The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Category — Research Paper

Unintended Consequences

The Printing Press and European Witch-Hunts

Gutenberg’s printing press, invented in 1440 has been heralded by some as one of the most important inventions of all time. “The invention and development of printing with movable type brought about the most radical transformation in the conditions of intellectual life in the history of western civilization. It opened new horizons in education, and in the communication of ideas. Its effects were sooner or later felt in every department of human activity.”(Gilmore, p. 186) Whether it deserves this status is debatable, but it certainly is what Elizabeth Eisenstein (1979) calls “an agent of change. “ Many including Eisenstein credit the ability to mass produce printed text as being an effective agent of change in the Reformation, the European Renaissance, European nationalism, education, and the advance of science and technology. Francis Bacon said, “ We should note the force, effect, and consequences of inventions which are nowhere more conspicuous than those three which were unknown to the ancients, namely: printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the world.” (P. 43)

It is not the intent of this paper to look at all the consequences of the printing press, but rather to look specifically at one unintended consequence; the European witch hunts which occurred from the 1400’s to the 1700’s. These witch hunts resulted in the murder of somewhere between 60,000 and 100, 000 people, primarily women who were brutally tortured and then hung or burned at the stake. Although little research on the causes of the witch-hunts has been completed both Eisenstein (1979) and Schlain (1998) contend that although the printing press didn’t cause the witch hunts, it was certainly a major catalyst.

burning witches

A Brief History of the Witch Hunts
Prior to the 14th century, witches were not a major concern. There were good witches and bad ones, depending on the type of magic they performed. The users of magic did so to meet mundane human needs with things such as love potions, and fertility rituals. Witches, or more often known as healers, were capable of special actions through the use of spells and potions. These people were viewed at the most as having special powers, but were not considered in a negative light. (Ben- Yehuda, 1980) The official belief of the Catholic Church up and into the 13th century was that witchcraft was an illusion. In 1326 Pope John XXII took the papal seat. He believed in the presence of witches and issued Super illus specular, which acknowledged that magic was real, and a heresy. This gave the inquisitors the power they needed to hunt out and punish witches. Punishment for practicing witchcraft at this time was mild – perhaps a day in the stocks. By the end of the 15th century and for the next 200 years witchcraft would become an “elaborate demonological theology” (Ben- Yehuda, 1980) that captured the interest of not only the clergy and the law, but the general public as well. The last official execution for witchcraft was in 1782.

Factors Influencing the Witch hunts.

In his concluding discussion, Ben-Yehuda (1980) credits the new goals set by the Dominicans to extend the inquisition to witchcraft, and the massive social upheaval that Europe was experiencing as a result of the both the Reformation, and the renaissance for creating the conditions for the witch craze. Although these are factors that led to and helped sustain the witch craze, I believe he is omitting one of most important factors; the printing press.

Thirty years after the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, two Dominican order inquisitors, James Sprenger, and Henry Kramer wrote Melleus maleficarum or The Witch’s Hammer in order to refute claims that witches didn’t exist. Although this wasn’t the only book about witchcraft published (at least fifteen different books were written (Ben- Yehuda, 1980)) it was certainly the most influential. This book was divided into three parts. The first section provided arguments about the existence of witches, the second was a detailed description on how to identify them and the final section provided information of the legalities of witchcraft and how to sentence witches. Its popularity was almost immediate and was reprinted at least 20 times between 1574 and 1669. (Schlain, 1998) At one point it was only second to the bible in popularity. (Lovelace).


How is it possible that one printed book could be the purveyor of the horrors of the witch-hunts? Ben-Yehuda states “Its enormous influence was practically guaranteed, owing not only to its authoritative appearance but also to its extremely wide distribution.”(p. 11) With-out the printing press the distribution and multiple printings would not have been possible. He also raises another important point-the fact that the book had an authoritative appearance, which was critical for the success of this text.

Europe was in the midst of great social change at this time. The Reformation brought about a challenge to the moral authority of the church. Scientific and technological innovations where changing the way people lived, thought, and worked. People were moving into urban areas, which changed the traditional feudal order and hierarchy. All this change led to social instability and confusion. In a state of upheaval people look for moral guidance and authority to explain what is happening and what can be done about it. Melleus maleficarum offered this moral guidance and authority. Because of its contents, structure and printed form Melleus maleficarum provided a powerful new ideology that people were seeking.

An ideology has several features. It provides an authoritative explanation of events. It contains “suasive images” that have the power to arouse emotions, direct mass action, and a promise that this course will restore the pre-existing situation. (Geertz 1964) Lovelace reminds us that understanding the world according to scientific principal was in its infancy. In an attempt to understand the world, people often accredited unexplainable events to magic. “The Malleus drew upon those beliefs, and, by its very existence, reinforced them and brought them into the codified belief system of the Catholic Church. “ (Lovelace)

It was not just the contents of the book that made it so powerful, but the fact that it was a book was also key. Eisenstien (1979) says “the deep penetration of new controls to all departments of life becomes more explicable when we note that printed books are more portable than pulpits, more numerous than priests, and the messages they contain more easily internalized.” (p. 428) Much of what had been passed down orally was now being recorded in books. Ong (1982) tells us that in an oral culture, information passed along did not have the same permanence as printed text. The information was provided in the here and now and was subject to revision according to the situation. Printed text offered the same information but it was being presented in a new way- one that made it very difficult to ignore or alter. As Eisenstein(1979) tells us, it offered precise rules or codes about how things were to be done. Malleus offered clues to identification of witches. For example the printed texts informed that witches were often older single women with cats. Perhaps before this book was printed, you could choose to ignore this type of gossip, but once it was published, it presented an authoritative voice that one could not ignore. Neighbours and even family members reported one another.

Although the printing press was not the cause of the European witch craze of the 1400 through 1700’s, it was a technology that allowed for the mass production of material that was instrumental in the dissemination of information that fed the witch-hunt craze. The rapidly changing social order, the pressure to control ones behavior, and the major changes that were happening with-in the church were certainly critical factors. Without the printed texts, the witch-hunts would never have been as devastating as they were.

The witch-hunts do not directly affect literacy or education today, but there is a lesson to be learned. Dewar (1998) warns us that many developments have unintended consequences which often dominate the intended ones. Although the Catholic Church may have seen the benefits of the printing of intentions and the bible, it surely didn’t see the unintended consequence; that being the protestant reformation. The witch-hunts are another example of unintended consequences. “ If the future is to be dominated by unintended consequences, it would be a good idea to get to those consequences as quickly as possible….. or you will be overrun.” (p. 25) He goes on to say that if large institutions such as schools and governments choose to deal with inappropriate use through bans and firewalls, they may well find they have a reformation (or witch-hunt)on their hands. One that may have results of which they have no control. It is critical that we stay on top of these things and deal with them quickly in a creative way- not by pretending they don’t exist.

For more information about the witch-hunts view the following video.


Ben- Yehuda, N. (1980). The european witch craze of the 14th to 17th centuries: A sociologist’s perspective. The American Journal of Sociology , 86 (1), 1-31.

Dewar, J. (1998). The Information Age and the Printing Press:Looking Backwards to See Ahead. US: RAND Publications

Eisenstien, E. (1979). The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Vol. 1). West Hanover, US: Cambridge University Press.

Gilmore, M. P. (1952). The World of Humanism 1453-1517. In E. Langer (Ed.), The Rise of Modern Europe. New York.

Lovelace, W. (n.d.). Malleus Maleficarum Introduction. Retrieved October 2009, from Wicasta’s Writing: /?p=61

Mullins, W. (1972). On the Concept of Ideology in Political Science. The American Political Science Review.

Ong, W. (2002). Orality and Literacy. Great Britain: Routeledge.

Russell, J. (1972). Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Cornell University Press.

Schlain, L. (1998). The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. US: Penguin Compass.

The Burning Times Documentary Part 5,


October 31, 2009   2 Comments

From Handwriting to Typing

Please visit this link From Handwriting to Typing to view the research project by Catherine Gagnon and Tracy Gidinski.

October 31, 2009   No Comments

How Did We Get to Number 1?



    Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, once stated that everything could be expressed in numbers (Lahanas, n.d.). Numbers are an integral part of our society; they can represent meaning, communicate significance and conotate importance. The evolution of numbers has infiltrated every aspect of society as it has changed the characteristics of reading, writing, language and therefore communication. Even Galileo declared that the very language of nature was mathematics (Nickel, n.d.).
    In the following paragraphs, the origin and history of numbers will be discussed, along with the impact the development and application of the numeric system has had on our culture; including our social, educational and commercial systems.

