The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Stories at the Edge of the Envelope

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In 1995 Métis author Maria Campbell published Stories of the Road Allowance People.  As Ron Marken relates in his Foreward to the book, it is a collection of stories “that have come a long journey to be with us from Mitchif[i] through literal translations through the Queen’s Imperial English and back to the earth in village English” (5).  Stories of the Road Allowance People challenges a host of conventions about such issues as purpose of print media, access to publication, language use, story ownership, and how text is read.  Although this is a traditionally printed work the debates it inspires extend to newer writing technologies in ways that may not be immediately obvious.

What is immediately apparent about Stories of the Road Allowance People is that it challenges accepted English usage for recognition as legitimate, and confronts the colonization of Native languages both in common use and (especially) in print.

Maria Campbell has not only used print to preserve the stories of her people but has also used the stories to challenge conventions of print, in order to reproduce and to privilege the authentic voices of the storytellers.  And – in a departure from mainstream print use – the reader is invited to become a listener and even a speaker in interaction with the text.  As Marken says, “we must do more than simply read [these stories] . . . it is essential that we read them with our ears first. Say them aloud.  Listen to them . . . light a fire and speak them to the children and grandchildren” (5).   While turning a modern literary form to serve the forms of a traditionally oral people, Campbell also brings Western print back in touch with its own early history when reading aloud was the norm[ii].

Many writers, not all recent, have departed from formal English to give verisimilitude to portrayals of characters and dialogue from various classes and places.  Of late the practice has prompted discussion – and controversy – about such topics as the motivation for, and the ethics and propriety of, presentation of language in idiosyncratic forms that may historically have been used to belittle or ridicule (dialects, pidgins, accents, etc.); whether using such elements of voice is a privilege restricted to members of the community that is “speaking”; and the effects and desirability of changes in language through adoption of idiom and vocabulary from other languages and from communities outside the mainstream.

But while academics debate, a multitude of ‘writers from the gaps’[iii] have been addressing these and many more questions through their work.  Even a very brief survey of significant titles from the past one hundred years or so shows a steady progression toward deliberate representation of idiomatic speech as an assertion of authentic voice – both characters’ and authors’.  This shift results from an increase both in interest among mainstream writers (and readers) in marginalized cultures, and in participation by traditionally marginalized people in published literature.

And although such discussions may seem to belong in the fields of comparative literature and anthropology, they in fact also need to encompass technology.  Personal computing has brought about many changes in writing technologies – or at least put a variety of such changes in the hands of a large and varied enough mass of users to make them take root and wing.  As a result, many voices that have hitherto been marginalized are gaining expression in the dominant and privileged form – published text – even as they find ways to challenge its traditional claims to supremacy.  Stories of the Road Allowance People provides an example of how this can be done, and its impact and implications are technological as well as literary and social – and show that all three are in fact closely entwined.

Increasingly as text and communications technologies are embraced by users whose needs, intents, and imaginations differ from those of the technologies’ originators, the technologies themselves must be – and are – revisited, reimagined, and reshaped.  In the process the very idea of the user –the ‘audience invoked’ – is reshaped.  Boundaries of common practice and ‘proper usage’ are thus continually changing.  And users become – individually or collectively – designers, thus contributing to changes in design norms – either directly by breaking into mainstream design and production (of software, etc.), or indirectly by creating and/or supporting alternatives that by their grassroots popularity force commercial companies to respond in their own interest.

Some functional aspects of writing technologies affected include spell checking, grammar and style checking, auto-correct options, languages supported, document layout options, and methods of publication.  In a basic example, word processing dictionaries are expanded – to recognize words hitherto outside accepted usage and add new technical terms[iv], but also to include as elements of language such things as company and brand names; this aspect of change in writing technologies could alone sustain a lengthy inquiry and debate.  (A commercial gaze always follows the expansion of boundaries, calculating the potential gains that lie beyond.)

As well, writers in a wider variety of languages are acknowledged and served.  For example, MS Word™ supports (though often only to a limited extent) more languages at each release, having added just between the 2003 and 2007 versions: Alsatian, Amharic, Bashkir, Bosnian, Breton, Cherokee, Dari, Divehi, Edo, Fulfulde, Hausa, Hawaiian, Igbo, Inuktitut, Irish, Kanuri, Kinyarwanda, Luxembourgish, Maori, Mohawk, Oromo, Papiamentu, Pashto, Persian, Quechua, eight additional variants of Sami,  Setswana, Sinhala, Tigrigna, Uighur, Wolof, Yakut, Yiddish, and Yoruba, among others.  Features previously only available in specific language versions are now available across versions, enabling creation of documents not only in multiple languages but using multiple alphabets.  Authors (working singly or collegially) can write across cultural and linguistic boundaries[v].  Market research is one factor driving such advances, but they are also led, pushed, and augmented by users and by smaller software companies that have through successive versions produced add-ons in languages not yet supported.

Document layout options have changed dramatically in recent  years, both as a result of greater flexibility within print-oriented software, and through the rapid growth of alternative methods of publication – or disbursement – of both commercial and private work, print and non-print.  Print media are influenced by digital media in their use of space and image; digital media are increasingly flexible in this respect, carrying aesthetic experimentation skipping across gaps geographic, cultural, political, and ideological.  Fonts have proliferated wildly, responding to both linguistic diversity and artistic inspiration.  Just as voice and language no longer must conform, the very letter itself returns to its individualized and illustrative roots, ranging from undisciplined scrawl to brilliant artistry.

Stories of the Road Allowance People also anticipated a wave of renewed interest in aural aspects of literature, which digital technologies have both ridden and driven.  As video and audio media increasingly supplement traditional written forms in both formal and informal work, writing and writing technologies have increasingly taken on spontaneity, informality and immediacy hitherto denied them.

Peter Elbow – writing in 1985 – contrasts writing and speech:

Where the intention to speak usually results automatically in the act of speech, writing almost always involves delay and effort.  Writing forces us not only to form the letters, spell the words, and follow stricter rules of correctness (than speech); we must also get into the text itself all those cues that readers might need who are not present to us as we write, who don’t know the context for our words… (68).

Comparing the spontaneity and celebration of learning to speak with the travails of learning to write, Elbow observes that “[s]tudents can never feel writing as an activity they engage in as freely, frequently, or spontaneously as they do in speech” (69).

