The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

The Holocaust and Points of View

My Project

I chose to take the following photograph as a start to a project for students, as a way to teach aspects of point of view, short story reading and writing, social responsibility, and social studies content:

Classroom Humiliation

Classroom Humiliation

I wrote three short stories, all using different points of view, as models for students, and created a writing assignment for them.  I used tips from the Bolter text to create a site that I, tomorrow, will have the students start working on.  (I find my best learning – and best retention – happens when I use a practical application of materials!)  The following is the project information included on my website; here is the site itself.


This project has been prepared for a grade 6/7 class that has already been studying background information on the Holocaust, and that has already been taking on the persona of a variety of different people connected to the Holocaust in numerous paper journal entries (e.g., Hitler, a Jewish person being moved into the ghetto, a member of the Hitler Youth).

I received electronic permission from the Yad Vashem website ( in order to use the photo, and although their website says the picture is from Germany, other websites that used the same photo referred to it as being from Vienna, Austria, so I took the artistic liberty of calling the location Vienna.

Materials Used

By using photoshop’s slice function, I was able to make the large picture clickable in a variety of locations.   I used my previously established Mambo website for the majority of the project, but used an SMF bulletin board for homework and Classblogmeister for student blogs.  (Student responses may not be up at this time; they will be doing this assignment shortly.)


I chose to use this particular photograph as a starting point as it allows for students to connect with people from the past who were roughly their own age.  Earlier in the year, my students had reacted quite strongly to this image, in disbelief that a teacher would post such a message and humiliate students.  This photograph also allowed for an explanation of several different points of view, the star conveniently representing the omniscient, or all-seeing point of view, thus creating a multidisciplinary assignment that addresses learning outcomes for Language Arts (both Reading and Writing), Social Studies, and Health and Career Education.

I included hypertext in the short stories to reinforce information that students have already learned, or to introduce new information that will help in their understanding of the stories, thereby extending the ability of print to improve understanding. (Bolter)  These hypertexts open in new windows, to prevent students from “losing” the original stories through a series of mouse clicks, yet allowing for further research as the students wish.

As my students have already been establishing their own educational blogs, I chose to have students post two different assignments related to this activity on their blogs: the first asks them to reflect on point of view, the hyperlinks, and content, whereas the second requires students to show their understanding of both point of view and Holocaust content by writing a story that connects with the sample stories, that is written in one consistent point of view.  This isn’t necessarily interactive fiction in the way Bolter describes, yet for younger students, it is a manageable start.  Students will have opportunities to read and comment on other people’s stories as they complete their activities.

Their marking rubric for this last assignment is included in our class homework electronic bulletin board.  This lets both students and parents to know the criteria for assignments.

By using a variety of different electronic platforms that all link together, students not only develop knowledge and skills in academic subject areas, but also improve their technology knowledge and skills.  The use of blogs for their final drafts of their short stories also gives further incentive to producing good quality work, as their audience is not just the teacher, but the world.  This alone “remediates print.”

Works Cited

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Yad Vashem Shoah Resource Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2009, from Yad Vashem – The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority:

November 29, 2009   3 Comments

Commentary 1: On Virtual Libraries

shelf browse

shelf browse

I was quietly amused upon discovering the “visual shelf” in the Library Catalogue section of my new school’s website, especially as this coincided with the readings on virtual libraries.  Aside from looking up books using a standard search of title, author, or topic, students and staff can browse the shelves either from the computer or the comfort of their own home, by simply sliding a box along the image of a shelf of books.  However, is this a virtual library by any means?  It may be designed to appeal to the computer-savvy nature of today’s child, yet the child still needs to move out of the virtual shelf into the actual school library in order to find the information they seek.

