The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing


In trying to make some final connections between my own research on Graphic Novels, increased literacy and multimodal texts, I read a few of the projects that seemed most relevant to me.  What follows are my thoughts. (Just pretend the italicized words are my thought bubbles.)

I just want to remind myself to consult Drew Murphy’s Wiki on using Digital storytelling for the reluctant reader.  It might be an interesting contrast to what I did for my project.

I turned out his project was more about engaging students in storytelling using digital media, rather than getting them to read more.  I think that would be an excellent next step to promoting reading with graphic novels and other types of visual media.  As I thought when I read the title, this is an excellent example of a further remediation of text.  As Bolter describes it, one technology building on the other.  In the same way, the skills learned using multimodal texts allow the reader to progress onto the next, more sophisticated media.  The use of digital texts also allows even more input and creativity from the writer (consumer as producer).

This quote from Noah Burdett: “With the need for speed a literate person needs to be able to think critically about the material in terms of its relevance and its authority.”  NoahBurdett_ETEC540_majorproject

“To become multiliterate “What is also required is the mastery of traditional skills and techniques, genres and texts, and their applications through new media and new technologies” (Queensland, 2004). “from Learning Multiliteracies by Carmen Chan

Philip Salembier discussed the New Literacy and Multiliteracies in From one literacy, to many, to one.

He really explains how we have to be prepared as teachers and parents to understand that literacy means more than reading and writing and that digital literacy is not just understanding how to navigate the internet.  All of these are aspects of the new literacy, along with social networking skills.

Fun interactive story by Ryan Bartlett.  Might use this style to get the seniors to do a research project on Social Injustice.

Finally, just because this one blew me away! From Tracy Gidinski I hope I can use this style at some point either with my Marketing or International Business class or perhaps even a simpler storyline for an FSL course.

December 2, 2009   No Comments

Final Project – Graphic Novels, Improving Literacy

Before I started this course, I had noticed the increased availability of graphic novels in our school library.  My teenage son is a fan, preferring Manga to the North American style comic books.  When our school recently began school-wide silent reading to promote literacy, student interest in and requests for graphic novels increased further.  There seemed a clear link between this form of literature and the need to improve  literacy rates as part of our province’s Student Success initiatives.

In the past weeks, I researched the topic of graphic novels to find the link between improved literacy and an alternate form of literature.  This website is meant to be an informative document.  My hope is to link it to the school website for parents to find documented answers to their questions about how to get reluctant readers engaged in regular reading.

A website is unlike a traditional essay in that I found it difficult to conclude the document.  You will find both internal and external links.  Typical of websites, the readers can choose the path to follow – it was never meant to be linear.  Ultimately, I hope this site encourages readers to continue their own journey in learning about graphic novels.

November 28, 2009   1 Comment


I am attending an IT conference put on by my school board today.  So far, 2 of 3 sessions have been useful.  One session, however, was disappointing in that it was not what we’d hoped to learn about.  The general gist of the presentation was about students being involved in creating their own assessment.

I am sitting here reflecting on what exactly I am learning in the current session, realizing that we are all on a learning journey.  As adults in this professional learning workshop, we’ve been able to choose what to explore.  So we hope to maximize our learning as a result of choosing sessions that are part of our learning path.

When relating that to students choosing their own assessment or being involved in it at least, I wonder if that’s possible because they don’t have the ability to choose their learning path as we do.  They might choose certain elective courses and even what stream they want to follow, but those are so limited.

When you consider that most digital natives are used to choosing their information path because of the nature of the internet (hypertext links and all) and the speed at which they access all the information they need/want, is it any wonder they can’t sit still without being connected to some electronic device or feel they can decide the outcome of everything they put effort into?  I think it explains why my students seem to think they can negotiate every assignment I give them.

November 22, 2009   2 Comments

Pictures of the real city of Troy

When I saw Barb Fraser’s commentary on Heroes and accompanying picture of the Trojan horse, I was reminded of my trip to Turkey last spring where the ancient city of Troy was actually located.  Here are  2 pictures of the ancient city of Troy near Cenakale, Turkey.

Well, this is not the original, but it does stand at the gates of the Ancient City of Troy.

Well, this is not the original, but it does stand at the gates of the Ancient City of Troy.

This is what's left of Troy now.  There are 9 layers that they could identify.  I think the Homeric Troy was layer 5 or 6.  From the top of some of the ruins, you could see a hill where Achilles would have been buried, and another nearby, where Paris would now lie.

This is what's left of Troy now. There are 9 layers that they could identify. I think the Homeric Troy was layer 5 or 6. From the top of some of the ruins, you could see a hill where Achilles would have been buried, and another nearby, where Paris would now lie.

