The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing



Like Kelly, I originally created this “movie” using 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.


November 19, 2009   4 Comments

[R]evolution of Communication

New technology alters the structure of our interests: the things we think about.  They alter the character of our symbols: the things we think with.  And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop. (Postman, 1992, p.20)

Walter Ong in his acclaimed book, Orality and Literacy, posits that “more than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness” (1982, p.77).  Writing has also transformed the way in which people connect with each other.  In an oral culture, communication was limited to what an individual could witness first hand or what they heard via another medium (clergy, messengers, etc.).  As the technology of writing developed, books, letters and telegraphs further evolved how people communicated with each other and allowed people to communicate with a broader audience.  This paper contends that there has been a revolution of communication as digital technologies have altered the way in which people communicate.  The question remains – Is digital technology creating connections or digitally dividing us? 

The Internet, and particularly Web 2.0, has altered our ability to refute written text.  In an oral culture, people had the opportunity to directly discuss (or disagree) with a message as the message and the source were one (Ong).  Ong argues that there is “no way to directly refute a text” (p.78).  Written work has had a long history of “stability and authority” and the average person was not given the power to question it (Bolter, 2001).  As writing evolved to include letters and newspaper, people could write editorials (that may or may not be published) to voice their opinions.  Web 2.0 has altered the landscape for personal expression and opened up communication.  Dobson and Willinsky agree that digital literacy is allowing people to “speak out and make one’s views widely available” (2009, p.1).  Even the terminology used has changed; books have readers, whereby websites have visitors (Kress, 2001).  A visitor can instantly comment on a story and share that with friends, family or the World Wide Web.  Take for example, CNN’s website, whereby at the end of each story, visitors are given the option of Mixx, Facebook, Twitter, Share, Email, Save and Print (CNN).  CNN also allows visitors to instantly comment on all stories posted.  Writing opened up communication lines and Web 2.0 further breaks down institutional barriers and allows individual voices to be heard. 

Ong comments, “A chirographic (writing) culture and even more so a typographic (print) culture can distance and in a way denature even the human, itemizing such as the names of leaders and political divisions in an abstract” (p. 42).  In an oral situation people are more guarded with their opinions as not to offend others.  When speaking, the audience is present and the speaker has to express their thoughts succinctly and timely.  On the other hand, writing puts a distance to what is being said both in terms of time and space.  A writer has time to reflect and revise their work.  Digital technology has created a new medium that allows written text to be more instantaneous like oral dialogue.  In UBC’s MET program, the students had a written discussion about the differences between an email message and a phone conversation and Clare Roche (2009) wrote, “if we are imagining that someone is reading our words, it is usually because we know that our written words can be kept and may be used as evidence against us”.  Laurie Trepanier (2009) commented that “email dehumanizes events and some people use it as an escape from having to do the dirty work”.  What people write and what people say are often very different. 

According to Ong, in an oral culture, people speak to be heard and unity is created when a speaker addresses an audience.  Ong argues that print isolates and is not written for any particular group.  Postman also believes that in a classroom orality leads to cooperation where as print emphasises individualized learning and competition.  The evolution of the World Wide Web to include Web 2.0 technology like blogs, social book marking, and wiki’s is altering that perception of text; Alexander comments that “an entire genre of Web services has emerged solely for connecting people to each other based on their interests and personality” (2008, p.152).  The goal of many social software applications is to create openness, collaboration and a community – very much the same as orality.  The Web also allows the audience to be global as it is not bound by location.  UBC’s Master of Educational Technology prides its self on being an internationally recognized program that is offered fully online and taken by students from thirty different countries (MET, 2009).  Jerry Bleecker comments, “When a document begins in BC, is refined in China, polished in Ontario, proofed in Japan, and submitted from New York, you know you’ve been part of a truly global learning experience” (MET).

In 1982, when Ong wrote his book, the World Wide Web was in its infancy and Web 2.0 was not yet on the horizon.  Web 2.0 and digital technology has evolved to incorporate many of the attributes that oral cultures appreciate: a sense of openness and community.  Digital technology is not without its pitfalls, but it gives the individual power to refute and let their voices be heard.  The line is already blurred between oral dialogue and written correspondence with instant messaging and texting and it will be interesting to watch as communication patterns continue to evolve and improve.  Digital technology holds the power to create connections between people.  These connections are different than that of a traditional oral culture, but strong communication channels and a sense of community can still be built.




Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies. Educase Review, 4(1), p. 34-44.

Bolter, J. (2001).  Writing spaces: computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Eribaum.

CNN. (2009). Retrieved November 19, 2009 from

Dobson T, Willinsky J. Digital Literacy. In: Olson D, Torrance N, editors. Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2009.

MET website. (2009).  Retrieved November 19, 2009 from

Ong, Walter. (1982.) Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books.