Origin of Numbers

    The first and oldest calculating system was the hand (Ifrah, 2000). Then came notches (tally sticks: various dates are debated), pebbles, followed by numbers on strings (Ifrah, 1985). These are all considered memory aids or mnemonic devices, which allowed society to store and record imperative information (ETEC540, 2009). The abacus, (which is a direct descendant from pebble counting: pebble meaning calculus in Latin), was than followed by Roman numerals (Ifrah, 1985). The invention of numbers was not a linear process; some cultures developed numbering systems independent from each other, or tried to improve on an old system when they discovered that it did not meet their needs.
    Egyptian, Chinese, Roman, Greek, Mayan, Babylonian, Inca, and Indian numbering system were developed; some of which were base 10, 20 and 60 (Uhl, 2008). Our present numbering system is a base-ten system, which means numbers 0 – 9 are used and multiplied by increasing powers of ten (Uhl, 2008). This is a Hindu-Arabic system developed in 60 AD, which was preceded by the Roman numeral system (Uhl, 2008). The Mayans, Aztecs, Celts, and Basques had a base 20 systems, while the Sumerians and Babylonians had a base 60 system (Ifrah, 2000).  This is where the division of 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and the division of a circle being 360 degrees originated (Ifrah, 2000).
    Numbering systems came out of necessary economic and social development, and therefore there are no differences between prehistoric rock paintings, memory aids (mnemonic devices), winter counts, tallies, knotted cords, pictographs or the alphabet; these were all forms of necessary information storage and messaging (ETEC540, 2009).

Changes to Culture

Impact on the Social System.

The technology of numbers has infiltrated every aspect of our culture, and is closely linked to language and the alphabet. “To realize that representation begins with language, actualized in the creation of a reproducible formal structure, is already to apprehend the fundamental tie between language and number[s]” (Zerzan, 2009, p.1). The numerical system has had a substantial impact on the social systems that followed. The meaning behind 1st, 2nd and 3rd place or level 1, 2 and 3 on the salary scale, are some examples. 

Numbers have significantly impacted the communication system, and therefore the social structure of society. Whether it is a telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, pager number or cell phone number, it is the basis of many forms of communication. And how a society communicates with one another determines its boundaries and defines its communities. Technology creates a new language in society and along with it a different way of communicating.

Some argue that numbers were more than a cultural invention; that it reflected more of a cognitive evolution (DeCruz, 2006). Whereas others believed that numerical concepts were a gradual accumulation of mathematical knowledge, and therefore the result of cultural evolution (DeCruz, 2006). Regardless, the technology of numbers has evolved to fill the necessary voids of knowledge, information storage, and data analysis.

Impact on the Educational System

The invention of time using numbers altered the educational system. Time allowed the increments of classes. Numbers permitted the use of grades, along with the conditioning of the technology of numbers (Postman, 1992). Grades, IQ and GPA’s communicate to society one’s level of intelligence. Numbers have given us chronological age with various meanings. We start school at age 6, age 16 comes freedom and independence with a driver’s license, and we end school at age 18, at which age we are considered an ‘adult’. Completing these milestones is an expectation of society

With numbers came the advent of calculation, math and science. “The invention and democratization of our positional number-system has had immeasurable consequences for human society, since it facilitated the explosion of science, of mathematics and of technology” (Ifrah, 2000, p. 594).  Scientists have linked math to art and music, and surmise that the language of mathematics involves a particular kind of visual and sensory motor thinking that goes beyond ordinary language (Peat, 1990). Mathematics is considered a unique language related to clear cut criterion that can begin or end communication (Nickel, n.d.).

Numbers allow easy referencing. The dewy decimal system is built into every library while numbering of chapters and verses in the bible allow access to passages. Previously the religious elite would have to read through many papyrus scrolls or manuscripts to locate a specific verse or passage.

 Impact on Commercial and Commerce System.

Numbers and time have had a significant effect on the commerce system.  “The division of time into regular, predictable units is fundamental to the operation of society” (Weisman, 1995, p.1). For example, the clock was invented by monks in monasteries to provide precision in worship rituals. Now it is a product of capitalism, for without the clock there would be no workday, no standardized production or standardized product (Postman, 1992).

Numbers created a clearer way of communicating trade. Quality, quantity and grade of product are all assigned a numerical value, each representing or denoting a specific concept. Grade A eggs or a ton of number 2 grade Winter Wheat has definition and meaning to those in agriculture.

The banking system is number based. Every business transaction has numbers associated with it. Whether it is in the form of pay cheques, taxes, social security numbers, account numbers, property tax roll numbers, hydro account numbers, etc. Credit card numbers are large financial gains for credit card companies, and allows the acquisition of goods that otherwise would not be amassed by the population.

Language of Computer

The creation of numbers allowed the binary system – the language of computers – to be established. Computers have changed every aspect of our culture, including the way we learn and think, acquire education, commerce, our community identities and how we conduct business.

Digital books have replaced papyrus rolls, manuscripts and paperbacks. One manufacturer advertises that their digital book holds up to ten bibles, thereby replacing the standard unit of measuring manuscripts, which was sheep (Keep, 2001). Parchment was originally made of sheep and a 160-page book was referred to as a forty sheep book (Keep, 2001).

The advancement of computers has changed the very nature and space of reading and writing, and challenges our concept of knowledge. It has impacted the entertainment and news industry, which is the very mode of communication that feeds society. The long-term effects of computers are still to be seen.


     The advent of numbers has had a profound impact on society; from a social, education and commerce viewpoint; providing the foundation of many essential aspects of one’s life. “New technologies alter 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” (ETEC540, 2009). Numbers have changed how we communicate, the spaces in which we read and write, how we perceive meaning, store data and organize information. In essence, everything.  


    DeCruz, H. (2006). Why are some numerical concepts more successful than others? An evolutionary perspective on the history of number concepts. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 306-323.

    ETEC540. (2009). Text technologies: the changing spaces of reading and writing. Retrieved from!-170808859!!20001!-1!2016739437!!20001!-1

    Flegg, G. (1983). Numbers: Their History and Meaning. New York: Schocken Books.

    Glaser, A. (1971). History of Binary and other nondecimal numeration.Pennsylvania: Tomash Publishers.

    Ifrah, G. (1985). From one to zero. New York: Viking Penguin, Inc.

    Ifrah, G. (2000). The universal history of numbers from prehistory to the invention of the computer. New York: John Wiley & sons, Inc.

    Keep, C., McLaughlin, T., & Parmar, R. (2001). The electronic labyrinth. Retrieved from

    Lahanas, M. (n.d.). Pythagoras: The whole thing is a number. Retrieved from

    Nickel, G. (n.d.). Reason’s Nature— The Role of Mathematics. Retrieved from’s+Nature+-+Role+of+Mathematics+G-Nickel+Madrid.pdf.

Peat, D. (1990).  Mathematics and the language of nature. Retrieved from

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

 Uhl, T. (2008). Evolution of Number Systems. Retrieved from

  Weissman, J. (1995). A Brief History of Clocks: From Thales to Ptolemy.Retrieved  from 1995

 Z rzan, J. (2009). Number: Its Origin and Evolution. Retrieved from

October 31, 2009   No Comments

Comic books and graphic novels: The transformation of reading in the classrooom


 YouTube Preview Image


            Ask many librarians or classroom teachers and they will often remark that the comic is a low form of the written word and does not denote “serious” reading on the part of their students.  Many will not count reading a comic as part of a home reading program or, at the elementary level, will not allow students to read this type of material during class silent reading periods.  Even librarians who willingly add them to their collections often dismiss their importance (Tilley, 2008).  In recent years however, the tide seems to be turning in favour of these pulpy little stories.  Innovative teachers are beginning to accept the role that comics, and their closely related cousins, the graphic novel, are capable of playing in the education of our children (Viadero, 2009).


      Even though there is evidence of the existence of comics dating back over 150 years they became most readily available during the 1930’s in North American news agents and drugstores (Aleixo & Norris, 2007).  This coupled with the low price of the publications made them easily accessible to the public in general and children in particular.  In addition there was little competition from other media at that time for, “the time, money, and attention of children” (Jacobs, 2007).  Jacobs explains that this ease of availability meant that comics offered a different option for the practice of literacy that was beyond the bounds of a child’s formal education (2007).  This increased literacy practice has propelled many children forward as literate members of society and despite the criticisms leveled at the comic world these little books may be better positioned to prepare today’s students for the multiple literacies required in a world where they are constantly inundated by visual images.

Modification and Multimodality

      While comics have been much maligned by educators and were even the topic of televised US Senate hearings in 1954 (Kannenburg, 2008), their potential role in literacy education in the classroom is somewhat more positive.  It is still rare for teachers to embrace their use in literacy training but it seems that regardless of how scholars define the comic form what seems constant is that in this genre the visual is an important element and, “should not be seen as subservient to the written” (Jacobs, 2007).

      It is this combination of text and image that Gunther Kress calls multimodality (Jacobs, 2007).  Jacobs maintains that this shift to thinking about comics as multimodal text rather than as a lesser form of writing is significant in the culture of text (2007).  It is also significant in terms of understanding the power of comics to teach multiliteracy skills required by today’s students.  This valuing of visual literacy has been slow to take hold.  Teachers are taught to believe that beginning readers rely on text and that good readers move beyond pictures but the inclusion of comics and graphic novels into the classroom has provided a new generation with an opportunity for layered deconstruction that may help them scrutinize the manner in which interdependent text and imagery creates what has been called, “a strong sequential narrative” (Williams, 2008).  This layered deconstruction will involve not only an examination of the text and images but will need to consider the comic author’s use of panels in the creation of the story.  These panels guide the reader’s attention and pace the reading in the same way that, “poets use line breaks and punctuation” (Tilley, 2008). 