November 17, 2009   1 Comment

RipMixFeed – my blog

Please visit my blog when you get a chance.  I started it around the same time I started this course and the MET program.  It’s been my place to experiment with different software and understand the world of blogging. I don’t blog frequently enough but that may change over time.  What I particularly like is having links to other blogs or sites that are important to me.

I guess what I find hardest about blogging is trying to keep a balance between my private and professional self.  I want to give my colleagues a glimpse of my interests and skills but I don’t want to share myself with the world.  Hopefully you will discover me a little bit at

November 11, 2009   2 Comments

Literacy initiative

Hi all.  I thought I’d create a wiki where people could add reviews about their favourite reads, either books, magazine, graphic novels, maybe even web articles.  I am pretty open.

I am hoping to get this wiki operational so that I can use it in school next year as part of a reading club for grades 7-12.

Have a look and add a contribution if you like.

Rocking Reads

If you like to read in French, there is this site as well Juste pour lire.

November 7, 2009   No Comments

Pioneer of the Visual

I do admit, I love Steven Jobs!  Here is a clip about a new book on his presentation secrets.  Note that he is called a master storyteller (back to our oral roots?) and that he uses visuals (slides) to create maximum impact (the breakout of the visual?).  This seems like a perfect example of multimodal communication where our use of visuals is allowing us to return to orality.

Secrets of Steven Jobs

It’s a shame the book does not actually include interviews with Steve Jobs.  (I wonder if the book is available in an electronic format?) 🙂



November 5, 2009   No Comments

From Handwriting to Typing

Please visit this link From Handwriting to Typing to view the research project by Catherine Gagnon and Tracy Gidinski.

October 31, 2009   No Comments

Does the Brain Like E-Books?

Does the Brain Like E-Books?

This group of articles was brought to my attention.  Five authors discuss their research on ebooks and the future of literacy.  I am hoping to find some answers to many questions raised in our current reading.

I hope you find it thought provoking and look forward to continuing the discussion on this topic.

October 17, 2009   No Comments

Refuting the theory of the Great Divide

The theory of the Great Divide advanced by many cultural evolutionists would have us view world history as being the evolution of a primitive society to one where literacy is its hallmark.  Primitive societies, with their rich oral traditions, their prodigious memorization skills, their ability to keep large audiences rapt during discourses and storytelling are contrasted with literate societies whose characteristics include the ability to free up the mind spaces for exploratory thinking, the necessity of record-keeping to preserve details of times gone by and the ‘decontextualizing’ ( Peter Denny, 1991) of words to the extent that reference books are required to interpret the author’s meaning.

Oral societies are deemed to be pre-literate, lacking the ability for logical or rational thinking, humanized and immediate. (Ong, chapter 3)  In contrast, literates are isolated, often abstract, can manipulate data beyond the boundaries of context and are finally freed of the need to store historical or practical knowledge.  In so many of the descriptions, oral societies are thought to be less capable, perhaps even less able than literate societies who are seen to be generally superior.

Ong advances that both societies are not only different in their presentation of world knowledge but that the thinking process is actually altered as one moves away from Orality. “Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing but normally even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form.” (Ong, p. 78)

This polarized view of  cultural evolution is flawed for many reasons. Chandler remarks that a more moderate view of the world is more accurate. (Chandler, p. 5) There is no evidence to suggest that primitives are less capable of logical or rational thought.  “Those in non-literate societies do not necessarily think in fundamentally different ways from those in literate societies… Although one commentator, Peter Denny, argues that ‘decontextualization’ seems to be a distinctive feature of thinking in Western literate societies, he nevertheless insists that all human beings are capable of rationality, logic, generalization, abstraction, theorizing, intentionality, causal thinking, classification, explanation and originality (Olson & Torrence 1991, p.81) All of these qualities can be found in oral as well as literate cultures.” (Chandler, p. 4)

A more precise view would be to admit that most societies are operating in a mixed mode.  Michael Clanchy uses the term “the growth of a literate mentality.  “He…argues that the shift [from memory to written record] was facilitated by the continuing ‘mix’ of oral and literate modes and that written forms were adapted to oral practice rather than radically changing it.” (Clanchy, 1979)

“The reality of social uses of varying modes of communication is that oral and literate modes are ‘mixed’ in each society. There is nothing absolute about a shift to a greater use of literate modes, which is better described as a change in the ‘mix’.  Oral conventions often continue to apply to literate forms and literate conventions may be applied to oral forms.” (Olson & Hildyard 1978 cited in Street 1984, p. 19)

Furthermore, it is difficult to reconcile Ong’s view of primitive societies when approached from a practical sense.  All societies, no matter how self-sufficient, must have the ability to register trade, administrative functions and perhaps legal data.  This quantitative data requires some recording process that is more permanent than an accounting of family histories or heroic exploits; a method that is not be dictated by the need to please the audience. (Ong p. 67)  It requires a practice that has more permanence than the spoken word, than sound itself. (Ong, p. 32)

