The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

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

It’s Up To You

For my course project, I decided to create an interactive fictional story for students learning English as a foreign language.  The target audience is a small to medium class of upper intermediate students between the ages of 15 and 25 who have recently learned the difference between direct and reported speech.  Appropriate level reading material for non-native English students is hard to come by, especially in a non-English speaking country and is greatly appreciated when available.  As indicated in the directions to be read before students start their reading journey, the activity can either be completed individually or as a group.  Often when there is a competitive element to activities such as these, students are much more motivated to participate as a group.  It could potentially be completed remotely but would best be suited for a face-to-face-to-screen computer lab scenario.   

This project is a product of my exploration and experimentation of the mixed media hypertext as a teaching tool.  Therefore the focus should be much more on the medium than on the actual content.  The storyline is of course fictional and is relatively inconsequential other than providing some authentic dialogue (between the reader and their cellmate) and vocabulary appropriate to the students’ level.  The story is somewhat shorter than I originally expected, however as I was writing it, I realized that it would be better to start with a simple storyline both for students and a writer that are new to this genre and the tools to create it. “An interactive fiction is an extension of classical narrative media as it supposes a direct implication of spectators during the story evolution. Writing such a story is much more complex than a classical one, and tools at the disposal of writers remain very limited compared to the evolution of technology” (Donikian and Portugal, 2004).  I also had an idea of how the story would go before I started writing, but the direction changed in the process as well and I learned that creating a graphic storyboard is very helpful for organizing the different directions it can take readers.  There are multiple endings, yet students are redirected to try the story again until they reach “the end.” 

Bush, Nelson, and Bolter were the three main authors we read in ETEC540 in order to gain an understanding of the origins, complexity and implications of hypertext.  Both Bush and Nelson were primarily concerned with hypertext as a natural means to disseminate nonfictional information, while Bolter’s chapter on fictional hypertext is the by far longest chapter in Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print.  In that chapter, he presents many literary techniques using hypertext to move readers between elements such as time, place, character, voice, plot, perspective, etc.  Although these techniques are intriguing, their complexity is not appropriate for my target audience.  Bolter’s analysis of hypertext goes further by pointing out that instead of being nonlinear, it is actually multilinear. He points out that all writing is linear, but hypertext can go in many different directions.  Even in his chapter titled Hypertext and the Remediation of Print, he writes, “The principal task of authors of hypertextual fiction on the Web or in stand-aloe form is the use links to define relationships among textual elements, and these links constitute the rhetoric of the hypertext” (Bolter, 2001, p. 29). 
 
Unlike a traditional storyline, hypertextual storytelling gives the students the freedom over how they read it.  This (perceived) control is a much more common characteristic to the way we interact with digital information today and therefore should be incorporated into classroom activities regularly.  Putting the student in the proverbial driver’s seat is indicative of a constructivistic teaching approach, which is especially effective when employing ICT in the classroom.  However, as Donikian and Portugal observe, “Whatever degree of interactivity, freedom, and non linearity might be provided, the role that the interactor is assigned to play always has to remain inside the boundaries thus defined by the author, and which convey the essence of the work itself” (2004).  For that reason, I have suggested that students actually modify and customize the story after they have read it.  They could do that individually or in pairs in class or for homework.  Most often, the more control students are given, the more they are motivated to participate and learn.  For their final project, they could create a complete story with multiple endings.

There are so many possibilities when writing fiction with hypertext and I have hardly scratched the surface in my first exploration into this genre.  This project has given me a solid base from with to create longer and more complex pieces for wider teaching contexts.  I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you experiment with this exciting medium as well.  Click here to access the story or copu and paste this url: http://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:ETEC540/2009WT1/Assignments/MajorProject/ItsUpToYou

References:

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 27-46, 121-160.

Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. The Atlantic Monthly, 176(1), 101-108.

Donikian, S. & Portugal, J. (2004). Writing Interactive Fiction Scenarii with DraMachina. Lecture notes in computer science, pp. 101–112

Nelson, Theodore. (1999). Xanalogical structure, needed now more than ever: Parallel documents, deep links to content, deep versioning and deep re-use.

November 29, 2009   2 Comments

Rip.Mix.Feed Photopeach

Hi everyone,

For my rip.feed.mix assignment, I decided not to re-invent the wheel, but instead to add to an already existing wheel. When I took ETEC565 we were asked to produce a similar project when exploring different web 2.0 tools. We were directed to The Fifty Tools. I used PhotoPeach to create my story. My wife and I moved to Beijing in the fall of 2007 and we’ve been traveling around Asia whenever we get a break from teaching. The story I’ve made is a very brief synopsis of some of our travels thus far. Since the original posting, I have updated the movie with more travels. You can view the story here.  If you’re in China, the soundtrack U2 – Where the Streets Have No Name will not play because it is hosted on YouTube.

What I enjoy most about these tools is that they are all available online, all a student needs to create a photo story is a computer with access to the Internet. To make the stories more personal, it would be great if they had access to their own digital pictures. However, if they have no pictures of their own, they can find pictures, through Internet searches that give results from a creative commons license to include in their stories.