James Bucky Carter (2007) contends that integration of graphic novels into the classrooms of today will transform the study of English.  A move away from the notion that literacy is purely text-based will help educators move beyond what he calls, “one size fits all” literacy education (Carter, 2007).   This means that the impact of this form of reading may not have had its full impact yet.  Its time may still be coming thanks to technological developments that increasingly rely on the user’s ability to process visual images.

Pathways to learning

      In many curricular areas the reading of comics affords the educator and the reader a unique opportunity to engage in concepts and ideas that would be, depending on the age of the student, unreachable or difficult in traditional text formats.  The inclusion of pictures adds a scaffolding element to learning that can be particularly advantageous in the area of social studies.   Williams (2008) argues that, “graphic novels, like a compelling work of art, or a well-crafted piece of writing have the potential to generate a sense of empathy and human connectedness among students”.  Visuals combined with text allow comic and graphic artists to ask their readers to consider a different point of view and look at a situation through the eyes of another.  In the teaching of social studies this is fundamental to real understanding of both past and current events and represents deep learning on the part of the student.


                  In these ways, comics and graphic novels will continue to impact and modify our views of text in education.  As innovators in the field continue to encourage children to explore this genre the idea that comics are only transitional literature may someday become a thing of the past.  Over the past 80 years the progress may have been slow and there have not been any opportunities for comic-like exclamations like “Pow” or “Ka-bam” but new technologies that require a different form of literacy just may be what the comic needs in order to legitimize itself in education.   


 Aleixo, P., & Norris, C. (2007). Comics, Reading and Primary Aged Children. Education & Health, 25(4), 70-73.

 Burton, D. (1955). COMIC BOOKS: A TEACHER’S ANALYSIS. Elementary School Journal, 56(2), 73-75.

 Carter, J. (2007). Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our “Optimus Prime.”. English Journal, 97(2), 49-53.

 Jacobs, D. (2007). Marveling at The Man Called Nova: Comics as Sponsors of Multimodal Literacy. (pp. 180-205).

 Kannenberg Jr., G. (2008). The Not-So-Untold Story of the Great Comic-Book Scare. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(37), B19-B20.

Tilley, C. (2008). Reading Comics. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 24(9), 23-26.

 Viadero, D. (2009). Scholars See Comics as No Laughing Matter.  Education Week, 28(21), 1-11.

 Williams, R. (2008). Image, Text, and Story: Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom. Art Education, 61(6), 13-19.

 Williams, V., & Peterson, D. (2009). Graphic Novels in Libraries Supporting Teacher Education and Librarianship Programs. Library Resources & Technical Services, 53(3), 166-173.

October 31, 2009   No Comments

Remediation of the Chinese Language


The Chinese logographic system has faced pressures to reform both from within and from external forces over the course of its almost 4000 year evolution. As communication needs of greater numbers of people and wider levels of education were introduced into the language community, more strains were put on the developing linguistic system. The foundation of the Chinese logographic system can be traced back to at least as far as the Shang dynasty’s use of Oracle Bones (1600-1100b.c.e.) (Britannica). The linguistic system that is most widely seen as a unifying force in China was beginning to show in the Han dynasty (206 b.c.e.–220 c.e.) (Norman). The current universal system of Chinese logography has been a strong push of the 20th century leadership (Halsall).

The concept of language remediation is apparent within the Chinese logographic system. In an alphabet-based system only a few dozen characters are required in order to create meaning, whereas in a logographic system each new meaning of an older word requires a new symbol. It is estimated that there may be as many as 80,000 symbols for language meaning units in the Chinese system, but to be fluent in the language requires knowledge of only 3000 to 4000 unique characters (Norman). Each time a new descriptor is added to a word, a new symbol had to be created to coincide with it. In line with Bolter’s view of linguistic remediation (Bolter 2001, p. 23) the new language is built upon the old language, keeping it recognizable but creating something new and worthy of its own recognition.

The use of a logographic system to unify diverse ethnic and dialectic groups would seem to make it easier to control a larger area. The logographic system remains constant throughout the region, but different pronunciations are permitted or expected for each region. The symbol for “dog” would be universal, even if the individual aural versions are different. The Chinese logographic system developed from a system of pictographs used to describe a specific unit of language, typically one item or object (Halsall).

A major problem in trying to unify vastly different areas of a country like China lies in the regional dialects. Cantonese, the second most-spoken Chinese language, is focused in the southern regions of the country. Hakka and Min (both Northern and Southern dialects) are common in the south-eastern coastal regions. Hsiang is found in the south-central portions of China. Wu and Kan are spoken along central regions of the eastern coast. Mandarin dominates the majority of the country. Beijing Mandarin, specifically, has been implemented as the official language of communication in China during the 20th century (Halsall). Regional dialects have not been eliminated since the introduction of the new language policy, but Mandarin is now the required language of educated communications. A powerful central government in Beijing has attempted through its language programs to bring the country together as a single united voice.

Without an easily reproducible way of recording and disseminating written material, art and information of a culture risk being lost in an oral-based history. The technologies of moveable type and the printing press were developed in China, in no small part because of the strains involved in having to reproduce complex symbols repeated for any type of manuscript. The earliest surviving woodblock prints are from the Han Dynasty. Each page was sculpted from a wooden block for use rather than keeping a full set of symbols in supply. Clay-based movable type was invented in the 11th century, followed by wooden type in the 13th century and metal (bronze) type in the 15th century (Needham, pp201-206). Each of these leaps forward in technology provided opportunities to refine and expand upon the language that had come before.

Remediation of the Chinese language can be seen in the 20th century efforts to update the written and spoken word. During the 1920s and 1930s, Chinese intellectuals saw the script as
a serious problem in China’s attempt to become a part of the modern
world. The Chinese language was portrayed as cumbersome, difficult to learn and out of date. (Norman) The goals of reform have been to simplify the logographic process by reducing character strokes, introducing a phonetic alphabet, and instituting a common spoken language. The current spoken language of Putonghua (common language), commonly called Mandarin, was adopted in 1949 and become the language of school instruction in 1956. It is based on Beijing Mandarin (Halsall). Pin yin is the phonetic written alphabet based on Romanization of the logographic system and was introduced in 1958, meant to help spread the learning of Chinese symbols (Britannica). During the Cultural Revolution it was used in part to create common spellings for place names in the country.

The Chinese logographic system and current attempts to modernize communication in the country show how strong the roots of the language truly are. It has survived both subtle and punctuated evolution over nearly 4000 years of use, each time bringing it closer to a universal language for all people in the country. The 20th century’s attempts to update the language are unlikely to antiquate a system that has lasted for millennia, but the continual remediation process may make older works more accessible to the current generation. Efforts like pin yin introduction of symbols in a phonetic way is the gateway to symbolic understanding. The language is not being modified because of obsolescence. It is being updated because of a passion for the long history that the language embraces. Any steps that can be taken to bring together over a billion people so that they can share in a united voice, a united history, and a united sense of self must be seen as a step forward for the evolution of the country. In this particular instance, Bolter’s view of remediation indicates a bringing together of China’s ancient past with its future position as a world player through the power of language.


Bolter, J. D. (2001) Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Halsall, Paul. Chinese Cultural Studies: The Chinese Language and Writing. based on David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987)

Needham, Joseph. (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 1, Paper and Printing. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd.

Norman, Jerry. (2000) Tradition and Transformation in the Chinese Writing System,.

October 31, 2009   No Comments


Please review my research paper on my wiki-  Photography:  Historical and Cultural Impact.


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Research Project: Braille

My research project on Braille can be viewed on the class Wiki page here!

October 29, 2009   No Comments

William Blake and the Remediation of Print

One might be inclined to view William Blake’s illuminated books as throwbacks to mediaeval illuminated manuscripts. Yet they should rather be understood as “remediating” older media. According to Bolter (2001, p. 23), remediation occurs when a new medium pays homage to an older medium, borrowing and imitating features of it, and yet also stands in opposition to it, attempting to improve on it. In the case of Blake’s illuminated books, one of the older media being remediated was the mediaeval illuminated manuscript, but another medium being remediated was the printed book, which in Blake’s time had already been in use for three centuries.

Blake adopted the way in which the richly illustrated texts of mediaeval illuminated manuscripts combined the iconic and the symbolic so that the former illumined meaning of the latter, the images revealing the spiritual significance of the scripture. Blake also seized upon an aspect of illuminated manuscripts which would later impress John Ruskin as well (Keep, McLaughlin, & Parmar, 1993-2000)—the way in which they served as vehicles for self-expression. The designs of manuscripts such as the Book of Kells and the Book of Lindisfarne, for instance, reflected the native artistic styles of Ireland and Northumbria and often depicted the native flora and fauna of those lands as well. Blake also adopted some of the styles and idioms of illustration found in mediaeval illuminated manuscripts, producing images in some cases quite similar to ones found in mediaeval scriptures and bestiaries (Blunt, 1943, p. 199). It seems that he also embraced the idea, embodied in the creation of illuminated manuscripts, that the written word can be something sacred and powerful and that it is therefore something to be adorned with gold and lively colours.