Brian Street writes that even in oral societies, there is a component of literacy that is present.  He describes two kinds of literacies.  The use of record keeping for  commercial events, such as transactions, and all sort of bureaucratic events is called ‘Commercial literacy’. (Street, p. 157)  The ‘maktab’ literacy, the one taught in schools, is more representative of the arts, humanities and literature we would expect.  The first literacy is meant to support the social structure, the other as a way of distinguishing social classes. (Street p. 13)

So why then does the use of text seem the indicator of a higher civilization?  First, let us define text.  “Texts are material artifacts that take many different forms: cave paintings, tattoos, stone tablets, clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, manuscript books, musical scores, maps, printed books, engravings, newspapers, photographs, films, DVDs, computers. Every kind of text is produced by a special technology, but all those technologies share a simple purpose: they were designed to supplement the fragile human mind by providing a more durable artificial memory system. Those technologically preserved and transmitted memories are the foundation of all human culture.” (Pathways)

Ong uses Homer’s writings as evidence of a clear distinction between oral and literate thinking.  And indeed, Greek civilization is thought to have been one of the most advanced of its time.  But it is not the ability to suddenly free up their cluttered memory and launch into unprecedented creative and rhetorical thought that makes their society so exceptional.  Nor does it make them the prime example of shifting from oral to literate thinking.  The basis of their sudden evolution from Orality to Literacy lies in their reinterpretation of the Phoenician writing.

“The changes introduced into the Phoenician script by the ancient Greeks should not be regarded as ‘improvements’, but as a revolution that forever altered the Greek society and the human history by creating a new state of mind, the ‘alphabetic mind’.” (Havelock, 1982a, p.7 cited in  Jahandaríe, p. 12)

The Greeks created  syllabries, comprised of the actual sounds of human speech. (Jahandaríe, p. 12) “The new script also democratized literacy.” (Jahandaríe, p. 12) The simplicity and ease of use of this new alphabet meant that priests and scribes were no longer the only ones able to utilize this technology. And thus, Greek and Roman civilizations became the first on earth “to be equipped with the means of adequate expression in the inscribed word; the first to be able to place the inscribed word in general circulation; the first, in short, to become literate in the full meaning of that term, and to transmit its literacy to us.” (Havelock, 1976, p. 2)

This does not mean that the characteristics of their mind were altered but that they finally had a method to record, in a permanent and accurate fashion, the intricacies of human thought and the nuances that make up all cultures.  And so, the newly literate were to become a society of  “Conservators of knowledge”. (Jahandaríe, p. 13) Their alphabet, which allowed a faithful reproduction of the range of sounds and “the preservation of the subtlest of linguistic nuances” (Jahandaríe, p.14) provided the means of converting heretofore oral poetry into historical records.  It is interesting to note that other societies may have had as sophisticated and advanced a culture as the Greeks and Romans, but their permanent records, by virtue of the shortcomings of their own alphabets, lacked the sufficient details to document its glory.

As an illustration, Havelock argues that “the Old Testament, the Vedas, the Koran, and the Epic of Gilgamesh are less sophisticated in both language and content than the Homeric texts not because they are the products of simpler minds, but because they were inscribed in scripts that…[could not convey] the full richness of the original oral tradition.” (Jahandaríe, p. 15)

Ong’s illustration of the Oral mind as contrasted to the Literate mind is enlightening as an illustration of how cultural evolution is affected by technology.  And indeed, the invention of the Greek alphabet may have been one of man’s most significant innovations.  But it seems unlikely that any civilization could be so primitive as to not require some form of recording device beyond oral tradition.    I cannot conceive of a time when there is a clear line between Orality and Literacy.


Chandler, Daniel (1994): ‘Biases of the Ear and Eye: “Great Divide” Theories, Phonocentrism, Graphocentrism & Logocentrism’ [WWW document] URL [28 Sep. 2009]

Goody, Jack (Ed.) (1968): Literacy in Traditional Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Jahandaríe, Khosrow. “Spoken and written discourse: a Multi-Disciplinary Perspective – Google Books.” Google Books. 3 Oct. 2009 <>.

Olson, David R & Nancy Torrance (Eds.) (1991): Literacy and Orality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Ong, Walter (1982): Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen

“Pathways of Excellence.” Pathways of Excellence. 1 Oct. 2009 <>.

Street, Brian. Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 1984.

October 3, 2009   1 Comment

Technology workshops for teachers – article

I found this article on Edutopia about professional development conducted in a US school district.  I thought it might be of interest to those of you who are teaching and for all of us really as we may be the ones who are called upon to train our colleagues within our schools or school boards.  It’s a challenge I willingly accept.

