The usual, mind-expanding stuff… refracted through a shallow pool

I don’t link to Gardner Campbell nearly often enough. What usually happens is that he raises issues in his posts (or over a number of posts) that demand more engagement than my usual glib pose allows. I risk revealing my ignorance in all its shallow glory. Witness his most recent post, which juxtaposes a NY Times piece entitled “Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A.?” with a podcast by Jon Udell on podcasting, blogging and rich media on the web.

The NYT piece says nothing about blogging, podcasts, RSS, or even the Internet per se. Instead, it’s about a deeper kind of media literacy, one that not only trains students to sit back and dissects the rhetoric of, say, television commercials, but provides the deeper training in expressiveness within these media that we in the academy have long taken for granted in the realm of English composition. Dating back to the humanist revolution in education that occurred in the European Renaissance, the idea here is that merely reading isn’t enough. Deep skill in reading cannot be attained without deep skill in writing. Thus we teach not only attention to others’ words, but adaptive skills and strategies in creating those words ourselves. Now, students are going to film school not simply to land a job in the film industry, but to master the skills and strategies of sophisticated visual and aural communications. Moviemaking 101 sits right alongside English Comp.

What strikes me this morning is how closely Udell and the NYT piece agree on the fundamental importance of acquiring these skills and strategies for the new era of rich media on the World Wide Web. Udell points out that we no longer have people type for us. Instead, the word processor means that we all have to learn typing. The gain is that we are more productive. Similar new skills and new literacies — in modes of multimedia writing, not simply in reading — will be essential to success in this century.

Shades of a line by Jill Walker that I apparently never tire of quoting: “What’s more important to teach our students is network literacy: writing in a distributed, collaborative environment.” As Gardner’s post makes clear, our conception of literacy is likely to grow not only off of the static page, but beyond the domain of text as well.

I’d say more — I’m certainly thinking more — but that wall of ignorance contains my shallow pool of insight, at least for now. Oh well, nothing much at stake here, really, except the future of communication and cognition.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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