Works such as Stories of the Road Allowance People directly challenge many of these conditions of writing, and the conventions upon which they are based, in ways that anticipate new writing technologies soon to follow.  Media, forms and environments that create context, provide cues, combine forms, and flout strict rules subvert conventions of writing not only in their form, but in their spirit.  The writing that may result can be nearly as “free, frequent and spontaneous” as speech.

la beau sha shoo excerpt 2 no checks bright

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[i] Mitchif, or Michif, is the language of the Métis. To hear a sample, visit the Louis Riel Institute’s website: http://www.louisrielinstitute.com/education/michiflanguage/24-grant-threebears-improved.mp3

[ii] See https://www.vista.ubc.ca/webct/urw/lc5116011.tp0/cobaltMainFrame.dowebct?JSESSIONIDVISTA=zYlfLSwS3nVMClQnWjL6dX6gyw31tGwj1Jb8nm9Q4YZh9QrZvRzj!-1364924364!node02.vista.ubc.ca!20001!-1!292784358!node03.vista.ubc.ca!20001!-1

[iii] An oblique reference to Voices From the Gaps, an excellent though rather erratically maintained resource on women writers of colour.  http://voices.cla.umn.edu/

[iv] An ironic example of a disconnect in this respect can be found in Jay David Boulter’s Writing Space, on page 74, in the heading to Table 4.1:  it is clear from the text that the table should be headed “Emoticons and Their Intended Meanings”… was this passed by a human or a digital editor?

bolter_emoticons

[v] My thanks are due to Chris Pratley, General Manager, Microsoft Office Labs, for providing information on the progression of language support in Microsoft Office.

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Boulter, Jay David. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001.

Campbell, Maria, trans. Stories of the Road Allowance People. Penticton: Theytus Books, 1995.

Elbow, Peter. The Shifting Relationships Between Speech and Writing. Composition in Four Keys: Inquiring into the Field.  Wiley, Mark, Barbara Gleason, and Louise Wetherbee Phelps, eds. Mountainview, CA: Mayfield P Co., 1996.

Marken, Ron. Foreward. Stories of the Road Allowance People. Penticton: Theytus Books, 1995.

Pratley, Chris. Personal email. 1 December, 2009.

Rubenstein, Dan. Big Brother is Spell-checking You. http://www.alternet.org/media/11130?page=entire

December 3, 2009   No Comments

U-Learning

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U-learning seems to be another interesting terminology in the field of education. I saw it first time when I was reading “The World Is Open” book. In that book, Bonk (2009) states that U-learning takes advantage of the capabilities of mobile and wireless technologies to support a seamless and pervasive connection to learning without explicit awareness of the technologies being relied upon. In fact, if you are using technology to learn without reflecting on it, you are likely experiencing u-learning. With the increasing mobility, connectivity, and versatility of educational technologies, there is the potential to devise environments where learning is taking place all the time and for anybody seeking it. And when options for learner participation (not just learning consumption) are added in, learning becomes a more personalized and customized 24/7 experience.

By considering that similar definitions can also be found in other on-line learning fields, in fact, is U-Learning another charming terminology for online education to beat the classroom? Or is it a really new terminology that we need? When I was thinking about these questions I just remembered Bolter saying “hypertextual writing can go further, because it can change for each reader and with each reading”. He also mentioned that technology transforms our social and cultural attitudes toward uses of technology. I think Bolter had predicted today’s learning technologies in 1991, at least in principles.

On the other hand Bolter emphasized that “in the late age of print, however, we are concerned not that there is too much in our minds to get down on paper, but rather that there is too much information held in electronic media for our minds to assimilate”.

Have internet and online technologies, with too much information, changed our minds to assimilate? I also feel that the massive amount of information available to us, from time to time, doesn’t permit us to even think critically to select or make a decision correctly. Maybe, due to lack of time and daily increase in information we have to trust to limited sources or as Bolter said, assimilate our minds. My search in this topic led me to one of the most interesting articles in this area by Salomon and Almog (1998). They started a  discussion about “Butterfly” defect.

butterfly-deffect

Salomon and Almog believed that not all of the potential effects with and of learning by means of multimedia and hypermedia are likely to be positive. One of the outstanding attributes of typical hypermedia programs, as well, as the internet, is their nonlinear, association-based structure. One item just leads to another, and one is invited to wander from one item to another, lured by the visual appeal of the presentation. In fact, surfing the internet or hypermedia programs is a good example of a shallow exploratory behaviour, as distinguished from deeper search, a “butterfly-like” hovering from item to item without really touching.

11 years later, in “Lost in Cyburbia”, Harkin (2009) also notes that a problem in the online world is the quick nature of messaging and feedback on Web 2.0 sites. According to him the problem is that people pass on and respond quickly, often giving little time or attention to reflect on the information at hand. He furthers by commenting that users are often in a state of continuous partial attention.

learner

Similar ideas considering a generation of multi taskers who lack focus, can be found in different literature. Bolter, in someway or other, responds to these types of questions by saying “the supporters of hypertext may even argue that hypertext reflects the nature of the human mind itself-that because we think associatively, not linearly, hypertext allows us to write as we think”. He added that “Writing technologies are never external agents that invade and occupy the minds of their users”. New studies by Jones and Khan (2010) supports Bolter that web-based technologies facilitate collaborative knowledge building, development of new ideas and constructs by bringing people with divergent views together.

It seems that learners, and especially young people, should be exposed to all the options they have, learn a bit about each one and from each other and then choose the fields they would like to spend more time perusing  in depth studies of. In addition to being pretty democratic, this will also increase their perceptions of learning and motivation to learn. Perhaps, sometimes instead of classic learning theories, a fun theory ! is more appropriate to follow by young generation.

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References

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Harkin, J. (2009). Lost in Cyburbia. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf.

Jones, N., Khan, O. (2010). “Using Web-Based Technologies and Communities of Practice for Transformative Hybrid and Distance Education” in Web-Based Learning Solutions for Communities of Practice: Developing Virtual Environments for Social and Pedagogical Advancement. Information Science Reference. USA.

Salomon, J., Almog, T. (1998). Educational Psychology and Technology: A Matter of Reciprocal Relations, Teachers College Record, no.2, 222-41, Wint ’98.