Blake’s illuminated books broke with the medium of mediaeval manuscripts mainly by virtue of that which they adopted from the medium of the printed book. Blake produced his illuminated books first by making copper plates engraved with images and text, deepening these engravings with the help of corrosive chemicals. He then used inks to form impressions of the plates on sheets of paper, often colouring the impressed images further with watercolour paints (Blake, 1967, p. 11-2). His use of the copper plates and inks bore similarities to the use of movable type and ink to create printed books. For many years it was believed that, despite this similarity, Blake developed his illuminated books partly as a reaction against the mass production of books, hearkening back to the methods of mediaeval craftsmen – specifically the artists who produced illuminated manuscripts –  who created unique items rather than mass produced articles. Consequently, it was believed that after he produced the copper plates for the illuminated books he created only individual books on commission. This belief, first championed by 19th century writers who claimed William Blake as a predecessor (Symmons, 1995), has recently been overturned, however, by the work of Joseph Viscomi. As a scholar and printer who attempted to physically reproduce the methods that Blake employed to create his illuminated books, Viscomi concluded that Blake mass produced these books in small editions of about ten or more books each (Adams, 1995, p. 444).

The primary way in which the illuminated book was meant to improve on the printed book did not lie in the avoidance of mass production, but rather in the relation between the image and the word. In printed books, engraved images could be included with the text, but as the text had to be formed with movable type the image had to be included as something separate and additional (Bolter, 2001, p. 48). In Blake’s illuminated books, in contrast, the written word belonged to the whole image first engraved on the copper plate and then transferred to paper. It participated in the imaginative power of the perceived image, rather than just retaining a purely conceptual meaning. As with the text of mediaeval illuminated manuscripts, the words in Blake’s illuminated books often merge the iconic and the symbolic (Bigwood, 1991). For example, in plate 22 of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the description of the devil’s speech trails off into a tangle of diabolical thorns. Furthermore, the words are produced in the same colours used in the images to which they belong, and partake in their significance—light watercolours being used in the first edition of the joyous Songs of Innocence and dark reticulated inks being used in the gloomier Songs of Experience (Fuller, 2003, p. 263). As John Ruskin later observed, this ability to use colour in the text of illuminated books made it a form of writing that uniquely expressed its creator’s imagination (Ruskin, 1888, p. 99).

Like several other artists of his time, Blake was disturbed by the mechanistic and atomistic conception of nature first put forward by the ancient philosopher Democritus and then later revived around the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by natural philosophers. This was the conception of nature as consisting of atoms in an empty void operating in accordance with mechanistic laws. Blake saw this as connected to the type of rationalism that would impose strict laws of reason on the mind and imprison the divine creative power of the imagination. Like others who opposed the mechanistic and atomistic worldview, Blake was particularly repelled by the mechanistic account of colour offered by Isaac Newton, voicing his objection to “Newton’s particles of light” (Blake, 1988, 153). It was thought that such an account treated colour in isolation from the power of the imagination to which it was naturally connected. It was also seen as severing colour from the living spirit of nature—the poet Goethe famously offering a complex alternative theory of colour which saw it as the result of a dynamic interaction of darkness and light.

For Blake, the printing press would at the very least be symbolic of the mechanistic an atomistic view of the world, the words in the printed text no longer partaking in the power of the imagination and the visible image but rather consisting of atoms of movable type and lying separated by voids of empty space.  The primacy of the imagination would be better served by the medium of illuminated books, where the image did not only illuminate the conceptual meaning of the word but also subsumed the word and imparted a deeper significance to it. The imagination was of central importance for Blake, who was a professional engraver as well as a poet, and for whom the medium of the image was a more fundamental part of his life and work than the written word (Storch, 1991, 458).

The ability to mass produce texts in which the image was primary and the written word secondary would have implications for literacy and education insofar as it could widely disseminate works that encouraged imaginative and perceptual understanding over strictly conceptual thought. While the illuminated book as such never became a widespread medium, some of the principles involved in its remediation of the illuminated manuscript and the printed book survived in the medium of the comic book and the graphic novel, which could also be said to realize some of its implications. These works were also mass produced and also differed from the printed book through the relation between the word and the image. For example, the way in which the symbolic word is made to partake in the imaginative power of the iconic image can be seen in the development of comic books in Britain. Early 20th century British comic books generally consisted of rows of images without words, each image having a block of text below it. When comic books adopted the style that introduced speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and sound effects into the image itself, the words became part of the action.

The illuminated book can also be seen as a precursor of hypertext and its remediation of the printed word, specifically insofar as the image in hypertext is coming to dominate the written word (Bolter, 2001, p. 47). In this regard, hypertext could also be said to be carrying through the implications that illuminated books posed for education and literacy. This is not to say that there are not significant differences between these media, of course. Creators of hypertext may look to the illuminated book for inspiration but leave behind the more laborious aspects of the medium, such as the use of copper plates and corrosive chemicals. This may be seen as both an improvement and a loss. One feature of the illuminated book absent in hypertext is the close connection between the work and the bodily act of creating it. As Carol Bigwood observes (1991, p. 309), reading Blake’s illuminated books is a perceptual experience in which we sense the movements of Blake’s hand and the rigidity of the copper on which the image was first made. So while the illuminated book remediates the printed word it may itself be remediated by hypertext.


Adams, H. (1995). Untitled [Review of the book Blake and the idea of the book]. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 53(4), 443-444.

Bigwood, C. (1991). Seeing Blake’s illuminated texts. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 49(4), 307- 315.

Blake, W. (1988). Selected writings. London: Penguin.

—–. (1967). Songs of innocence and of experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1794).

Blunt, A. (1943). Blake’s pictorial imagination. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 6, 190-212.

Bolter, J. D. (2001) Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fuller, D. (2003). Untitled [Review of the book William Blake. The creation of the songs: From manuscript to illuminated printing]. Review of English Studies, 54(214), 262-264.

Keep, C., McLaughlin, T., & Parmar, R. (1993-2000). John Ruskin, William Morris and the Gothic Revival. The Electronic Labyrinth. Retrieved from

Ruskin, John. (1888). Modern Painters (Vol. 3). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Storch, Margaret. (1996). Untitled [Review of the books Blake and the idea of the book & Blake, ethics, and forgiveness]. Modern Language Review, 91(2), 458-459.

Symmons, Sarah. (1995). Untitled [Review of the book Blake and the idea of the book]. British Journal of Aesthetics, 35(3), 308-9.

October 28, 2009   No Comments

On the air: Educational radio, its history and effect on literacy and educational technology (By Michael Haworth & Stephanie Hopkins)

Dear ETEC 540 colleagues,

  • Please find our research paper in its entirety below.  In keeping with our theme of radio in education, we have also decided to present our research in an abridged, primarily oral format on voicethread. You can listen to, view, and comment on this presentation by clicking the following link:
  • In addition, we have also created delicious page to share our some of our resources with you.  Please feel free to view or add any of the links at

Thank you, and we hope you enjoy reading, hearing and viewing our work!

Michael & Stephanie


On the air:  Educational Radio, its history and effect on literacy, and educational technology implementation

Michael Haworth & Stephanie Hopkins

ETEC 540

October 26, 2009

“For it is the special glory of radio that it transcends boundaries, annihilates distance and creates a stronger sense of national unity and international brotherhood.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1941 (Nwaerondu, 1994, p. 2)

Educational radio: An introduction

At the dawn of the twentieth century, the development of what we now know as “radio” began.  The work of scientists and inventors such as Nikola Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi, Lee De Forest, and many others laid the foundations for all forms of radio broadcasting (“History of Radio”, 2009).  Starting in the early 1920’s, radio stations began transmitting to a relatively small, but growing number of listeners.  Concomitant with the growing popularity of radio broadcasting was an increasing interest in its use in education.  The reach and immediacy of radio provided educators with a new and potentially powerful medium through which to support and modify education.  While firmly affixed in an oral and aural realm, from the outset, the purpose of educational radio has been to complement the existing curricula and strong reliance on written text within Western education systems of the twentieth century.  Furthermore, educational radio set the stage for later educational technologies, providing a framework for the adoption and implementation of these technologies that has continued to date.  In this introduction to and analysis of the history of educational radio, our purpose is three-fold: we hope to demonstrate how educational radio supported text-based education; describe how the inclusion of radio supported student literacy; and propose that the foundation of educational radio provided a framework for future efforts in the implementations of educational technology.