October 1, 2009   No Comments

Assessment and blogs

The thought came to me last night that if I were to use a blog in my class, similar to this one, how would I go about assessing the work my students contributed?  I’ve used a wiki and found the rubric I had created for the assignment was easily transferrable.  Are there any thoughts on that?  Anyone use blogs in the high school classroom yet?

September 16, 2009   4 Comments

Using the blogs

I’d like to comment on my experiences with using this blog so far.  I’ve never worked in this medium until this week but can certainly compare it to a wiki, which I’ve been using in my class as well as to collaborate on course design.

First of all, I’ve enjoyed being able to read other posts.  I could (and did) spend hours reading posts, discussion topics and generally playing with the buttons to familiarize myself with this environment.  I told some of my coworkers earlier last week that I would just come home, turn on the laptop and the next thing I know I am in a world that exists only inside this window.  And then I start to open more and more windows as I read, respond, research… well, I wouldn’t leave this spot until it was time for bed.  And still, the ideas would dance in my mind to the point of keeping me awake long past my bedtime.

The ideas came from all the wonderful posts I read and wanted to add to.  I’ve taken online courses before where the amount of research required kept us from reading other posts and perhaps saving some of the valuable resources other students might have discovered.  In other words, time constraints kept us from benefiting from each others’ research.

I think the pace so far has allowed me to read and reflect.  I am also enjoying the way I can work in a non-linear fashion.  I can spend time reading blogs or posts on the discussion boards or following up on links that have been provided by other students.  Or, I can be anti-social and go read my textbook.

It’s the social aspect of this medium that makes it so delightful and compelling.  And thank goodness I don’t have to put on my boots come winter to go off to a campus.

On the downside, I have struggled with figuring out how to post to a certain page and have feared publishing a post and finding I did it all wrong only to not be able to delete it (ungrounded fears).  I created my own blog last week for a space to experiment.  That way I wouldn’t feel foolish if I made a mistake.

And I will let you in on a secret.  One of the other students and I regularly talk on the phone or chat when we are unsure on how to proceed.  But that is quickly turning into discussions on what we might research for our Module 4 project.

As for comparisons to a wiki, I think the wiki might be simpler to understand and set up.  As such, it might be more suitable for my high school classes.  When I tried the experiment last year with my grade 12s as an alternative to a group project and presentation, there was a lot of trepidation.  I liked the wiki because it allowed me to see exactly who took part in the group work and when and how often they worked.  I am not sure how that would work in a blog.

I will continue to investigate this blogging business and hopefully, I’ll be able to use this technology as comfortably as I have used Blackboard for online courses or wikis for class projects.  For now, I just hope this publishes to the right page.

September 15, 2009   2 Comments

Technology – tool or lifestyle choice?

Technology is an indicator of intellectual progress.  When I think of technology, I picture grinding gears, the industrial revolution.  It never occurred to me before I read O’Donnell, that the simple invention of writing, the simplest of technologies,  was to cause an irreversible change in the history of our civilization.

I have used technology to make my classes more lively and relevant.  I’ve used it to teach useful work skills to my students.  But I have never, until now, considered the far reaching effects of technology.  It seems that whatever it touches cannot remain unchanged.

Our society pursues all things technological.  We’ve been convinced that our life cannot be fulfilled without increasingly sophisticated electronic objects.  Cell phones for children, Baby Einstein movies for mental stimulation of infants; the language of technology is so pervasive that we are being told to “upgrade” our lives.  Visit the following link to view’s take on this:

Next birthday, when I am asked how old I am, I’ll answer “I’m a version 5.2”.

September 14, 2009   No Comments

From text to technology


As I looked up the word “text”, I started to see the link from one term to another.  It seemed natural to display my findings in this fashion.  The yellow bubbles are my own thought processes.  Once this organizer was complete, I felt the title could be “from text to technology”.

September 13, 2009   3 Comments

the power of a simple word

YES, originally uploaded by jeremyhead.

It is said that when John Lennon visited Yoko Ono’s art exhibit, he climbed a ladder to see a single word on a paper attached to the ceiling. That word was…Yes. He was so impressed with an artist who would have such positive thoughts that he decided to meet Yoko, and then, well the rest is history. All words have magical powers. The power to inspire, the power to intimidate, the power to woo or soothe…And words take on different powers depending on how they are spoken or how they appear in print. And most importantly, it is the knowledge of words that gives us such power over circumstances and surroundings. Empower yourself! Learn a new word today!

I am a Business/Computer teacher in Ontario. Literacy is of interest to me in that it is a necessary component of student success. Equally important is that my own son was touched by the power and magic of learning to read. It opened the door to a whole world that would have remained silent to him and allowed him to share his sometimes chaotic, sometimes frightening thoughts.

Catherine Gagnon – Orleans, ON

September 8, 2009   2 Comments