December 3, 2009   No Comments

Connections

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.

http://wiki.ubc.ca/User:DrewRyan#Creating_Classroom_Community_Through_Digital_Storytelling

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  http://blogs.ubc.ca/etec540sept09/2009/11/30/final-project-literacy-and-critical-thinking/

“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 http://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:ETEC540/2009WT1/Assignments/MajorProject/ItsUpToYou 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 http://blogs.ubc.ca/etec540sept09/2009/11/29/the-holocaust-and-points-of-view/ 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

Rip Mix Feed – Delphine’s Touch

View more presentations from Yassie.

Hi  Everyone

Though late in time, I am finally posting my RipMixFeed

I am so glad that I finally see how the slideshare could work in education especially in my department. Once we get the hang of it, it should be fairly easy to work with.

It’s just the story of an eventful year and half for me. I hope the narration will be audible.

Delphine

December 2, 2009   No Comments

Hyperculture

The last two chapters of Bolter (2001) were an excellent choice to close our readings.  As an aside, I would like to say how much I enjoyed the sequencing and intertextuality of the readings in this course.  Most courses I have taken offered carefully chosen readings around the key ideas and topics, but none linked them so successfully and recursively as was done here.  It was helpful to my own thinking and enjoyable to read Bolter on Ong, Kress cited in Dobson and Willinsky, and so on.  I could cite such pairings all the way back to the first readings.  It’s one of those subtle displays of good pedagogy that makes me wonder if I could do a better job selecting and sequencing the readings in my classes.

It was inevitable.

It was inevitable.

To return to Bolter, however, the argument that the technology used for writing changes our relationship to it (p. 189) seems almost self-evident.  I know that my approach to writing changes when the tool is a pen versus a word processor.  And it is largely for this reason that I avoid text messages.  I worry how typing on a tiny keyboard with my thumbs to any great extent would affect my relationship with writing (which is already sufficiently adversarial).  The discussion of ego and the nature of the mind itself as a writing space was also interesting.  I’m not sure that I can follow where Bolter leads when he suggests that if the book was a good means of making known the workings of the Cartesian mind, hypertext remediates the mind (p. 197).  That, it seems to me, accords too little to the ego and too much to networked communications—at least as they currently exist.

Bolter is certainly correct, however, when he asserts that electronic technologies are redefining our cultural relationships (p. 203).  This is especially true for my students.  Writing in 2001, Bolter preceded Facebook by at least three years, but he could have been doing Jane Goodall-style field research in my school (watching students use laptops, netbooks and handheld devices to wirelessly access Facebook) when he suggests that we are rewriting “our culture into a vast hypertext” (p. 206).  My own efforts at navigating the online reading and writing spaces of the course were, I fear, somewhat hampered by having lived most of my life in “the late age of print.”

I didn’t post a lot of comments, although I attempted to chime in on the Vista discussions.  What I realized late in the game was that I should have been more active in posting comments to the Weblog.  The strange thing is that I enjoyed reading the weblog posts—and especially enjoyed reading the comments people made about my weblog postings.  For some reason, however, that didn’t translate to reciprocating with comments in that space.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a blogger or much of a blog reader outside of my MEd classes.  I still prefer more traditional (read: professional, authoritative) sources for news and opinion.  Though, truth be told, I probably read as much news and opinion online as in print. It doesn’t hurt that the New York Times makes most of its content available online for free and that I have EBSCO and Proquest access at work.  It might also be because the other online courses I’ve taken in the past two years tended to use the Vista/Blackboard discussion space as the discussion area, so I think of that as the “appropriate” space for that type of writing.  It’s fascinating to analyze one’s own reading and writing behaviours and assumptions in light of what we’ve read and discussed.  It also takes me again to my own practice as a teacher.  When I next use wikis, for example, with my students, I will try to devise a way (survey, discussion tab in the wiki, etc.)  to find out how they believe their previous online reading and writing experiences influence their interactions and contributions.

References

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

December 2, 2009   2 Comments

Social Media: Changing Perceptions of Authorship, Writing and Publishing

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With the advent of social media tools, such as webblogging, social bookmaking, social writing platforms and RSS search engines, our perceptions of writing, publishing and authorship are experiencing dramatic change.  How will these changes affect values placed on quantity verses quality, public verses private works, ownership and the ability to create static self contained works?  We are in the midst of a transformation which will have significant effects on how we view writing and authorship.  In her book, Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation,” Anne Gentle states that through participation in social media “where you can either contribute or motivate others to contribute, you are empowering collaborative efforts unlike any seen in the past.”  (2009, 105)  In a world of the Internet where anyone can publish and gatekeepers are few and far between, how will the effects of this transition be felt?

 Social writing platforms such as Wikis and multi-authored bookmark pages have moved value from individual work to group collaborative wisdom.  In these new forms of knowledge output, how will we see authorship and value expertise?  Wikipedia offers a collaborative outlet to knowledge demonstration and collection, but without specific gatekeepers regulating content in which “the writer can be the ‘content curator,’ someone who assembles collections based on themes.”  (Gentle, 106) 

Widely viewed and accessible, Wikis offer both closed and open formats, providing choices for creators in terms of degree of acceptable alteration. (Gentle, 2009)  Collaborative knowledge building is becoming increasingly valued as users are “drawing on the wisdom of crowds, [whereby] users contribute content to the work of others, leading to multiple-authored works whose authorship grows over time.”  (Alexander, 2009, 153)  The result of this co-authored collaborative writing is an experience not bound by physical or temporal limitations.  Anyone with basic technological know-how can create a Wiki page and author his work, as “starting a wiki-level entry is far easier than beginning an article or book.” (Alexander, 2009), and anyone with a basic technological know-how can infiltrate and alter content.  Modern social technologies may invite alterations and commentaries because the “bar to entry is lower for the average user.  A user doesn’t have to author an entire site-just proffer a chunk of content.” (Alexander, 2009, 40)

Shared knowledge online, open to micro-commentary or complete overhaul by fellow Web users, is becoming the norm.  Alexander argues that it is “probably inevitable that intellectual property holders will initiate lawsuits investigating perceived misappropriations.” (Alexander, 42)  The concept of author control is altered as self-publishers relinquish a large degree of control over their work to others who may be more or less knowledgeable on a subject and carry a varying view point on the subject matter.  Contributors in social media spaces need to be willing to restrain from complete domination and control over their writing. (Gentle, 2009)  The UBC Wiki site warns users to “note that all contributions to UBC Wiki may be edited, altered, or removed by other contributors. If you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly, then do not submit it here.”  If users do not wish to have the content open to scrutiny and alterations, the UBC Wiki is not the place to post work. 