Prior to the development and wide-spread deployment of television, radio was the first electronic mass medium (Lewis, 1992, p. 26).  Starting in 1920 in the United States, locations such as Detroit and Pittsburgh were initial launch points for radio broadcasting (Ackerman, 1945, p. 2).  By 1922 there were thirty radio station transmitters and 60,000 receivers in use (Ackerman, 1945, p. 2).  The number of radio transmitters and receivers in the United States continues to increase such that in 1942, Seerley Reid stated that “radio is an indispensable and indisputable part of American life” (p. 115).  With its advent, the radio allowed anyone who had one to listen to news or other informational broadcasts without having to wait for the newspaper, or even listen to live entertainment without having to physically be there.  Lewis (1992) described this profound change in dissemination of information by stating that, “the new medium of radio was to the printing press what the telephone had been to the letter: it allowed immediacy” (p. 26).  From the time that the first sounds were broadcast over the U.S. airwaves in 1920, the two main functions of radio have been to entertain and to inform. As Ackerman (1945) noted, “no entertainment medium [had] ever before faced the insatiable demands which [were] laid upon radio” (p.10).

Radio in education: A brief historical overview

The use of radio as an educational tool further augmented its informational function.  Programmes designed specifically for K-12 and post-secondary education were developed, both by private broadcasters and by radio stations set up exclusively for the use of education. Students, in traditional classroom settings (or individually via distance education) could listen to programs, or with the use of transceivers, could interact with radio programs.  In this manner, students would receive educational programming that expanded on their classroom learning.  Alternatively, not all educational efforts in radio were praised.  According to Saettler (1990), “the first years of [American] university broadcasting were generally ineffective because many a professor repeated his classroom lecture before the microphone without realizing that a good lecturer was not necessarily an effective broadcaster” (as cited in Hokanson & Hooper, 2000, p. 542). The varying degrees to which the effectiveness of educational radio was perceived set the stage for discussion of future educational technologies and their effect on education.

In addition to targeting students, progressive educational radio could also focus on teachers, assisting them in “learn[ing] progressive Deweyan methods of teaching” (Cavanaugh, et al., 2004, p. 3).  A good example of the imposition of education philosophy is in the distribution of radio teaching manuals at the Wisconsin School of the Air (Bianchi, 2002, p. 142). In these teaching manuals, ideas for strengthening and contextualizing radio programming in the classroom were suggested; such ideas were largely based on Dewey’s philosophy of experiential or activity-based learning (see Dewey, 1938). Teachers who created programs at the school agreed with the Deweyan philosophy and through programming, tried to demonstrate that when the classroom teacher actively facilitated learning, students were more attentive and involved (Bianchi, 2002, p.144). Thus, the new medium of radio was seen as aiding in the promotion and implementations of new, promising educational theories for teachers and students alike.

The implementation of educational radio in the U.S., Canada and Australia

Three locations in the world have had a strong background in implementing radio in education: the United States, Canada, and Australia.  While other nations also developed educational radio programs, a brief examination of the implementation of and distinctions between radio implementation in these three countries highlights some of the major developments in the field, as development was not evenly distributed in the world or even within a country (Reid, 1942, p. 188).

Educational radio in the United States was provided both by educational institutions and by private, for-profit broadcasters.  Starting in 1921, broadcasting licences were held by universities in Utah, Wisconsin, and Minnesota (Casey, 2008, p. 46).  By 1925, 171 licences had been granted (Farley, 1952, p. 18).  In addition, K-12 education systems in Ohio and Wisconsin were developing “schools of the air”, that would provide curriculum for use within traditional schools and distance education programs (Reid, 1942, p. 118; Williams & Nicholas, 2004, p. 111).  In the case of the Wisconsin School of the Air, founders chose to offer programming that would complement the elementary curriculum, especially in rural areas where teachers were expected to teach many subjects in multi-grade classrooms (Bianchi, 2002).  In this case, students were able to experience programming such as in music or other specialized field where the teacher may have little or no knowledge in that area.

In 1930, private broadcasters such as Columbia Broadcasting Systems (CBS) (“American School of the Air”), and the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) began developing educational radio programmes on a variety of music, science and social studies topics for use by students (Bagley, 1930, p. 256; Reid, 1942, p. 132-133).  Again, these programmes met with a variety of success from being described as meeting, “in a fairly meritorious way the conditions that education broadcasting must meet if it is to be a useful adjunct to school instruction,” (Nasseh, 1997, para. 7) to a 1940 college-level course offered by radio that “failed to attract any enrollments” (Bagley, 1930, p. 257).  Lewis (1992) suggests that private broadcasters may also have been encouraged to develop such programmes by lobby groups such as the “National Committee on Education by Radio” and “the threat of legislation,” by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (p. 31).  As is the case with any major technological advancement, particularly in education, educational radio in the United States met with a collision between adversity and bewilderment; by so-called “technophobes” and “technophiles” (Postman, 1993).

Canada developed educational radio in a somewhat similar fashion to the United States, albeit on a smaller scale.  Radio programmes were developed both for traditional classrooms and distance education.  Starting in 1925, the Canadian National Railways (CNR) radio network broadcasted musical appreciation programmes (Buck, 2008, p. 80).  The following year in 1926, CNRV, the CNR radio station in Vancouver broadcasted directly to Point Grey School for the Deaf and Blind (Buck, 2008, p. 80).  The CNR radio network later was transformed into the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, which ultimately became the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The CBC continued to provide educational radio programmes for provinces such as British Columbia (Buck, 2008, p. 8586), where other educational radio broadcasts took place through various provincial ministries of education via local radio stations. For example, CMHS in Nova Scotia provided government endorsed educational programming, while in Edmonton, Alberta, local station CKUA was the vehicle for educational radio (Buck, 2008, 86).  Similarities and differences existed between the Canadian and American systems: in the United States, nation-wide broadcasting was lobbied for while in Canada, despite the similarity in the methodology of educational radio programme delivery, regional variances in educational radio demonstrate the diversity and locality of the Canadian education system.

Development of educational radio in Australia evolved in very different conditions.  Due to low population densities in many areas of the country, K-12 students in remote locations either needed to attend boarding school, or work with postal-based correspondence school materials (Australian Government, 2007, para. 5).  Through the support of the Royal Flying Doctors Service, shortwave radio broadcasts began to be delivered to outback students in 1948.  By 1956, the “School of the Air” (SOTA) was developed and as of 2005, sixteen schools were in operation (Australian Government, 2007, para. 6-7).  The SOTA program focused on student to teacher, teacher to student, and student to student radio communication rather than general scheduled programme broadcasting (Fowler, 1987, p. 119).  The shortwave transceivers that students and teachers used allowed for synchronous, bi-directional communication so that both teachers and students could communicate directly with one another.  Major benefits for students with this distinct approach are, “the feeling that the teacher is close at hand and the knowledge that he or she is being supported by the team approach of SOTA and PCS [Primary Correspondence School], and is [therefore] motivated by hearing the response of his or her peers, to perform well” (Fowler, 1987, p. 120).  The differences between the Australian educational radio and the programs developed in the United States and Canada are described as being “distinctly Australian” (Moriarty, Danaher, & Danaher, 2003, p. 134), and as in the case of the North American ventures, various implications for education can be observed.

Making connections: Implications for education

While educational radio developed in different forms depending on the country and specific conditions, its primary goal was to complement and improve existing educational programs (Bagley, 1944, p.257).  Although Thomas Edison predicted otherwise, radio programmes were not intended to supplant existing, text-based educational curriculum, but rather to, “supplement, or to stimulate, the study of subjects offered in schools” (Hinrichs, 2004, p. 6; Ackerman, 1945, p. 13). Educational theory of the day proposed that active engagement of students in materials, interactivity and engagement between teacher and students, as well as opportunities for more experiential learning would create a more solid, successful learning environment (see Dewey, 1938).  By being offered in conjunction with traditional text-based curricula, educational radio made all of this possible.

This was especially true with the Australian School of the Air distance education programs.  The Australian Government Culture Portal notes that in the SOTA program, “every student is provided with a mail delivered printed program with accompanying resources.  This material is then supplemented by on-air lessons” (2007, para. 12).  Students would work on printed curricula that would then be sent to the SOTA teacher for marking.  Radio’s involvement in supporting and strengthening text could occur before, during, and after the writing process: teachers could provide direct lessons via radio on the written material, provide ongoing engagement and consultation with the student while working on the assignments, and finally, provide direct feedback on completed and evaluated work (Fowler, 1987, p. 120).  This process provided a level of connectedness due to the synchronous communication afforded by radio that would not be possible with previous postal-only distance education programs, and allowed students to feel less isolated, and in turn, more engaged in their lessons. In addition, students and teachers were involved in an educational experience which included and valued orality as well as literacy, contributing to the overall literacy education of students.  As Ong (2002) theorizes, the use of technologies such as radio in education lends itself well to the use of literacy theories such as speech-act and reader-response theory (p. 166-168).  Moreover, much of the research on distance education programmes to date has shown that the use of multimedia technology in general has led to increased achievement among distance learners over classroom learners (see Williams, Nicholas & Gunter, 2004, p. 118).  In Australia, the delivery of distance education, and thus the literacy education of students were significantly enhanced by the inclusion of radio in education.

