The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Order Amidst Disorder: How will our children find their way?

Order amidst Disorder: How will our children find their way?

Commentary #3      Delphine Williams Young

ETEC 540                University of British Columbia

November 29, 2009

        “Technological devices and systems shape our culture and the environment, alter patterns of human activity, and influence who we are and how we live. In short, we make and use a lot of stuff-and stuff matters” (Kaplan, 2004, p. xiii).There is no doubt that the evolution of various types of technologies throughout the ages have always impacted the socialization of each generation of children. Whilst Plato cautioned about the technology of writing possessing the potential to weaken the intellectual processes used prior to its emergence, it is obvious based on the variety and abundance of technologies existing in present day society we have much more to be concerned about.

 Walter Ong (1982) suggests that the technology of writing has transformed our consciousness as humans in a way that we will never be able to recapture it. Postman (1992), likewise, bemoans the difficulties children would have organizing their thoughts due to the impact of television and computer based media. The New London Group though basically in support of the positive impact the accessibility to such a wide variety could have on education, also identifies that “[a]s lifeworlds become more divergent and their boundaries more blurred, the central fact of language becomes the multiplicity of meanings and their continual intersection” (The New London Group, 1996, p. 10). Grunwald Associates conducted a research in 2003 which revealed that two million American children had their own websites. Alexander (2006), (2008) describes an even more rapid increase in writing technologies that are affordable and readily available. With such a body of information and new ways of presenting information, where is the teacher in all of this? How does she/he face the reality that confronts her with students who are already podcasting and blogging?

Brian Lamb (2007) makes the suggestion that all we need to do is to keep abreast of the new technologies emerging and use them in the classroom rather than be overly concerned about them. But we have to be concerned somewhat. If students are to be fully digitally literate, they will have to be literate in the original sense (that is to be able to read and write) then be trained to use the technology available. However, even as we attempt to do this we will find and that there are some children who will find it difficult turn back the clock to learn foundational concepts like memorizing timetables and spelling words, having been exposed to technology which gives them the answer immediately at the click of a mouse.

 So while technology has diversified and transformed educational practices, Len Unsworth ( 2006) concedes that for teaching to be effective there will have to be more sophisticated planning and preparation to “scaffold” properly do that students with high interest needs.  Researchers: Miller and Almon (2003) in the U.S.A., Fuchs and Al (2005) in Germany, and Eshet and Hamburger (2005) in Israel have all confirmed that technological mastery has nothing to do with deep thorough thinking.  Deep thorough thinking can be accomplished through technology but this technology has to be used effectively. With every new technology that has emerged there are complaints that the earlier one had more authenticity than the newer one.

Whilst the Web 2.0 is a manifestation of where we wish to be technologically, it has to be approached with caution or we could create a generation that later on would be writing doctoral theses about getting back to the foundation of these technologies. The teacher should assess the writing spaces before sending the children to the wiki or website because the “public, community and economic life” (The New London Group, p.1) that he or she wants the children to be exposed to might not be as authentic as desired.

Despite the challenges of having a multiplicity of literacy tools and information; there are children who have been developing gradually and do not seem to have problems as others sifting through the matrix. Andrea Lunsford (2009) in a recent report on a study she carried out discovered that many students, that despite the criticisms being leveled at today’s digitally literate, write more and with richness and complexity than their counterparts in the 1980’s.  She suggests that the social networking that they always involve writing and thus implying that writing is becoming a habit among them. But we still have to look seriously at the upcoming generation of digital natives who are  Internet surfing as much as sixteen hours per week from as young as age six.  Will these youngsters be able to sift all the material that they interface with? Thus, I end with a call that as educators, we become intimately involved so that we will be able to pass on the basics which will assist the young in understanding the quality of work and critical thinking that we want them to cultivate. The Web 2.0 will not have the positive impact we want to see, according to Bryan Alexander (2008), unless educators “… revamp and extend their prior skills new literacies requisite of a Web 2.0 world.”



Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and Emergent Multiliteracies. Theory into Practice , 150-160.

Aphek, E. (n.d.). Digital, Highly Connected Children: Implications for Education. Retrieved November 25, 2009, from :…aphek/digital-literacy

Bolter, D. J. (2001). Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Group, T. N. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Harvard Educational Review , 60-92.

Ong, W. (1982,2002). Orality and Literacy. London and New York: Routledge.

1 comment

1 Clare Roche { 11.30.09 at 7:13 pm }

I think you make some very valid points that we as educators cannot ignore.

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