Web 2.0 (also referred to as social media and widget) technologies offer choices between programs best suited for individual user needs depending on the level of openness intrinsic to the technology.  Blogging technologies can offer completely open platforms for micro-responses, Google Docs require user invitation to join in the collaborative efforts, and while “a number of wiki platforms permit users to lock down pages from the editing of others” (Alexander, 2009), most Wikis offer open editing possibilities.  Creators can decide whether or not to create an online community, a discussion group, or a folksonomy of tagging.  (Alexander, 2009)  While not all Web 2.0 technologies can be considered online communities, defined by Gentle as “a group of people with similar goals and interests connect and share information using web tools” (103), Alexander (2006) argues that “openness and micro-content combine in a larger conceptual strand…that sees users as playing more of a foundational role in information architecture” in which participants benefit from the collaboration and sharing of information. (Gentle)  Levels of openness can affect both process and product by establishing credited contributors or allowing ‘free’ contribution, where “’free’ can mean freedom rather than no cost.” (Gentle)  Despite ‘free’ access intrinsic to many social media platforms, “particular types of users are more likely to seek out online communities for information-competent, proficient performers, and expert performers… [over] novices and advanced beginners.”  (Gentle, 106)

In terms of asynchronous collaborative writing, the development time line may be short or long, with time spans ranging from days to years, or without a definitive end date.  Wikis and other open-knowledge forums have a long end date that makes monitoring more difficult.  A Wiki created one year may not be altered until the next, making up-to-date monitoring a challenge.  This issue of long verses short term asynchronous communication allows technologies such as Wikis which can be altered indefinitely, very different qualitatively from asynchronous working documents such as Google docs.  Programs such as Google Docs allow for continuous asynchronous involvement but generally are developed with an end goal in mind and abandoned as goals are completed.  Does this alter the value placed on authorship between short and longer term collaborative writing forums?  I would argue the difference is felt in the degree of control the writers can feel in their writing and production. 

Online writing has also created a new forum for publishing both in terms of quality and quantity.  Writers used to have the option of sharing, but not necessarily publishing and reaching audiences was difficult without publication capabilities.  Online writing, in the form of blogging, novels, poetry sites, and article submission has opened the doors for writers in terms of quantity.  Alexander states that “[m]any posters to social networking sites publish content for the world to see and use.  The blogosphere is a platform for millions of people to write to a global audience.” (Alexander, 2008, 153)  Technological know-how can now allow for publication beyond the relatively closed circles of the past.  Authorship venues where writers can “voice an opinion, give an honest review, and build an article or diagram or a picture or a video, perhaps by taking on a writing role [allows writers to] feel autonomous and happiness follows.”  (Gentle, 110) 

Online writing allows for self publishing which ignores the gatekeeper role of publishing houses.  What will the implications be for writers who want to pursue formal publishing methods?  Formerly, in order to have your work read by a large audience, publishing, whether self of external, was the only means to mass distribution of materials.  Web publishing now allows for mass distribution without the quality control of publishing houses but will this make formal publishing increasingly difficult and selective as the quantity of formal publishing houses diminishes and publishing standards alter?

As auto-publishing explodes on the Internet, users are finding novel ways to personalize the Web, effectively ‘writing’ themselves into the World Wide Web.  Since the onset of the Internet, search engines have moved from an emphasis on macro searching to both macro and micro searching.  Searching on the internet is becoming more personal and independent as users utilise micro search engines such as Blogpulse, Feedster, and Daypop (Alexander) which search based on users’ interests.  As search engines move from massive searches, which result in millions of hits, to micro searches, resulting in hits limited to parametres set by the user, the Internet becomes more approachable. (Golder and Huberman)  In a sense we are raising the bar of effective levels of navigational abilities where users need to have a purpose in their Web navigation.  Programs that are limited to searching blogs, or are program specific such as the soon to be released Google micro-blogging search engine, allow for more user control, directed searching, and stream-lined responses. 

To make this point clearer I will use a bookstore analogy.  In approaching a bookstore and attempting to navigate within it, a visitor is aware of categories, subcategories and alphabetization.  These systems of organization also allow for micro searching based on subject and interest within the physical structure of a bookstore.  Micro search engines allow for a similar type of searching of materials.  Users can opt to search a certain category as well as response type.  Bookstores can also differ from one another qualitatively in terms of audience, geared towards a specific audience such as children, young adults, cooks, teachers, trades people, academics, sports fans, and fantasy enthusiasts.  A fantasy enthusiast is not going to look for fantasy material within a book store based on cooking.  Micro search engines allow for a similarly controlled searches.  Book enthusiasts may enter a mega bookstore which carries a wide variety of books from nearly every genre.  Once a specific interest is established, however, the book enthusiast may choose to frequent a more specialized venue, much the same as a micro search engine user may choose to search in a very specific manner over mass broad searches offered through such search engines as Google or Yahoo. (Golder and Huberman) 

With small scale search possibilities come other forms of individualized web applications such as social bookmarking and tagging.  Where “traditionally…categorizing or indexing is either performed by an authority, such as a librarian, or else derived from the material provided by the authors of the documents…collaborative tagging is the practice of allowing anyone…to freely attach keywords or tags to content.” (Golder and Huberman, 1)  Users are able to tag sites that are of interest, creating personalized collections through such applications as del.ici.ous, and allowing users to browse information that has been categorized by others. (Golder and Huberman, 1)  Web activity becomes more focused as these programs allow users to streamline their activities through sites of interests and applicability to personal interests. (Golder and Huberman)  Social media applications such as Tweetups, are effective in “enabling people to feel related to one another.” (Gentle, 110)  Social tagging draws upon collaborative authorship as users work together to tag images, sites, blogs, and ideas in terms of applicability, personal experience and developed networks. (Golder and Huberman) 

The formerly impersonal World Wide Web is becoming more personalized, creating ownership amongst users in a way that impersonal surfing could not allow.  Micro blogging allows users to comment in limited characters, tagging allows for personalized web experiences and collaborative writing allows for knowledge building which transgresses time and physical space.  While the World Wide Web is continuously expanding, new social technologies are allowing for increased authorship through co-authorship, freedom in terms of the ability to freely voice oneself, and individual responses through collaborative experiences. (Golder and Huberman)   Changes will occur in terms of mainstream traditional forms of publishing, knowledge acquisition and authorship, but it is the Internet user who is leading the changes through technological demands and adaptation of new technologies which reflect in a practical application manner, the needs of current Internet users. 