The United States and Canadian educational radio systems differed significantly in overall design from the Australian version.  These programs were meant primarily for unidirectional broadcasting of general programmes to a widely distributed learning audience within the traditional classroom setting.  However, these programs too promoted text.  The Ohio School of the Air suggested that the programs offered, “creative possibilities for English, speech, and dramatics teachers in developing students’ interest in radio writing and radio production” (Reid, 1942, p. 139).  In 1932, Benjamin Darrow, founder and first director of the Ohio School of the Air stated his hope that, radio may come as a vibrant and challenging textbook of the air” (Hinrichs, 2004, p. 6).  The reading and writing of text was supported by educational radio.  Using radio promoted a new form of educational technology while introducing potentially new, progressive teaching methodologies into the classroom setting.  As Boulter’s (2001) ideas about “remediation” suggest, the radio remediated print technology such that text technologies such as the newspaper became secondary to the radio in engaging and interacting with students.   Teachers were able to draw on resources outside of the classroom in a new way with a sense of immediacy that would not be possible in pre-radio forms such as newspapers or films.  In addition, with the distribution of teacher’s guides, programs such as the CBS American School of the Air were able to assist the teacher in using the provided programmes to their suggested best potential (Ackerman, 1945, p. 13), foreshadowing the lucrative teacher resource business that exists currently in education.  Although the American and Canadian educational radio systems were different from the Australian one, these too had the potential to change educational practices and facilitate reading and writing.

Advantages and setbacks: Paving the way to the future

Cook and Nemzek (1939) stated that, “the invention of printing and textbooks did much to give to education in its present form.  Some persons feel that the effects of radio may in time be equally far reaching” (p. 105). While there was a fervent wish for radio to become a strong player within education, this did not come entirely true.  In North America, educational radio had several impediments to its widespread adoption in education systems.  One of these impediments was the issue of availability of radio transmitters and receivers.  During the “golden age of radio” a time that saw many homes equipped receivers, a limited numbers of schools were equally provisioned.  In Ohio, a state in which schools were noted as “being more advanced in the use of radio than were schools through the country”, according to a 1941 survey, only fifty-five percent of Ohio schools were equipped with radio units (Reid, 1942, p. 119-121). Moreover, radio receivers of the time were of a fairly bulky size that limited portability and mobility; they were usually large console units which were required to house the heavy vacuum tubes and other necessary electronics.  The onset of World War II created another obstacle in that the available number of vacuum tubes was diverted from civilian to military uses, thus reducing the number of new radio receivers and repair supplies for existing sets (Ackerman, 1945, p. 3).  Another problem still was that radio reception quality could be mixed due to geography or distance for students in Australia and the United States (Fowler, 1987, p. 120; Reid, 1942, p. 123).  Programme scheduling could also be an obstacle to adoption.  Without the aid of any recording device, timing is vital in synchronous communications such as radio.  All parties need to be transmitting and receiving at the same time, and all of the required communication components must successfully come together or communication does not happen.  A final hindrance to the widespread adoption of radio in education is that teachers and students needed to be prepared to interact with the content of the radio programme.  Planned curricular outcomes from radio programs needed to be considered, as “mere ‘listening-in’ may be a profitable expenditure of time in connection with an occasional program; but the more significant and more enduring benefits can come, if contemporary educational theory teaches us the truth, only when the learner is inspired to some effort on his own” (Bagley, 1930, p. 256).  In order to reach widespread acceptance as a beneficial educational tool, it was imperative that radio be utilized and evaluated as such a tool, rather than the hasty, uninvolved use by what Postman calls “one-eyed prophets” (1993, p.5), or by educators who practiced traditional, non-engaging methodology in conjunction with its use in the classroom.

Although educational radio did not necessarily meet all of its intended aspirations to be as far reaching as textbooks, educational radio has survived in some forms.  The School of the Air lives on in Australia and CKUA in Alberta continues to broadcast educational content, and networks such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the CBC still produce content that is suitable for classroom use, even if not specifically designed with such a purpose in mind.  In the future, researchers might wish to explore this general interest in educational or documentary radio programming as related to the more recent technology of podcasting.

Educational radio also had the effect of foreshadowing future implementation of educational technology.  It can be debated that the manner in which other technologies such as television and the Internet were incorporated in education because of the framework that was previously laid out by radio.  Casey (2008) states that, “instructional radio paved the way for distance learning opportunities through television technology” (p. 46).  Even further, Cavanaugh, et al. (2004) argues that based on the educational radio implementation model, “television, audio and video conferencing, the Internet, and other technologies have been adapted for the needs of young learners” (p. 3).  Radio in education, a pioneer of educational technology, created a legacy for itself by setting the stage for the development of other technologies still used in education to date, and perhaps will continue with other technologies in the future.  As Lewis (1992) notes, “radio still captures the imagination, too.  As a child once said, he preferred radio over television because ‘the pictures are better’” (p.32).


Ackerman, W. C. (1945). The dimensions of American broadcasting. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 9(1), 1-18.

Australian Government. (n.d.). The School of the Air and remote learning. Australia’s Culture Portal. Retrieved October 17, 2009 from

Bagley, W. C. (1930). Radio in the Schools. The Elementary School Journal, 31(4), 256-258. doi: 10.2307/996158.

Bianchi, W. (2002). The Wisconsin School of the Air: Success story with implications. Educational Technology and Society 5(1), 141-147.

Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Buck, G. H. (2006). The first wave: The beginnings of radio in Canadian distance education. Journal of Distance Education, 21(1), 76.

Casey, D. M. (2008). A Journey to Legitimacy: The Historical Development of Distance Education through Technology. TechTrends, 52(2), 45-51. doi: 10.1007/s11528-008-0135-z.

Cavanaugh, C., Gillan, K. J., Kromrey, J., Hess, M., & Blomeyer, R. (2004). The effects of distance education on K–12 student outcomes: A meta-analysis. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates.

Cook, D. C., & Nemzek, C. L. (1939). The Effectiveness of Teaching by Radio. The Journal of Educational Research, 33(2), 105-109. doi: 10.2307/27526643.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. Indianapolis: Kappa Delta Pi. Preview retrieved from

Farley, B. (1952). Education and Television. Music Educators Journal, 39(2), 18-20. doi: 10.2307/3388644.

Fowler, B. (1987). Aussat and all that! Reaching the Australian outback. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 3(2), 119-128.

Hokanson, B & Hooper, S. (2000). Computers as cognitive media: Examining the potential of computers in education. Computers in Human Behavior 16, 537-552.

Hinrichs, R. (2004). A vision for lifelong learning: year 2020. European Journal of Engineering Education, 29(1), 5-16.

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Lewis, T. (1992). “A Godlike presence”: The impact of radio on the 1920s and 1930s. Magazine of History, 6(4), 26-33. doi: 10.2307/25154082.

Moriarty, B. J., Danaher, P. A., & Danaher, G. R. (2003). Situating and interrogating contemporary Australian rural education research. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 18(3), 133-138.

Nasseh, B. (1999). A brief history of distance education. Adult Education in the News, available at: www. seniornet. org/edu/art/history. html (accessed 2 October 2004).

Nwaerondu, N. G. (1994). Educational radio: A tool for rural change. Retrieved October 17, 2009, from

Ong, W.J. (2002). Orality and Literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Postman, N. (1993). The judgment of Thamus. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Vintage.

Reid, S. (1942). Radio in the Schools of Ohio. Educational Research Bulletin, 21(5), 115-148. doi: 10.2307/1473784.

Stevens, K. (1994). Australian developments in distance education and their implications for rural schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 10(1), 78-83.

Williams, P., Nicholas, D., & Gunter, B. (2005). E-learning: What the literature tells us about distance education. Perspectives, 57(2), 109-122.

October 28, 2009   No Comments

The Origins of Silent Reading – Research Project

My assignment was completed on the UBC Wiki format. Please view on the site! I hope I have posted this correctly. Enjoy!

October 27, 2009   3 Comments

Research Assignment 3:Tv to Radio

Mass Media—Radio to TV 1950-1970

 Radio and television are highly influential mass media. Transforming technological achievements do not end up in a vacuum, without repercussions— individuals, society, language itself, cultural, political and religious institutions are part of the sphere of media influence and in turn, influence media.  Radio is our ears on the world, and television our eyes on the world.

We allow these machines into our lives and homes. Life has changed between the time radio dominated the airwaves, and subsequent widespread adoption of TV. What unforeseen effects occurred? Do we as consumers stop to analyze these things? Does the TV belong in the children’s bedroom?

Historical and Cultural Perspectives

The radio and TV are both passive, non-interactive media—information only goes one way (Beatty, 1998). As each new invention arises, fears of how they may be used and misused contribute to a reluctance to adopt them. Looking back, they now seem more benign to authoritarian societies in the setting of our current times, as we now have the 2.0 web, which has empowered all with access and know how. Power is out of the hands of the few, and interactions and information access is around user-based choices, not network or radio station control of content. But as radio and then TV emerged, those times were important to the history of communication because this represented a way to transfer information—as instantaneous mass media, much different than the printed word. Aural, and then subsequently visual data was in the pipeline.