Roche, C. (2009). Orality and Literacy [ETEC 540 class discussion]. Retrieved from e-Learning @ UBC website:

Trepanier, L. (2009). ). Orality and Literacy [ETEC 540 class discussion]. Retrieved from e-Learning @ UBC website:

November 19, 2009   2 Comments

Commentary #3: Web 2.0 Collaborative Learning

In “Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?”, Bryan Alexander (2006) examines how social software has become an important part of Web 2.0 enabling people to connect with other people all over the world. Alexander (2006) compares social software applications to “static or database-driven web pages” (p.32) whereby users can modify social software sites such as wikis, but can only read information on static web pages (p.32). Web 2.0 builds on the microcontent that users have been creating for years and enables them to develop “web content often collaboratively and often open to the world” (p.34). Alexander (2006) emphasizes the importance of Web 2.0 users being information architects who create microcontent in an open environment (p.34).

Alexander (2006) then describes and compares the various types of Web 2.0 tools that exist. Folksonomy is a type of metadata that users assign to data to tag it so that it can be easily identified, retrieved, and shared with others (p.34).

Social bookmarking is a “service for storing, describing, and sharing bookmarks” (Alexander, 2006, p.34) that plays an important role from a teaching and learning perspective because social bookmarking allows for “collaborative information discovery” (p.36). Social bookmarking is also beneficial because it provides a location to post links and facilitates networking with peers who share common interests which can lead to collaborative learning with others. It also offers new perspectives on one’s research: “as clusters and tags reveal patterns” (p.36). In addition, for groups who are collaborating on a project, each member can upload their own bookmarks to a central location without being co-located and an instructor can easily track their students’ “progress in their research” (p.36).

The wiki is the best Web 2.0 tool for facilitating social interactions and collaborations (p.36). In addition, some Web 2.0 tools exist to enable users to create websites using user-friendly graphical user interfaces (p.38). These tools are similar to wikis in that they offer social interactions like wikis, but differ in that they are more user-friendly than wikis and identify the authors (p.38). From a teaching and learning perspective, wikis and these websites that exist for creating websites easily promote collaborative work environments where many people can work together on group assignments (p.38).

Blogging is an important tool for digital writing and there are various search services that exist to “let users search for content within blogs” (p.38). From a teaching and learning perspective, creating blog entries and the ability to search for blog entries enables students and teachers to track a search throughout a semester (p.40).

Blogdex and other similar sites combine news and social software to enable people who share a common interest in news stories to connect with each other. These sites contain powerful search engines that “enhance the pedagogy of current events” (p.40) enabling classes to explore the various perspectives contained in these sites (p.40).

Although in closing Alexander (2006) is hopeful and excited about the prospect of Web 2.0 tools continuing to evolve and offer easy to use social collaborative environments in which to teach and learn, he raises concerns about IT support being an issue and copyright violations posing a problem as well in the future (p.42).

Dalsgaard (2006) concurs with Alexander (2006) that Web 2.0 tools offer innovative ways for teaching and learning: “social software tools can support a social constructivist approach to e-learning by providing students with personal tools and engaging them in social networks” (p.2). However, Dalsgaard (2006) recommends that social software tools be designed specifically to support learning considering the fact that social software such as wikis, weblogs and social bookmarking were not developed with teaching and learning in mind (p.9).

Uribe, Klein, and Sullivan (2003) examined the effects of learners first learning a four-step problem solving process on their own through an eLearning course. Then, they examined the same learners working in computer-mediated pairs or alone to apply the four-step problem solving process to a problem-based learning exercise. The learners who worked in pairs using a computer-mediated collaborative environment: a chat room in a virtual classroom hosted through a learning management system did better than the students who worked on the same problem alone. As a result, “the study indicates that computer mediated collaborative learning is a more effective strategy when teaching problem-solving skills than is individual learning” (p.17).

When it comes to computer supportive collaborative learning, Lou, Abrami, and d’Apollonia (2001) affirm that learners learn better when they collaborate in groups of 3 to 5 people either asynchronously or synchronously as opposed to learning on their own “by comparing alternative interpretations and solutions, correcting each other’s misconceptions, forming a more holistic picture of the problem if the task is complex, or simply pooling resources” (p.479).

Clark and Mayer (2008) also state that synchronous and asynchronous social software help facilitate group collaborations for learners in e-Learning courses: “chats, breakout rooms in virtual classrooms, wikis, blogs, and discussion boards offer a variety of channels for online collaboration” (p.259). Similarly, Bennet and Bennet (2006) state that a learning management system (LMS) facilitates learning by providing social software applications within the LMS for collaboration and sharing of knowledge amongst learners (p.4).


Regardless of whether Web 2.0 asynchronous and synchronous social software applications are located within a learning management system or on the Internet, they offer wonderful tools for facilitating collaborative learning without learners needing to be co-located. In addition, learning in small groups with social software has proven to be a better method for learning than learning on one’s own due to the rich collaborative environments that these applications provide to their learners.


Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? EDUCAUSE Review, 41, (2), 32-44.

Bennet A. & Bennet D. (2008). e-Learning as energetic learning. The journal of information and knowledge management systems, 38, (2), 1-12.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Pfeiffer San Francisco.

