As Natriello writes in his introduction to the Fall 1999 TCR issue, "Our approach to electronic publishing at TCR is designed to take advantage of our current position as the publisher of a well regarded print journal. Accordingly, we will not seek to duplicate the services provided to authors and readers by the print journal. Instead, we will develop our online publishing efforts as a compliment to our print journal. It's a new way to communicate scholarly work."

The TCR editor expanded on this concept in an interview with our editor. According to Natriello, online TCR is not going to replace the print journal. In fact, the print journal will grow while the online version will use the power of the Web to take on a new direction. He likes to think of the online TCR as a new way to communicate scholarly work. "What that means is that unlike a lot of other publishers who are trying to do journals online, we're really trying to do something very different. As a result, we can take all kinds of latitude in the way we present material that other publishers don't feel comfortable taking or at least haven't thought of taking yet."

The latitude Natriello speaks of includes new possibilities for communicating the results of scholarly work. "It allows us to do things that we think are going to be more timely. So, for example, we can publish something that is submitted this week. We can publish it next week. We can publish, and have been publishing for the last month, new content, whereas in print we publish four times a year. We can have material reviewed online. We can also have authors submit material online, " he said.

Natriello sees the entire online process as "different." It is faster and more responsive to the needs of contemporary scholarship and practice. He wants the readership to get into the habit of reading the online journal as if it were reading a popular magazine.

"We're trying to really appeal," Natriello said, "to what we think are evolving reading habits. Instead of 30-page journal articles, we're suggesting that people think about two or three page reports, that those reports come early on in their work, and that some of them perhaps even come during the time they're doing their studies."

"In the online journal," he said, "not only can I put together material that's come in the last year, but we can put together material that's come in over the last hundred years. We can show where a line of inquiry has developed, where it's been, where it was in the early part of the century right up to something that came in last week. Those are just things that we could not do with the print journal."

Michael Rennick, a doctoral student in the Philosophy and Education program, who has been with the Record for the last year, is its Assistant Editor and Manager of Publishing Technology and is responsible for the programming, graphic and interface design, and the database servers for the site.

Speaking about the features of the site, Rennick points to its dynamic nature. Every Wednesday the site is rebuilt with a new look and new content." Essentially what that means," Rennick said, "is we've put content into a database so that the site could have the ability to do certain things that straight HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) pages can't do. For instance, we can show you five or six or seven related articles from the TCR collection. We can let you see the article in one format, maybe with some graphics, and then click on a button and have it in a printer-ready version of that same article."

Rennick added, "We want to construct an experience in such a way that you're not just given a bunch of links and told go find out for yourself. Rather when you come to TCR, you're presented with, for instance, a focus section on standards. We might show you an article that was published in TCR. There might be a related list of articles from the past 100 years in TCR. We might also show you 10 to 15 articles that are published elsewhere on the Web. What you get is an experience of content from both TCR and the Web, but it's organized in such a way that it facilitates research."

Speaking of the competition, Natriello feels that other publishers of scholarly journals are looking at TCR online very "closely." He said, "As far as I can tell, no one else is doing anything quite like what we're doing. If you look at the competition, most of what's going on is the traditional journals are trying to put their traditional journal online, and the brand new journals that are only electronic are trying to look like traditional journals so that they can be accepted."

An important conceptual approach of TCR online, as Natriello sees it, is the notion of TCR as a clearing house, a portal, a content collector. "We think," he said, "that by working with other journals as a collective publishing enterprise that, in fact, we'll make educational research more appealing and more lively and provide a way for educational researchers to be more efficient about all kinds of things that they're doing."

Natriello is not necessarily looking to compete with the other journals, but wants to work with them. He wants to feature their content. "Essentially, we would like to be the place that you come to understand education scholarship in general. In fact, every week on our new front page we feature a new journal that we've added to our journal directory."

Natriello also spoke of TCR online's "interactivity." He said, "Part of putting you in touch with the field is putting you in touch with what other journals and scholars are doing. The whole point of this interactivity is to let the full readership of the journal in on conversations. It has a democratizing effect of taking leaders of the field, making their conversation public in a journal forum and then letting everyone in the field, including the beginning undergraduate with an interest in education, getting them right up close to that very sophisticated conversation the top scholars are having. That's really something we can't do in the print journal."

Natriello and Rennick realize that they are moving in unchartered territory, especially in the field of online sites in education. Nevertheless, they are confident that they are moving in the direction that is the future. And they want TCR online to take the lead.

For more information about the content, resources, and authors featured on TCR online, please refer to its URL: www.tcrecord.org.

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