References:

Alexander, B. (2006)  Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?”  Retrieved from: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume41/Web20ANewWaveofInnovationforTe/158042

Alexander, B. (2008) “Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies” Retrieved from:  http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?content=10.1080/00405840801992371

Gentle, A.  (2009)  Conversation and Community: The social web for documentation”  Retrieved from:  http://pegmulligan.com/2009/11/28/book-review-conversation-and-community-by-anne-gentle/

Golder, S., and Huberman, B.  (2005)  The structure of collaborative tagging systems.  Retrieved from: http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/idl/papers/tags/tags.pdf

Hayes, T., and Xun, G.  (2008)  The effects of computer-supported collaborative learning on students’ writing performance.  Retrieved from:  http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1599852&dl=GUIDE&coll=GUIDE&CFID=64333662&CFTOKEN=24459724

Rogers, G.  (2009) “Coming soon: Google’s micro-blogging search engine.”  Retrieved from:  http://blogs.zdnet.com/Google/?p=1450

Wikipedia: Social media.  Retrieved from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media

Wiki:  UBC.  Accessed at:  http://wiki.ubc.ca/Main_Page

Image taken from: http://ibat.org/files/featured/techlounge3.jpg

December 1, 2009   1 Comment

Connections & Reflections: A Visual Learning Gestalt

Hello People,
Making Connections:
Unfortunately, I have not been able to post in proper sequences this term, so please forgive the late entry here. Also am hoping the size of the visual works better, it shows up fine on the preview….am hoping it does not shrink as it did on my last post[!]

An attempt at a visual gestalt: Reflections on ETEC 540

This is my attempt at constructing a visual representation of my own personal learning trajectory through ETEC 540. I really believe that the more complex the information, the more important the visual component [as a way of communicating] becomes.

Ideas around Connections: New Knowledge
The ideas I was working with here including trying to map out how course content [the four modules] and topic areas [the remediation of writing and the legacy of orality] tracked through western cultural and political history, fused with my own prior knowledge and with the incredible resources available [including other students and online media] to create new knowledge for me.

Fusion of Content:
Content is so rich in this course [including contributions from fellow students] that all that is shown here are broad strokes and highlights of major subjects, authors and texts within ETEC 540. It is not meant as a comprehensive representation of the course, but more as a visual aid, a conceptual window into one student’s personal learning path, reflections that fused with conceptual connections, to form a kind of visual gestalt.

Thank you! to everyone for all the information shared, learned a tremendous amount from those around me in this course, as usual.
Yours,
Barb
Here is the Visual:

ETEC540ConnectionsReflections09

December 1, 2009   4 Comments

Tragedy of the Creative Commons

e8be65ed8d9705e4_o

The title is a play on words based on a well-known puzzle.

December 1, 2009   2 Comments

Rip.Mix and Feed Animoto

I opted to use Animoto.com for my rip.mix.feed contribution. It’s a Web 2.0 tool that bills itself as “the end of slideshows.”  It allows the user to combine images and music (which you supply or choose from their selections) in a type of music video/mashup.  The site takes care of  transitions between the images using a variety of effects adjusting timing to the chosen music.  The free version (which I used) is limited to 30-second compositions.  All of the images I used, apart from the first one, I found in Flickr searches for images with creative commons licensing. (I have a list of all the Flickr URLs and if anyone is interested I can post it as an attachment.)  The start image was generated with the Bart Simpson chalk board generator.   The number of images one can squeeze into 30 seconds varies somewhat depending on the music selected, but is around 15-18.  Fast-paced tunes show the slides more quickly and use a few more images than slower ones.  The site allows for easy remixes, and it’s possible to add and remove images until the desired effect is achieved.  It’s also possible to get stuck endlessly tweaking while looking for the ‘perfect’ edit (don’t ask me how I know…).  I’ll post links to two versions that use the same images but different music.  The first, which I not very creatively called Text technologies 1, uses 30 seconds of a song called Finally by the Sunday Runners.  The second, Text technologies v.2, uses a faster indie piece called 1234 by Fake which I enjoy for its lyrics: “I’m just sick of my school, and my teacher’s a fool..” Certainly, many Web 2.0 tools are fun and engaging.  Every time I (re-)make this realization I tell myself that I have to get more creative about encorporating them into my lessons!

December 1, 2009   2 Comments

Making [Re]Connections

This is one of the last courses I will be taking in the program and as the journey draws to a close, this course has opened up new perspectives on text and technology. Throughout the term, I have been travelling (more than I expected) and as I juggled my courses with the travels, I began to pay more attention to how text is used in different contexts and cultures. Ong, Bolter and the module readings were great for passing time on my plane rides – I learned quite a lot!

I enjoyed working on the research assignment where I was able to explore the movement from icon to symbol. It gave me a more in-depth look at the significance of visual images, which Bolter discusses along with hypertext. Often, I am more used to working with text in a constrained space but after this assignment, I began thinking more about how text and technologies work in wider, more open spaces. By the final project, I found myself exploring a more open space where I could be creative – a place that is familiar to me yet a place that has much exploration left to it – the Internet.

Some of the projects and topics that were particularly related to this new insight include:

E-Type: The Visual Language of Typography

A Case for Teaching Visual Literacy – Bev Knutson-Shaw

Language as Cultural Identity: Russification of the Central Asian Languages – Svetlana Gibson

Public Literacy: Broadsides, Posters and the Lithographic Process – Noah Burdett

The Influence of Television and Radio on Education – David Berljawsky

Remediation of the Chinese Language – Carmen Chan

Braille – Ashley Jones

Despite the challenges of following the week-to-week discussions from Vista to Wiki to Blog and to the web in general, I was on track most of the time. I will admit I got confused a couple of times and I was more of a passive participant than an active one. Nevertheless, the course was interesting and insightful and it was great learning from many of my peers. Thank you everyone.

December 1, 2009   1 Comment

This is it!