Dalsgaard, C. (2006). Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, (2), 1-11.

Lou, Y., Abrami, P.C., & d’Apollonia, S. (2001). Small group and individual learning with technology: A meta-analysis.  Review of Educational Research, 71 (3), 449-521.

Uribe, D., Klein, J.D., & Sullivan, H. (2003). The effect of computer-mediated collaborative learning on solving ill-defined problems. Educational Technology Research and Development, 51 (1), 5-19

November 19, 2009   2 Comments

This is just the beginning

I made this blog for fun. I was inspired by Catherine who checked out my university blogs, (which I will fix in the vacations), but this blog is going to be a place where I can be myself. I have been told that I am technologically challenged, but I will not let that hold me back. I will follow the example of the little turtle (very slow and very determined), I will make many errors, I will require infinite patience, but I will get there in the end.

A Happy Turtle

A Happy Turtle

November 19, 2009   2 Comments

The future of Professor Johnny

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           I have a class full of the Net Generation.  They live in a hypermediated world where they can virtually dissect an owl pellet on, they can learn about simple machines on or play math and literacy games on  They expect that when they do a science unit on bats that they will be able to see bats in their natural habitat.  They know that when they don’t understand what a word means they can not only look it up online and it will usually be accompanied by a digital image of some description.  The world is at their fingertips.  They are in grade 2.

            In their article, Why Professor Johnny can’t read: Understanding the Net Generation’s texts, authors Mark Mabrito and Rebecca Medley (2008) offer an opportunity for educators to examine what they will need to do in order to make themselves more effective in educating the next generation.  Today’s students are a fundamentally different iteration of learners.  They have grown up with, “pervasive digital technology” (Mabrito & Medley, 2008).  And, according to Marc Prensky (2001) this change represents a singularity in that the effects of changes in technology are so dramatic that there can be no return to previous ways of thinking or doing.

             Key to this difference, the authors claim, is the way in which educators and the Net Generation view texts (Mabrito & Medley, 2008).  As the Net Generation has been inundated by digital technologies they have developed skills that their teachers do not necessarily have.  These savvy kids have the ability to move within the text presented to them and to create and modify information in a multi-media environment.  Most of their teachers grew up using text in a linear fashion and are used to the text itself being in control of the way in which information is presented to, and gathered by, the user (Mabrito & Medley, 2008).  Today, the presentation of information occurs not only in a non-linear format but is also multi-modal in nature in that it may also be enhanced by video, audio and digital images.   Our Net Generation students are learning to move fluidly in this environment and have come to expect that everything they experience will be presented in this fashion.  This shift in how the two generations learn suggests that culture influences both what and how a person thinks and that the actual processing of information may, “differ according to the culture in which a person matures” (Mabrito & Medley, 2008).

             For our educators, teaching to this new breed of student will be a challenge.  If our practice is truly self-reflective it will be ourselves that need to morph to work with the different set of skills that our learners need and are currently developing outside of the classroom environment.  Mabrito and Medley (2008) suggest that educators will have to embrace to concept of distributed knowledge and move away from the traditional notion of individual knowledge.  This strategy for learning is evident in many of the classrooms of today in the form of an increased emphasis on “doing” rather than “receiving” learning.  Good teachers are striving to have their students participate in learning in a more vocal and kinesthetic way but this trend in education is, most likely, not born out of cultural trends in learning.  The authors also feel that educators will need to go out to the world of their students and experience and learn from it first hand (Mabrito & Medley, 2008). 

            Looking at the criteria for this very assignment leads me to wonder what the impact of the Net Generation’s vision of reading text will be on the world of academia.  The criterion for this very assignment includes the following elements.

           “Commentaries should show evidence of considered, critical    response, and           claims should be supported through citation of relevant sources. Writing is            expected to be of a professional/scholarly standard.” (ETEC 540, 2009)

Will the definition of “formal” change when the Net Generation takes over the helm in the academic world?  Will what is considered to be “professional standard” change as professions evolve to reflect cultural changes?

            Last night, my twelve year old son sat on the couch with the laptop balanced on his knees.  His assignment was to find two words in the novel they were studying in class and to find the definition for each.  When I asked him what he was doing he said that, “Going to was a lot easier than looking through that big honking book”.  I burst out laughing at how apropos his comment was to what I was currently working on.  The teacher intended the students to learn some of those dictionary skills we have spent so much time on with our students in the past but my son has always had the ability to seek out information in ways that I did not as a student.  Resistance, as they say, is futile.  Today’s educators will have to step up their involvement in the world of their students if they want to help prepare them for their world.



Mabrito, M. & Medley, R. (2008).  Why Professor Johnny can’t read: Understanding the Net Generation’s texts.  Innovate: Journal of Online Education, Vol.4 (6).  Retrieved from!1296897521!!20001!-1!-1968798209!!20001!-1

Prensky, M. (2001).  Digital natives, digital immigrants.  On the Horizon, Vol.9, No. 5.

November 19, 2009   2 Comments