A simple definition for a virtual library is “the worldwide collection of online books, journals and articles available on the Internet.” (PCMAG)  O’Donnell’s definition is that it is a “vast, ideally universal collection of information and instantaneous access to that information wherever it physically resides.” (O’Donnell)   A more complex interpretation, quoted from Kaye Gapen, states that a virtual library is:

the concept of remote access to the contents and services of libraries and other information resources, combining an on-site collection of current and heavily used materials in both print and electronic form, with an electronic network which provides access to, and delivery from, external worldwide library and commercial information and knowledge sources. (Martell)

The simple definition, that of the collection of materials found on the Internet, is exactly that: too simplified.  Yet when one uses a search engine on “virtual libraries,” one finds a barrage of results that use this definition of a virtual library, most of them categorized by subject matter or educational institution.  The site that claims to be the “WWW Virtual Library” is simply a series of tiered, nested categories that eventually result in several collections of links. (WWWVL)  This example is in no way universal in its scope, as it is monitored by a small group of people who determine what should be included and what should not; nor does it even meet the simple definition of being the collection of materials found on the internet.

If a library is to be deemed a virtual library according to O’Donnell, then it should be ideally universal, vast, and accessible instantaneously.  O’Donnell himself recognizes that this is a fantasy that has roots at least as far back as “of the first major Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, the so-called Septuagint.” (O’Donnell)  He goes further to state that the dream of the virtual library has not changed since this time, only that the “technical possibilities” have.  (O’Donnell)  However, such a library would be impossible to come to full fruition, because of the fact that, as technologies “advance,” the library itself would become obsolete, and a new creation would need to be included.  In addition, O’Donnell addresses the problem of the “ever-accumulating geometrically expanding heaps” of information that would accrue if this virtual library included a historical collection of everything from the past along with the current and future knowledge base.  (O’Donnell)

Gapen’s definition seems a little more realistic and a little more usable in today’s world.  Unlike O’Donnell, her definition allows for a sifting mechanism of sorts in that her virtual library is limited to “current and heavily used materials.” (Martell)  However, who determines what materials will be heavily used?  In other words, who determines what will be in this virtual library?  Gapen herself describes the virtual library as a “library metaphor for a societal control revolution,” (Martell) implying that some group somewhere is imposing their beliefs on the library consumers.

Needless to say, the meaning of the word virtual itself implies that a virtual library does not physically exist; it just appears to exist.  This is a paradox in itself, though; does that mean that the knowledge we gain from a virtual library is not actually knowledge – it just appears to be knowledge?  Perhaps the term virtual in the realm of academic information in a world of electronic technology needs to be challenged, as the answer to that question is most obviously “No.”

The current state of the Internet exacerbates the problems both O’Donnell’s and Gapen’s definitions of the virtual library in the sense that there is an overabundance of information and, as yet, no effective way of accessing  accurate information quickly and efficiently.  It is by far much easier and faster to find information than by the previous methods of the past, yet it is still far from perfect, and as O’Donnell suggests, once we get close to the ideal virtual library, new technology will be in place that will make that ideal obsolete.

Works Cited

Martell, C. (1999). Reaching into the Mist for the Elusive “Virtual” Thing. Journal of Academic Librarianship25(2), 132.

O’Donnell, J. J. (1994). The virtual library: an idea whose time has passed. Proceedings of the Third Symposium on Gateways, Gatekeepers, and Roles in the information Omniverse (Washington, D.C., United States). A. Okerson and D. Mogge, Eds. Association of Research Libraries, Washington, DC, 19-31. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from,2542,t=virtual+library&i=53926,00.asp

The World Wide Web Virtual Library. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from

October 7, 2009   1 Comment

Reflections…by Tracy Gidinski

I’ve much preferred using a blog system to the Vista system for several reasons:

  1. I’m familiar with it as I have been experimenting with different blogging platforms for several years, and prefer Word Press to other platforms.
  2. It has a simpler interface
  3. I love the ease of being able to upload images and other media.

I find myself, however, copying my own posts to a new version of my own personal blog (that I set up a while ago, but just started really using for this course), just so I can see my posts in one place (even without the comments from others).  If I could design the ultimate interface for this (i.e., if I had the technological skill to do this), I would love to see us writing on our own personal blogs, with any of our posts with, for instance,  the category “etec 540” be automatically shown here (with the ability to add comments to either location).  That way, we could view our own posts in one location (including things unrelated to this course, perhaps), view others’ posts on their own blogs, or view the entire upload of etec 540 posts on this site.  But alas, I don’t have that technological prowess.