I must be honest and admit that I simply could not take in all the assigned readings, the forum discussions, the wiki building, and the community weblog; however, I was able to learn a lot from what I could absorb.   Reading Ong and Bolter were some of my favorite activities in ETEC540 for a couple reasons.  The first reason was that I really enjoyed seeing the contrasting views of these two authors and the second reason was that the reading was on paper.  Even though I have a nice new monitor, my eyes could only handle so much digital reading and I found myself craving reading an actual book.  That was an interesting realization as we were learning about different writing spaces and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Before reading Bolter, I found myself seeing eye-to-eye with Ong.  His great divide perspective about technological determinism is so black and white and makes sense.  Then we read Bolter and his humanistic perspective not definitively labeling a cause and effect relationship on the remediation of writing was slightly disconcerting at first.  Being more of a humanitarian myself, I have come to agree more with Bolters ideas than Ong’s.  By understanding their contrasting views of text technologies, I was able to gain a solid understanding of the implications of the evolution of writing all the way from papyrus to Web 2.0.  To be honest, I as slightly impatient learning about all this history while I was reading about it, but I am glad to have as good of perspective on writing as I do now.

The collection of material created by my classmates on the community weblog is incredible.  There are so many creative and innovative ideas incorporating much of what we have read about and lots of other knowledge brought to the table from outside this course.  Our blog is a good example of the wisdom of the crowds and thankfully most contributors have added appropriate tags and have categorized them accordingly making it easy to find connections in the contributions.  I only wish I had access to our community weblog indefinitely for an instant source of inspiration!

Thanks to all of you for sharing all your knowledge and making this a very enjoyable course.

December 1, 2009   3 Comments

Negotiating Spaces and Making Connections

Throughout this course we have interacted with several spaces for reading and writing: our course wiki, the community weblog and the discussion boards. We have also engaged with several spaces outside of the course through peer projects that make use of websites, videos and Web 2.0 technologies. For me, this course has really been about how reading and writing changes within each of these digital spaces.

Bolter (2001) states that “the reflexive character of each technology permits writers to find themselves in the texts they create and therefore to know themselves in new ways” (p. 189). The discussion forums were an essential reflection tool for our course. In the Digital Literacy and Multi-literacies forum, Kathleen Cavanagh reflected on writing in online forums and provided a list of best practices on creating postings that grab the attention of the digital reader (Do Web Browser Affect Literacy, Nov. 21, 2009). In the same thread Erin Gillespie pointed out the importance of generating community for knowledge creation. She also mentioned how ‘the personal touch’, ‘shared insights’ and ‘co-construction of knowledge’ are what makes discussion forums motivating and engaging (Nov. 24, 2009). Drew Murphy followed up by stating that “posting[s] could become a very intense learning experience when people’s ideas are squeezed into a small, community space” (Nov. 24, 2009, para. 2).

Within the short 13-week span of our course, I believe we have built a learning community through simultaneously making use of multiple digital reading and writing spaces. Though work-related challenges limited my participation at times, this environment for me, extended my understanding of the course concepts as my peers provided unique points-of-view. Through individual postings, we collectively pulled together ideas and in turn each person could come away with a new understanding of themselves.

Online, our thoughts can be hyperlinked and thus be flexible, interactive and quickly disseminated. This made me think about how the spaces within our course shift our writings from being informal (discussion threads or weblog comments) to being formal (assignments posted to the weblog, wiki, etc.). However regardless of what is posted, in these content spaces we continually move between being consumers and being producers. Just look at the Community weblog to see exactly how much content, we as a group have generated in such a short amount of time. Then look at all the links we have generated!

In terms of readings, I particularly enjoyed Bolter’s chapter “The Breakout of the Visual” as well as Dobson and Willinsky’s article “Digital Literacy”. With the proliferation of images in multimodal realms there is a need for students today to be multi-literate. In the Multimodality and the Breakout of the Visual forum, Dilip Verma stated that he sees graphic design skills as eventually becoming “as valued as spelling and grammar in the 21st century” (Nov. 5, 2009). In another thread entitled “Visual/Textual?” Kelly Kerrigan reflected on how visual representation has become prominent in society today and that MET courses reflect this transformation by encouraging students to explore different modes of representation. ETEC540 supports this claim as we have had the opportunity to present our work in shared digital spaces, leaving room for us to make use of hypermedia and hyperlinks. It was interesting to peruse the projects where people took a more visual approach:

Final Project – Graphic Novels, Improving Literacy
Catherine Gagnon

A Case For Teaching Visual Literacy – Bev Knutson-Shaw

Pen and Paper Project – Ed Stuerle & Bruce Spencer

Navigating the Hypermedia Sea – Marjorie del Mundo

Hopscotch and Hypertext – Liz Hood

I thoroughly enjoyed this course and appreciated the opportunity to engage frequently in the various spaces of the course.

References

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

November 30, 2009   2 Comments

Invention

Working from the starting objectives of the course I have linked some of the best examples of how we as a learning community have met these objectives and how the objectives have influenced my understanding and changed or confirmed my opinions.

Through the posts, the authors examined such varied topics as the invention of specific aspects of writing, determinist and digital divide concepts, current technological innovations and the impact of the visual.  As a group of authors, I feel that the commentaries and the projects reflect the movement as a group through a thoughtful consideration of how writing has and is modifying human societies.

On a personal level I feel that we are currently involved with that modification, and those that reviewed and discussed current debates appear to fell the same.

I have used key words from the below course objectives entered them in the community weblog search engine here is what it cam back with.

  1. Students will consider how the invention of writing, the fundamental technology of all literate societies, has modified human ways of knowing.

commentary-1-an-observation-of-how-orality-and-literacy-have-changed-interactions-between-people/

Title is very self-explanatory.

verba-volant-scripta-manent/

The desire to make orally transmitted information permanent.

whats-wrong-with-ong/

This was harder to place but the nature of the Digital Divide and deterministic challenges I would place it in this category.

before-the-rapture-of-capture/

I found the discussion surrounding the search for information particularly interesting after having made the argument that we need to include critical thinking as part of literacy in my major project.