Kramer (p 5, 1991) proposes mass media is really quite old—he sees libraries as mass media which evolved from the very first mass medium, writing. He reviews how telegraph and Morse code were the first steps towards instantaneous communication. Morse’s first words on the device, he quoted were “what hath God wrought”; acknowledging the early inventors’ appreciation of the widespread impact for the future, reinforces the appreciation of the primary purpose of early mass media for military and commercial interests (Kramer, p. 9, 1991).  The history of radio started with the wireless telegraph. Marconi is most widely thought of the inventor but Nikola Tesla first patented radio technology. The first commercial trans-Atlantic service was carried out by Marconi in 1907, which spawned the era of audio broadcasting starting in 1919. The Radio Corporation of America or RCA was formed in 1919 and started the Americanization of radio (Kramer, p 15, 1991).

In the context of radio, I will focus on the CBC as representative of a nation’s media in both radio and television and representative of the transition that occurred. According to the CBC archival website on the history of CBC/Radio Canada, there were a number of landmarks, summarized as follows.

The year 1901 was marked by the first wireless trans-Atlantic telegraph, and 1922, the first private commercial radio stations in Canada. In 1927, the first national broadcast took place and by 1932 the government created the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC). In 1937 76% of Canada was receiving CBC radio, and in 1939 CBC carried the declaration of war and subsequent wartime, and farm broadcasts and political messages as their primary messages.

In education, 1940 saw the first provincial school broadcasts, and in 1941 the CBC news service emerged. By the year 1943 the first English School Broadcast Department formed, which emphasized the role the government saw in the function of radio for the learning of young Canadians. In 1947 the first FM radio stations emerged in a few major cities, and the FM band was credited for carrying radio forward into the TV era, due to excellent music programming and audio quality.

By 1955, CBC television had emerged and reached 66% of the population and in 1958, the first coast-to coast live TV broadcast occurred and so, welcome to hockey night in Canada!  Canada developed the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) Canadian content to protect the cultural integrity from being overwhelmed by American music, TV and film industries, by supervision and regulation of the telecommunications and broadcasting (mission statement from website).

Wikipedia reports that in 1950 one million American homes had televisions. Kramer (p 20, 1991) speaks of the rise of radio appreciation purposed to spread culture and educational experiences to rural and poor. The BBC in Britain was launched to meet this need.

Radio versus television: vying for the attention of the mass audience

In this section we will compare and contrast the effects of each media. Before one dismisses the radio as a predecessor, rather than as a continuing media influence, let us consider those parts of the world that do not have infrastructure for television even today. It seems in fact, we still pay close attention to the aural presentation, which harkens back to early orality and oratory, a concept explored at length in Ong’s book, Orality and Literacy (2002).  Kramer (p 16, 1991) quotes media guru Marshall McLuhan as saying “radio affects most people intimately, person to person, offering a world of unspoken communication between writer-speaker and listener”. That is not a concept that is intuitive, but reflects Ongs theory. Vukmirovic (p 4, 2005) states that “radio is the most accessible information channel in the world” which probably still holds true since the Internet is still not available in much of the developing world.

On October 30, 1938, listeners heard the following apocalyptical phrase, at the end of a realistic radio show, “2X2L calling CQ. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there…. anyone?”  That was the War of the Worlds radio broadcast that, according to history records on Wiki and elsewhere, spawned a plethora of concern, and even panic amongst listeners.  The broadcast simulated newscasts of a dire invasion. It was estimated 6 million listened, that 1.7 million listeners thought it true, and the event subsequently spawned 12 000 newspaper articles. Hitler said the panic was a sign of “decadence of democracy” and so the reaction rippled world-wide. This singular event demonstrates that in spite of disclaimers to the effect that it was fictional, radio can deeply influence and thus could subvert an impressionable audience. As far as long term influence, the event has since generated TV, movies, plays, and many analyses.  One show, lots of impact!

Kramer posits (p 22, 1991) that “world events, and the immediacy of radio news coverage made many listeners anxious about life in general” and cites the above show as an example.  In the early era of radio, it was a news vehicle. Hockey games, news, readings and discussions dominated the airways. According to Kramer (Pg 19, 1991) “broadcasting then and now, somehow makes people feel as though they are a part of something bigger than themselves, connected to the world out there”. Even though radio does not have the flashy visual aspect, it is still a powerful communication tool.

According to Vukmirovic (pp. 1-3, 2005) the radio is spoken language and one needs remembrance on the part of listener, and memorable discourse at the source. Remembrance is a selective memory process of a recipient. He cites a tri-modal theory involving the recipient, the media, and external recipient environment. Among recipient factors he feels attention, previous knowledge, attitudes and feelings, motivation, hearing skills, and recall strategies need to be taken into account.  Memory of media includes its position, the nature of the items, repetition, and how closely it meets the inner schema of the listener (Vukmirovic, p. 5, 2005). These considerations all make good sense, and help explain why the two people can hear very different things after they internalize the spoken broadcast. Kozma (1993) feels there is an interplay between physical technology, symbol systems (language, pictures, music), and processing capabilities (information received) so each medium has a profile of capabilities.

TV was invented in more than one location, and is most widely attributed to Farnsworth and Zworykin. As TV took hold in the 50s, the radio became a vehicle for popular music instead.  At that time, according to Kramer (p 27, 1991) “just as radio listening had displaced time previously spent reading, television now challenged radio as the preferred leisure time activity”,  and he cited a study which indicated “..the average American home had two TV’s with at least one of them on about seven hours every day”  and  “mid 1970s annual polls indicated that television had surpassed newspapers as the medium Americans most rely on for information, and also the medium perceived as the most credible and complete in news coverage”. Those cited studies indicate that TV had become THE pervasive medium of that decade.

 Kramer, (p29, 1991) relays that “it is well documented that people rarely watch a TV show, but rather TV, seeking the least objectionable program rather than choosing to turn it off when “nothing is on””. These observations ring very true and the phrase “couch potato” comes to mind. McLuhan sees TV as “cool” medium since it does require engagement of the watcher, but this has been widely debated.

Religious programming has become popular with TV evangelical shows spreading the Word the way the written word did with the Bible in the days of old. Political institutions have also taken the TV and used it for their own purposes, disseminating messages that sometimes border political brainwashing. Many feel that the use of media for these purposes is an abuse of power because with the exception of live debates, counter messages cannot easily be heard.  On the positive side of the coin, projects such as the UNESCO Bangkok distance education initiative described at, use radio and television to improve literacy and information transfer, but using foreign media producers, in this case Educational Radio Television (ERTV) in Italy.  The initiative is used in Afghanistan also, but the use of native peoples and production facilities would have been preferred in order to ensure that the needs of the learner are fully integrated. In Beatty’s CBC lecture, he agrees “television and radio created the mass audience on a scale that had been impossible in the past. “ He builds his case, noting they were perfect tools for authoritarian governments trying to control public thought, and for corporations marketing their products.  Beatty made another excellent point, noting that early centralization and limited TV and radio licenses restricted the public’s choice.

McLuhan (p 207, 1964) scolds society for being so blind when he says “the electric technology is within the gates, and we are numb, deaf, blind and mute about its encounter with the Guetenberg technology, on and through which the American way of life was formed”, and  on speaking about how deeply entrenched media can become, he notes “the effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but alter the sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance.” McLuhan implies its influence seeps into our society while we are busy and so we are effectively blind to its effects. Kramer (p 30, 1991) identified many traps including TV ads targeting kids (e.g., cigarettes, clothes), cultural homogeneity, and gate keeping by the big stations to select news and views for the watcher.  He also lists violence, sex, and stereotypical portrayals as influencing the watcher and argues that even if the effects are indirect as modern media theories propose, these traps still have consequences.  Kramer explores issues of modelling after TV stars (soap opera example), and children modelling their behaviour (social, antisocial) in sync with characters, and states, “the conclusion is that children are indeed socialized by movies and television, especially when they identify with a character they watch” Kramer also notes popular current theory is that mass media consumption leads to a spiral of silence (after Noelle-Neumann). What he means by this is if everyone is exposed to an opinion, dissenters tend to not speak up. All of these explorations alert us to just how many hot-button issues we are not aware of as typical consumers.

Beatty (1998) states “mankind has always maintained an uneasy relationship with technology, simultaneously regarding it with both reverence and fear, uncertain about whether our machines would ultimately prove to be our slaves or our masters”.  This paranoia is reflected in the writings of the time such as in George Orwell’s book 1984.

If one stops to think, in a little less than two generations from the invention of the radio and the television, we have come a long way baby. Beatty (1998) concurs, noting it is the speed of change which overwhelms us.   Beatty (1998) cites the words over the entrance to the 1893 Chicago world’s fair “science explores, technology executes, man conforms” when making the point that we have a very uneasy relationship with these mass media boxes.  McLuhan (p 208, 1964) believes “subliminal and docile acceptance of media impact has made them prisons without walls for their human users”.