Furthermore, as I teach in an international school in which most students speak English as a second, third, or fourth language, and who come from many different countries, Web 2.0 has “lowered barrier to entry may influence a variety of cultural forms with powerful implications for education, from storytelling to classroom teaching to individual learning (Alexander, 2006).” Creating digital stories about their own culture provides a medium through which English language learners acquire foundational literacies while making sense “of their lives as inclusive of intersecting cultural identities and literacies (Skinner & Hagood, p. 29).” With their work organized, students can then present their work to the classmates for discussion and feedback, build a digital library of age/content appropriate material, and share their stories with global communities (Skinner & Hagood).

John

References

Alexander, Bryan. (2006). “Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?” EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2).

Skinner, Emily N. & Hagood, Margaret C. (2008). “Developing Literate Identities With English Language Learners Through Digital Storytelling.” The Reading Matrix, 8(2), 12 – 38.

November 22, 2009   2 Comments

Capzles – Rip.Mix.Feed

My original plan was to have a short animation re-invention video presentation on Ahead but the application proved too frustrating to use. I kept the link for anyone to see on my website which is run with WordPress. Ahead is similar to Prezi, which I am more familiar with. However, when I went to the Prezi website to create my project, it was down for maintenance so I resorted to restarting something else in Capzle. The Capzles project contains a slideshow of photos from my recent trip to Hong Kong in late September.

If you cannot see the embedded slideshow above, view my Capzles project here.

November 22, 2009   3 Comments

Reflection…

 

Like Kelly, I originally created this “movie” using Slide.com for ETEC 565 in the summer term.  When I saw the Rip/Mix/Feed assignment I, too, was drawn back to this project I created out of our family trip across Canada 2 summers ago.  Now it seems even more poignant to me as I realize that this trip, which seems like yesterday, was right before I started my MET journey.  Now, as I revisit it I am almost done.  With one more course to do in January the process of reflecting on this journey is very timely.

This term has been incredibly hard for me.  I got a garden variety flu right at the beginning of the term and three days after that ended I got “the” flu.  I have felt incredibly behind throughout the term.  With this term almost over I heave a great sigh of relief!

All journeys have their difficulties but are hopefully worth it in the end.

I look forward to getting back to my family who have all sacrificed something so I could pursue this goal.  They have been very patient.

Journeys

November 19, 2009   4 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

Immortal stories: from orality to literacy

Commentary #1 – In response to: Ong-Orality and Literacy Chapter 3 “Some Psychodynamics of Orality”

Chapter 3 of Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy addresses the characteristics of primary oral cultures in relation to residual oral, chirographic and typographic cultures. The crux of Ong’s argument in this chapter is that it is extremely difficult for literate people to truly understand the nature of a primary oral culture because understanding demands the complete suspension of knowledge regarding literacy. One of the most profound explorations within the chapter is the nature of traditional stories and characters and their relevance today, not only as immortal components of the storytelling culture but also as historical landmarks indicative of the orality or literacy of a time.  Many of the classic stories modern literate cultures grew up with could be seen as lasting because of their abundance in print, but in actuality it is their ability to survive the test of orality that has solidified their place in history.

Ong explains that memory and the ability to repeat information without visual aids was crucial in primary oral cultures.  Since “colorless personalities cannot survive oral mnemonics”, the description of people and events must contain bizarre figures, formulary number groupings and/or epithets in order to be memorable (p.69).  These colorful elements that served as memory tools in oral cultures act as devices of fantasy for literate cultures; the same words play out differently as a result of levels of orality and literacy within a culture. Whereas such colorful descriptions would be part of oral rhetoric, they invoke the spirit of fantastical fiction, of fairy tales, myths and legends in modern literate cultures. Ong describes the nature of oral world as “highly polarized, agonistic… [defined by] good and evil, virtue and vice, villains and heroes” which supports the notion that these characteristics serve as mnemonic aids first and story elements only as residual effect (p.45). By invoking the likes of Mark Antony, Odysseus, Cyclops, Little Red Riding Hood and more, Ong draws upon characters that have withstood the test of time and forces the reader to examine them within the oral context.

If the opposite of agonistic name-calling in oral cultures is praise, then Mark Antony’s funerary oration confirms Ong’s assertions about the use of polarities as mnemonic devices. The lines directly following “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” are “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones” (III,ii). To a listener in oral cultures, these polarities have a sort of musical quality that commits the tune to memory, while to the reader, these lines are simply Shakespeare. Within the same short passage of Shakespeare comes multiple references to “honourable Brutus” and “ambitious Caesar”.  In the true spirit of the oral world of both ancient Rome and 16th century Shakespeare, these mnemonic aids are indicative of the true content of an oration. In pointing out the origin of these subtle stylings, Ong lays the framework for a cognizant analysis of texts born from primary oral or residual oral cultures.