ibrary-2-0-searching-for-meaning/

technology-and-nature-fusion/

refuting-the-theory-of-the-great-divide/

writing-changed-the-act-of-teaching/

cautions-and-considerations-for-technological-change-a-commentary-on-neil-postman%e2%80%99s-the-judgment-of-thamus

technological-determinism-reductionism-and-the-great-divide-a-commentary-on-w-j-ong/

the-white-flag-of-surrender/

research-assignment-3tv-to-radio/

on-the-air-educational-radio-its-history-and-effect-on-literacy-and-educational-technology-by-michael-haworth-stephanie-hopkins/

how-did-we-get-to-number-1/

unintended-consequences/

yatate-the-writing-technology-of-the-samurai/

invention-of-the-telephone/

perceptions-pre-and-post-gutenberg/

telegraph-the-old-information-super-highway/

icon-to-symbol-its-implications-on-visual-literacy-and-education/

formal-response-2-the-evolution-of-culture-from-oral-to-visual-dominance/

language-as-cultural-identity/

rise-of-cinema/

an-overview-of-a-remediation-from-scroll-to-codex/

hypertext/

revolution-of-communication/

In revolution of communication Sara brings up a great point, one that I wish to expand upon. The rise of web 2.0 allows us to move back towards a characteristic of oral societies and that is knowing the person on a close level that is communicating.  With web 2.0 we are able to develop relationships and build communities with many people around the globe and thus interact and partcipate with the knower on an ongoing basis.  A possibility that was not available due to physical special and time constraint that held back other forms of writing.

web-2-0-2/

Deb Giesbrecht explored the concept of invention through the invention of the idea of Web 2.0 and discussed the recent applications that have been invented to facilitate the interactivity and interconnectivity and participation characterized by the concept of web. 2.0.

November 30, 2009   No Comments

I could not help but add a rip, mix feed…

YouTube Preview Image

November 30, 2009   1 Comment

Final project: Literacy and Critical Thinking

Here is the abstract of my final paper and a link to both a podcast and a print version.

Abstract:

The New London Group (1996) starts their discussion of multi-literacy by presenting the needs of future citizens in the work place of tomorrow. They argue that to engage and negotiate critically with a working environment, students need to have multi-literacy skills or the ability to communicate meaning through a variety of mediums. Students also need to participate in literacy activities as members of communities; they need to be able to discern meaning from multiple media sources and produce meaning using these “new media.” The change in participation and literacy is in part because hypertext, the Internet, and associated applications have changed the way knowledge is created and presented.

The author is no longer the authority. As we all become authors of a collective knowledge the authority of knowledge is no longer clear, print is no longer associated with truth as it may once have been. Knowledge is created changed and rework, represented mixed and fed in to what is becoming known as a participatory media culture. The following is both a historical and modern understanding of how western society has understood the transmission of knowledge and how the transformation of the transmission has changed what it means to be educated or knowledgeable.

Critical thinking

NoahBurdett_ETEC540_majorproject

November 30, 2009   No Comments

Final Connections

            After reading all of the commentaries 1 and 2 and up to last night the commentary 3that had been posted I have several conclusions to share. Bolter 2001 mentions “analytical reflection” (p.193) and this has been evident in many of the commentaries that I have read. As teachers many of us have accepted that technology must be part of our future curriculum, but not without reservations. We are worried about teacher training, adequate access to technology for everybody, not just the privileged few, critical thinking skills and finally assessment.

            We have voiced our fears and some have shared their knowledge and skills with those of us who are just beginning on this journey. We have formed connections, some of which, I hope will last for a long time. Bolter (2001) says that “writing unifies the mind”, but I think writing these posts have unified many of our thoughts.  He further states that “Electronic communication is increasingly the medium through which we form and maintain our affiliations” and I hope that our blogs and wikis will prove this is correct.

          This is a formal goodbye, but I hope to meet many of you again someday whether online or in person. Thank you for all of your knowledge and wisdom.

November 30, 2009   No Comments

Making Connections / End of Semester Reflections

End of semester reflections.

This was my first semester in the MET program and the past few months were quite a change from what I am normally used to. Not only were these my first online courses I also had to readjust to being a student again. I decided to take a sabbatical from my district this year in order to work on the MET program fulltime, and it was quite a challenge for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the reading for this semester. I particularly enjoyed reading the Bolter book. Although the Orality and Literacy book was a dense read, the information presented in the book was extremely useful and relevant, not only in this course, but in all of my courses. In taking 3 courses this semester a few things occurred to me. The MET classes are certainly a community in their own right. I have started to recognize names and even the type of writings and views that many of my peers have. I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone, in a virtual way at least.

Posting the projects to the community weblog was a unique experience. Although I am versed in internet and technology technologies this was a challenge for me. Although I read many, many blogs and wikis, I rarely contribute. I am not sure why this is. By requiring us to post on the weblog, it helped me in terms of feeling like I was part of a community. As well, it made me realize that this really is the way that literacy is going to be taught and presented in the future. All in all I had a great experience in this class, and in the semester in general.

David.

November 30, 2009   No Comments

Adaptive Reading Technologies

Kurzweil 3000 is an adaptive technology that provides support for students who have reading and writing difficulties. In order to better present this technology’s affordances please view this video that I have created.

YouTube Preview Image

November 30, 2009   4 Comments

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.”

 

References

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 www.creativeatwork.com : http://www.creativeatwork.com/…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.