Regarding psychological influences, many propose that in the 21st century, many of the attention deficit disorders stem from fast paced moving picture consumption by our youth. It is startling to compare the average length for TV commercials which used to run one to two minutes, and now generally flash multiple engaging images in 10 to 15 second slots. The jury is still out on the effect on attention span, as it is on the effects on literacy. There are so many confounding factors it is hard to attribute any effects to just TV alone. Video games are an example of a potential confounder.                                                                                           

No discussion of modern mass media is complete without mention of McLuhan’s message versus media concept. The full sentence from which “the message is the medium” was drawn is as follows: “in a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message” (McLuhan, p 203, 1964).  On the same page he notes “..the content of any medium is always another medium” e.g., the written word is content of print media.  He would say then, I presume, that for radio, the listened to word is the content of radio and the moving picture and sound is the content of TV?  But further in that passage, he reframes it as follows, “for the message of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”. I think what he means is that the message not the medium is what alters the human landscape. In support of that concept, McLuhan (p 206, 1964) gives an example of a Bedouin with a battery radio and how he is impinged with much new conceptually but he points out” Western man himself experiences exactly the same inundation as the remote native”.   On the contrary side of this, everybody wants it now is a philosophy widely infiltrating the masses—we are spoiled, and want different perspectives on lots of issues as they happen on the frontlines.

In closing, Andy Worhol said in 1968 “in the future, everyone will be (world) famous for 15 minutes”.  This may be coming to pass in a way for those using the Internet to post their blogs, video and music, though a new phrase has been coined to meet today’s times to the effect that everyone will be famous to 15 other people—a tongue in cheek to social networking. Radio and TV continue to both influence society in many ways and the effects of them are still under study due to the difficulty of isolating their influence on the listeners and watchers.


 Beatty, P. CBC Speech Archives (1998). Coping with Convergence: Social and cultural change in the age of digital technology. March 20 Lecture to UWO. Accessed online October 19, 2009 at :

Kramer, E.M. (1991). A supplementary chapter to accompany: Understanding Human Communication 4th ed. By Adler, R and Rodman, G. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Accessed October 19, 2009 at:

History of Radio. Accessed online October 19, 2009 at:

CBC –Radio-Canada Archive Website; 1901-1939. Accessed online October 19, 2009 at:

CBC –Radio-Canada Archive Website;1940s. Accessed online October 19, 2009 at:

CBC –Radio-Canada Archive Website; 1950s. Accessed online October 19, 2009 at:

CRTC Website. Accessed October 23, 2009 at:                                               

TV events: 1950s. Accessed October 19, 2009 at:

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

Vukmirov, D. (2005). Radio and communication. Accessed October 19, 2009 at:

War of the Worlds- radio show. Accessed online October 20, 2009 at:

Kozma, R.B. (1993).Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development. Vol 42, No. 2 pp 7-19. (print published in 1994). Accessed online October 14, 2009 at:                                                                                 

Marshall McLuhan. [n.d.]Accessed online October 20, 2009 at:


Unesco Education Project; Bangkok. [n.d.]. Accessed October 18, 2009 at:

Marshall McLuhan.  Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man 1964

 NY McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., May 1964. Excerpt from NEWMEDIAREADER, II, 13. MIT Press, Cambridge and London, 2003. Accessed online October 18, 2009 at

Andy Worhol. [n.d.]Accessed online October 21, 2009 at:


October 25, 2009   No Comments

The Rise of Penny Newspapers and their influence on Mass Media

Throughout the history of writing there have been significant advancements that have led to major shifts in communication technology. From the scroll to the codex to the manuscript to the printing press, technological changes have influenced how information is passed on to readers (Ong, 1984). These technological shifts are referred to as remediation by Bolter (2001). The incredible success of the penny press in the 1830’s in the United States was one of these significant remediations in communication. This radical change influenced not only the masses and mass communication but politics and educational policy in fundamentally significant ways (Saxton, 1984). Technological determinists such as McLuhan (1964) and Ong (1984) would have one believe that it was technological advancements that led to the success of the penny papers of the mid 19th century in America. However the incredible success and growth of these dailies was a result of more complex societal and cultural factors than technological advancements. Remediation, that is the shift in communication technology, continues to play a significant role in the written word.

Prior to the 1830’s in America, daily newspapers served a select group of people. Dailies were owned and produced for the upper class, urban, professional male (Saxton, 1984). However this class and racial disparity changed dramatically with the popularity of the penny press. In 1830 there were sixty five dailies in the United States with an average circulation of 1200 (Saxton, 1984). According to Saxton (1984) by 1850 there were 254 dailies with an average circulation of 3000. These dailies represented a significant change in not only readership numbers but also in content and class of people that read them. Dailies, such as the Sun in New York, were written to appeal to the working class. The content of these papers shifted from political polemics, public statement, commercial and foreign news to humour, sex, sports and crime and content that was of more interest to women and children (Saxton, 1984). There is some dispute whether penny papers were the first to make use of sensationalist content to sell papers (Nordin, 1979) however the cultural influence of these first dailies is undeniable. This change in readership not only led to the dramatic popularity of the penny papers but also led to a change in political and educational agendas.

The incredible popularity of the penny presses of the mid 19th century precipitated a change in politics in America and were the beginnings of mass media. The shift from dailies that served the rich elite to the penny papers that appealed to the masses mirrored the rise of working man’s parties in the United States (Saxton, 1984) specifically the Democratic Party as well as the abolitionist movement (Rhodes, 1993). Benjamin Day, the owner of the New York Sun, wrote (Saxton, 1984):

“there has been a great and decided change in the condition of the labouring classes and the mechanics. Now every individual, from the rich aristocrat who lolls in his carriage to the humble labourer who wields a broom in the streets, read (sic) the Sun;…Already can we perceive a change in the mass of the people. They think, talk and act in concert. They understand their own interest, and feel they have numbers and strength to pursue it with success…. (p.224)”

The papers were as described by Saxton (1984) initiated by artisan printers that promoted an urban ideology that was rationalist, secular, democratic, expansionist and fiercely egalitarian. Many of the owners of these dailies were proud of their common school education and had an egalitarian contempt for the higher learning of colleges and universities (Saxton, 1984). What is often not referred to in the literature is the tendency for penny newspapers to assert the racial superiority of Anglo-Saxon (Rhodes, 1993) and often portrayed Native Americans as savage and barbaric in order to justify westward expansionism and afro americans as “supplicant, kneeling and pleading for freedom” (Rhodes, 1993). However the ability to reach a mass readership may have facilitated the movement to a more democratic and egalitarian ethos in the United States as well as the beginnings of a popular voice for afro americans. This rise in the literacy of the working class man led to, as mentioned earlier, the development of the Democratic party. This shift in power from the rich elite to the masses certainly had an impact on politics in general not only in the United States but wherever mass media in the form of inexpensive dailies were produced. With the rise in readership came a rise in literacy. This rise in literacy coupled with the rise in power of the working class brought public education into the consciousness of the American people.

The incredible success of penny newspapers led to significant changes in technology. The popularity of these papers applied existing technologies and promoted new innovations (Saxton, 1984). Technologies imported from Europe were adapted and modified to meet the burgeoning needs of the American penny newspapers. Paper making moved from hand cranked presses to factory production becoming increasingly mechanized and steam powered. The search for cheaper methods and materials drove much of the technological innovation that occurred (Saxton, 1984). The result of this search lead to print and paper innovations that dramatically cut the cost of production. One of the most significant developments was the application of paper to the type by means of rotating cylinders made possible an output of two thousand copies an hour. When Benjamin Day started the very first penny newspaper, the New York Sun, he was producing 200 copies an hour using hand cranking technology. This rapid expansion of readership had direct influence in advancing literacy. The relatively inexpensive cost of the dailies coupled with the content that was more accessible to the masses invariably lead to greater and greater numbers reading. This in turn would have raised the general literacy levels of the population.

At times in human history certain technological and cultural advancements join in a confluence to enable phenomenal change. The rise in the popularity of the penny presses of the early to mid 19th century affected not only mass media but printing technology, politics and education (Saxton, 1984). No longer did the bourgeoisie hold the power and control of mass media. Rudimentary hand cranked presses that melded sensationalist content with a call to arms of the working class forever changed the political and educational landscape of the United States. The meteoric rise of the penny presses and their significant influence on thinking have only been eclipsed by the Internet and hypertext. If the penny presses are any indication the Internet and hypertext will forever change global culture.


Bolter, Jay, David (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, New Jersey, London.

McLuhan, Marshall, (1964). Understanding Media: The extensions of Man. Signet Books. New York

Nordin, Kenneth, D. (1979). The Entertaining Press: Sensationalism in Eighteenth-Century Boston Newspapers. Communication Research, Vol. 6, No. 3, July 1979. pp. 295-320.

Ong, Walter (1982). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the word. Routledge, London and New York.

Rhodes, Jane (1993. The Visibility of Race and Media History. Review and Criticism. Vol. 20. pp.181-189

Saxton, Alexander (1984). Problems of class and race in the origins of mass circulation press. American Quarterly, Vol. 36. No.2 (Summer, 1984), pp.211-234.

October 19, 2009   No Comments