Is there a way to have the ability to go to the next page of older posts on this?  I find I have to read daily in order not to miss any posts, and due to a (minor) car accident last week that played with my shoulder and made sitting at the computer a little uncomfortable for a short time, I missed a lot of information.  (The shoulder is now fine and the car is under repairs, by the way.)

I wonder, though, if the use of a blog changes the formality of our writing?  I find myself writing in a style that is different than the posts from my previous coursework because of the fact that it is a blog.  For instance, my use of parenthesis in this post is indicative of the style I use while on Facebook, when writing emails to friends, or, to some extent, when writing blog articles on my school blog to my students.  Perhaps this phenomenon is affecting just myself, and I should be using a stricter level of formality in these posts.

September 16, 2009   4 Comments

Technology is…by Tracy Gidinski

To continue from my “Text Is” post, this quotation from Ayn Rand summarizes my thoughts on what technology is fairly well:

Technology is an applied science, i.e., it translates the discoveries of theoretical science into practical application to man’s life. As such, technology is not the first step in the development of a given body of knowledge, but the last; it is not the most difficult step, but it is the ultimate step, the implicit purpose, of man’s quest for knowledge.  (Ayn Rand. Apollo 11. The Objectivist, Sept. 1969, 9.)

Rand describes technology as the “ultimate step” in the quest for knoweledge, yet new technologies implicitly create the ability for future technologies.  In relation to text, then, technology is its leading edge – technology paves the way for new forms of text, which leads to new forms of thinking, on a continual “quest for knowledge.”

Or is it?  Instead of a leading edge, do text and technology work together as a double-edged sword?  Is text the leading edge for technology in the same way that technology is the leading edge for text?

September 16, 2009   No Comments

Text is…by Tracy Gidinski

This Mucha stained glass in St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague represents to me what text is. What I love about this stained glass is its modern take on a classic format. Instead of copying the style of the past when Mucha was asked to design it in the 1930’s, he wove history and the present day together to create something that represented both his history and his modern era. Likewise, text is the capturing of a culture at a given moment while simultaneously weaving in elements of that culture’s history.

Additionally, like Mucha’s stained glass techniques included modern technologies, making his images different than those of the past, new technologies add change and new shape to text.

Therefore, text and technology cannot be viewed as separate entities but as reflections of one another.

September 15, 2009   No Comments

Typing Class, 1970s – an update is available on this classroom

Update the hair and clothing by a decade, and this would look like my high school typing class. Take away the power cords and regress a few decades, and this would look like my mom’s high school typing class. Now, typing classes have been replaced with computer applications courses, which teach touch typing in two to three months (e.g., – from the website of my alma mater), as by the time most students enter high school, they have been using a QWERTY keyboard attached to a computer for years, many without a lesson. This allows for a greater exploration of the creative applications of the technology far beyond the endless speed drills I spent doing in Typing 10. What change will the next innovation bring?

As a side note, I also considered the furniture and electrical systems that needed to change from the time when the first manual typewriter was introduced in typing classes, through electric typewriters, through a constant upgrade of computers. Education is, indeed, getting more expensive!

Hello! I am Tracy Gidinski. I will be teaching grades 6 and 7 at Taylor Park Elementary School in Burnaby, British Columbia. I have been teaching for 16 years, always focusing on grades 5 to 7 (and, for a four-year time, teaching a multiage 5/6/7 class). My preferred grade is combined 6/7. For the past few years, I have had my students create personal blogs and cooperative wikis, and am interested in further extending my students’ abilities to use technology to improve their literacy and thinking skills, which leads me to this course. This is my second MET course – I took ETEC 512 last year, and am hoping that the steep learning curve of taking a course online will be less steep this semester!

September 8, 2009   1 Comment