November 30, 2009   1 Comment

Final project, Comment#3

cmaptransitional learning copytablenewloresThe article “Does the brain like e-books” in our readings is relevant to my educational work since I deal exclusively with adult learners who are not “digital natives” (term after Pranskey, cited in Mabrito & Medley, 2008). A typical student in my online class has grade 12 education, and ages range from 18-65, with many students engaging in online constructivist collaborative learning using modern hypermedia for the first time. The typical student seems to have a period of adaptation which is required for them to become comfortable with the new skills needed for use of computer and Internet, and to develop independent self-learning and critical thinking skills.
I dealt with the issue of the aspect of independent learning (learning how to learn) “the what” (after the New London Group, 1995, p 24) and its importance for students new to hypermedia in commentary #2. This commentary will focus on the learning of the content itself (the “how”, after the new London Group, 1995, p 24), and the social focus of web 2.0 learning, for students in transition between traditional literacy and learning methods, going into a web 2.0 environment. The research here will help to support or disprove my driving question of whether the transition learning period requires different pedagogy, as my daily observations seem to suggest. This subject is perhaps not as relevant for those in K-12 learning since these students are either digital natives or well versed in multiliteracy (term after the New London Group, 1996), and not faced with many first-time issues. The commentary will close with a reflective summary I developed to help understand integration of teaching initiatives outlined in the New London Group paper.
Other study groups such as Liu’s in California, the ”Transliteracies Project” (October, 2009) are shedding valuable light on this area. Liu reports “Initially, any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention”. His observation does seem typical for newly-online learners who do in fact get sidetracked in class. Even for those adult learners with educational backgrounds, some time to adjust is required. In the MET 540 discussion forum Prizeman (2009) observes “The hypertextuality of digital writing spaced at first confused my linear mind, but now that I have spent a great deal of time interacting with them, I feel like “I’ll never go back”!” Her insight certainly reinforces the sense that there is a transitional period.
Liu (October, 2009) also concludes “It takes time and adaptation before a balance can be restored, not just in the “mentality” of the reader…but in the social systems that complete the reading environment.” This makes good sense as all literacy occurs in context, and so the student would be expected to adapt to the new way of learning in a bigger sense. Traditional pedagogy is didactic and students are used to being passive, linear and focused on one package of learning at a time as described in the Mabrito & Medley (2008) article. The Liu group confirms that in early phases of transition to new media “We suffer tunnel vision, as when reading a single page, paragraph, or even “keyword in context” without an organized sense of the whole. Or we suffer marginal distraction, as when feeds or blogrolls in the margin (”sidebar”) of a blog let the whole blogosphere in.”
The multidimensional environment calls on the learner to multitask. The open-ended resources on the Internet can be overwhelming at first as the learner enters this novel research realm. It is not the reading comprehension that suffers, as most students are adept at reading on a screen. In the “Does the Brain like e-Books?” article, Aamodt concludes, “Fifteen or 20 years ago, electronic reading also impaired comprehension compared to paper, but those differences have faded in recent studies.”
Aamodt (October, 2009) also reports that “Distractions abound online — costing time and interfering with the concentration needed to think about what you read. “ The deep concentration which is required to reflect on what is read, heard and seen may be reduced in this type of environment. Learning to focus on the work at hand and dismiss the outliers is a learning strategy that can be coached. Aamondt points out that, “Frequent task switching costs time and interferes with the concentration needed to think deeply about what you read.” Mark (October, 2009) concurs “When online, people switch activities an average of every three minutes (e.g. reading email or IM) and switch projects about every 10 and a half minutes”. That is bound to impact reflective learning. Mark also reports “My own research shows that people are continually distracted when working with digital information” so maintaining focus is confirmed to be a challenge, and her study did not just include learners new to hypermedia. She agrees with Aamondt about depth of engagement, “ It’s just not possible to engage in deep thought about a topic when we’re switching so rapidly.”
Well adapted online learners with established multiliteracy are comfortable with social networking, and multitasking in hypermedia, so more experienced learners will need more flexible environments to correlate with their skill set. Prizeman (2009) in our forums put it very well “The possibilities are endless, and the once hierarchical order that knowledge was presented in print, no longer exists in hypertext–I feel more in control of my learning, and with flexibility and freedom, I am able to search out the information that I need, as well as explore the connections between it and my world.”
The interface with online learning needs to evolve with a new appreciation of interacting with media versus human communication. Ong explores this concept and determines “communication is inter-subjective” (Ong, 2002, p 173). Ong refers to a media model of communication that focuses on informational, performance oriented interpretation, versus true communication which requires one to have advance appreciation for the other person’s inner self. That new setting is important as he points out that getting inside the minds of persons you will never know is not an easy thing to do, “but it is not impossible if you and they are familiar with the literary tradition they work in” (Ong, 2002, p. 174). Learning online does require this re-set of human communication through the window of the computer screen, and learning a new type of literary tradition, which takes time to become internalized.
Guided learning will help to address the distracting environment for transitioning students. Use of learning objectives, goal-oriented learning agreed upon by instructor and student and web or wiki quests help to direct newly-online learners to a subset of what is a large resource pool for relevant information. This limited structure is a guide not a limit. Bolter (2001, p169) points out that “relationship between the author, the text, and the world represented is made more complicated by the addition of the reader as an active participant”. A transitional learner will need to become adapted to the necessity of being more engaged and constructive when interfacing with electronic materials compared with one-way media. Use of RSS feeds can help students find key learning materials that are of high relevance. Another strategy to help a learner in that adaptation phase is to pair them with a mentor who is comfortable in web 2.0, and can be a resource for them. As well, collaborative grouping will allow students to split up a literature search or web search so that each has a self assigned area to focus in. Critical analysis of resources can be integrated with that orientation session. Some of these strategies will only be needed until new-online students’ multiliteracy is established.
The appendix table below will provide a summary of the critical pedagogy strategies that may be used to cultivate the intellect, and how they can be utilized in courses for learners of varying competence in multiliteracy.
In conclusion, it does appear that the literature supports observations that transitioning learners may need to have some early scaffolding and support and that their learning is constantly evolving through that period. Once transitioned, students can enjoy the full richness of multiliteracy and online networked learning.
A hanging issue is sparked by the observation reported by Mark (October, 2009 in “Does the Brain like e-Books?) “More and more, studies are showing how adept young people are at multitasking. But the extent to which they can deeply engage with the online material is a question for further research” Baxter (2009) mirrors these concerns when she posted “I’m not convinced that getting used to the extra activities does actually enable one to concentrate fully in spite of them. I’m more inclined to think that – along with a lot of other abilities, like amusing themselves during a power outage – the “digital generation” is losing the ability to concentrate fully on something that doesn’t engage them.”
Though these learning strategies summarized below will help us understand the transition to multiliteracy in an online learning environment, that is another realm of future enquiry; addressing the hanging issue of how transitioned students can effectively internalize and reflect on what they have learned which has been left as a question mark in the summary table.

 

References

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd ed]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
[Ed’s] Does the brain like e-books? (October 2009) featuring Liu, A., Aamodt, S, Wolf, M., Mark, G. Accessed online at the New York Times, November 1, 2009 at: from http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/does-the-brain-like-e-books
Ito, M., Horst, H., Bittani, M., Boyd, D., Herr-Stephenson, B., et al. (2008). Living and learning with new media: Summary of findings from the digital youth project. From: macfound.org , University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley.
Mabrito, M & Medley, R. (2008). Why Professor Johnny Can’t Read: Understanding the net generation’s texts. Innovate. Vol. 4, No. 6. Retrieved online November 1, 2009 from: http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=510&action=article Page 1 of 7

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