The importance of epithets is evident in the polarized oral world of heroes and villains. Ong refers to the presence of epithets as “formularly baggage which high literacy rejects as cumbersome and tiresomely redundant because of its aggregative weight”(Ong, 1977 as found in Ong, p.38).  Modern conventions of English are weary of the kind of repetition that would suite an oral culture. However, it is an interesting feature of oral cultures that epithets were required in order to establish the foremost characteristic of an individual in order to make them memorable. Ong asserts that “once a formulary expression has crystallized, it had best be kept intact” although today, we might refer to this as oral typecasting (p.39). It is interesting that once an epithet or memorable expression is built up in an oral culture, it is almost impossible to escape. The nature of how oral communication dispenses means that it would be impossible to track everyone down who had heard something and correct their memory. However, literacy allows for the spread of the written word and while information is not erased in literate cultures, the dissemination of current information is much easier. A newspaper could proclaim a man guilty one day and then retract the next day and while a record would exist of both occurrences, the existence of a paper trail is the authority in changing appearances and opinion. Ong suggests that oral cultures kept oral epithets and formulary expressions intact because it would be very difficult to undo them under the authority of orality.

In literate cultures, Ong muses “you do not need a hero in the old sense to mobilize knowledge in story form” which is likely why stories that originated in a primary oral or residual oral cultures have a magical and fantastical quality about them (p.68).  On the surface, texts and transcripts of facts and stories that emerged from oral cultures appear to have their own style, but Ong points out that the conventions of writing we abide by today were not in existence in oral cultures. Polarities provided structure in the oral world and Ong does an excellent job of unpacking the nature of communication in the absence of literacy.

References:

Ong, W. J. (2002). Orality and Literacy. London: Routledge.

October 3, 2009   1 Comment

First Commentary: Orality and Literacy in Teaching

            Ong provides us with some very convincing arguments that there is a marked difference between the thought processes of a purely oral society compared to a literate society. One cannot deny that his examples of the work A. R. Luria appear to show very conclusively that the oral speaker thinks in more lifeworld terms, meanwhile the literate or even semi-literate man is capable of more abstract thinking processes. Ong clearly states that “Literate users of a grapholect such as standard English have access to vocabularies hundreds of times larger than any oral language can manage” (p. 14).On the whole I find myself in agreement with him. However, I have several in laws who are illiterate and when we have problems it is often due to misunderstandings because I have used language in a different way than they do.

            Therefore, I find myself left with doubts about the validity of some of his arguments. I wonder if it is really possible for a literate person to know what questions to ask an illiterate person in order to determine their thought processes. I can empathize if I have this skill, but I have been literate all my life. I have had access as Ong quotes Finnegan as saying to “The new way to store knowledge … in the written text. This freed the mind for more original, more abstract thought” (Ong, p. 24).Is it possible to be objective if I have so much more language to command? I believe that as teachers we need to look at orality and literacy at all levels of education. I train teachers from kinder to high school. It is important for kinder teachers to realise how important their use of language is. Children entering kinder garden are being exposed, often for the first time, to new language and new voices. Ong (p.71) explains how one can become immersed in sound. Children love repeated sounds and the use of onomatopoeia and alliteration is crucial for keeping their attention. Small children develop language skills when language is introduced in an additive and aggregative way.

            I think almost all teachers would agree that storytelling and giving new information using story telling techniques is a standard practice. However, when we come to older children the reverse is true. Mexico, in particular, is a very sociable and oral culture. However, in the secondary and high school, children until recently, were expected to increase their knowledge by almost exclusively literate means. Whereas, in primary school they were encouraged to vocalise their thoughts, now they are expected to listen to the teacher, read their textbook or investigate on their computers and finally to produce a written document or answer a written exam. Oral skills are not encouraged and children are told to not waste their time talking. It would appear that these teachers believe that “Writing heightens consciousness. Alienation from a natural milieu can be good for us and indeed is in many ways essential for full human life” (Ong, p. 81).  Some teachers have tried to change the heavily weighted literary elements of their teaching method by getting their students to present their investigation to the group. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this has not been very successful; as most students read their presentation and some adolescents find it a traumatising experience to be singled out to speak in front of the group.

            I became aware of these drawbacks about a few years ago and I have tried to adapt my curriculum accordingly. I see no reason why students have to read alone or in silence. I encourage my students to read aloud in groups and to each other. I find this allows them to stop and discuss relevant points, take notes (written or pictorial) or ask for help if a concept is not clear. I give them options on how to present their knowledge, either, mental or conceptual maps, written summaries, pictorial representations or in oral form. Most of my students come from families were reading is not a common pastime and very few of them read for pleasure. Ong states that “High literacy fosters truly written composition” (p. 94) and I find myself in agreement to some extent. Nevertheless, if a culture does not have very developed literary skills, I believe that it is necessary to find some intermediate path between orality and literacy and from the results I have encountered in my classroom I think that combining orality and literacy is one method that is effective.   

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

September 29, 2009   2 Comments