The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Reflections and Connections

ETEC 540

Revisiting Commentary # 1 and Reflections

A Symbiotic Relationship: The Written and Spoken Word

Writing, the new technology of Plato’s era, was being promoted as the elixir for improving memory. It was seen as the “specific tool for memory and wit.” However, Plato argued contrary to this and suggested that it would foster “forgetfulness in learners’ souls.”  Plato further elaborated that learners would have a show of wisdom without reality.  Ironically, Plato had his ideas and teachings written down and this is why we have access to them today. Walter Ong (1982, 2001) suggests that it is impossible for pre-literate cultures to operate as literate ones do. According to Ong writing has led to the expansion of literacy and a restructuring of human consciousness. He does not see this as negative as he states, “[t]echnology, properly interiorized, does not degrade human life but on the contrary enhances it” (Ong, p. 82). He also suggests that to understand writing “means to understand it in relation to its past, to orality, the fact that it is a technology must be honestly faced” ( Ong, p.82). Neil Postman (1992), on the other hand, seems less accommodating in his pronouncement that [n]ew technology alters the structure of our interests: the things we think about. They alter the characters of our symbols; the things we think with. And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop” (Postman, p.120). Regardless of the criticism leveled against new technology, my experience throughout this course has taught me that their emergence is inevitable.

   The past few months have been a bit challenging due to my limited knowledge of the technological world which has gone through much deconstruction! Hypertext, digital literacy, multiliteracy, social technologies and Web 2.0 were unfamiliar terms. But I thought I knew about ‘orality’ and ‘writing.’ It turns out that I had to refashion my thinking about these. I never viewed writing as technology. Ong transported me to imagine a world without literacy which ended in a misreading of Daniel Chandler’s ‘Phonocentrism.’ This led to much rethinking and reordering. As a result of this experience and my research project on silent reading, I have come to recognize writing as a technology which has become deeply interiorized by many including myself. I now believe that orality is more natural and has to come first as children develop literacy skills. As children become exposed to print they become aware of the symbiotic relationship between writing and speech. Writing has become so much a part of our lives that we see ourselves in and through our media. Our innocent children observe our behavior and develop emergent literacy according to studies done by Marie Clay (1992).

   As we traversed this course we discovered how orality and writing was represented on papyrus scrolls, codex and the printing press and then eventually moved on to hypertext and word processing technologies. My reading of The Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Printby David Jay Bolter allowed me to understand the development of a new kind of literacy that has emerged as humans moved from oral to visual literacy and back. Digital literacy and emergent multiliteracies have now become terms which have to be seriously considered by educators. The journey for suggests a combination past and present technologies merging. While I am somewhat concerned about the sustainability of the dependence on technology, I remain aware through the work of the New London Group, Dobson and Willinsky’s article and Bryan Alexander’s “Web 2.O and Emergent Multiliteracies,” that digital literacy is the way forward whether we want to admit it or not. The important thing is that we recognize that our students are going to need critical skills in order to make sense of everything that is presented on the Internet and train them well. We cannot be satisfied with just knowing the basics if we want a future generation that is wise as are result of having so much information at their fingertips.

As I sang a duet with a student recently, I realized that we can’t turn back the clock and wish away a return to the classical training I went through but we could merge the old and the new to create a new delightful symphony. This is how I am beginning to view the era of multiliteracies. The appeal to the senses that the ripmixfeed offers will certainly lessen the generation gap which exists between many teachers and students. As the curtain falls on ETEC 540 I know its spirit will live on in our pedagogy. We have certainly proved the critics wrong. Even though I did not participate as much as I would have liked, I felt part of the community of learners. Classmates were more helpful than when I was in a physical setting. One of things that I thought was strange too is that I felt compelled to produce quality work for others to see, due to motivation from my peers’ posts. There were times to that I felt I couldn’t measure up to their standards. I remain very positive about this course as it fulfilled its mandate to explore the changing spaces of reading and writing and I certainly had more than enough spaces to read and write.



Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 32-44. Retrieved from

Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies. Theory into Practice, 47(2), 150-160. doi: 10.1080/00405840801992371

Bolter, D. J. (2001). Writing Space Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print.New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbalm Associates.

Ong, W. (1982, 2002). Orality and Literacy.London and New York: Routledge.

December 4, 2009   No Comments

Negotiating Spaces and Making Connections

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

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

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

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

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

Final Project – Graphic Novels, Improving Literacy
Catherine Gagnon

A Case For Teaching Visual Literacy – Bev Knutson-Shaw

Pen and Paper Project – Ed Stuerle & Bruce Spencer

Navigating the Hypermedia Sea – Marjorie del Mundo

Hopscotch and Hypertext – Liz Hood

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


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

November 30, 2009   2 Comments

Reflections Modules 1 and 2

I am enjoying the content of the two courses I am taking this semester tremendously, both via readings and sharing by keen and engaged fellow-learners. Unfortunately, I have a sense of missing much since there is such a plethora of material and it rests in many different places, both within course materials/wikis/weblogs/webCT,  and via the excellent links to further reading and viewing.  As I read through the postings while catching up after the flu, I feel all the salient points have been presented in so many comprehensive ways—what else can I say that is even remotely witty or wise? That adds to the discussion in a meaningful, scholarly way?


 In our readings, we have explored the way humans transitioned from primary orality and adapted to new ways of putting pen to “paper”. That process took from 3500 BC to now. Very recently, text is becoming more plastic and functional by integrating hypertext, and news travels very fast by widespread social network collaboration. We are moving away from solo writer, and set in “stone” letters and words, to plastic text—textology is changing fast.


Postman in Technopoly presents a position of concern around new technologies.


In Brands’ Escaping the Digital Dark Age, the loss of digitized data is explored in detail. He admonishes all to sit up and take notice of this hidden risk.


The CBC commentary surrounding the digital universal library concept is a wandering exploration of the issues of copyright, and private corporation involvement. The Kelly article “Scan this Book” explores many similar themes as in the other readings about the universal digital library.

O’Donnell proposed in the Virtual Library piece that the idea is neither new nor golden.  He speaks of the historical aspects from The Great Library of Alexandria through the Memex in the ‘40s, and expresses concern that “infochaos” will be the only thing to emerge from the debacle of the dreamed universal digital library of the future.


In the video version of funeral oration of Julius Caesar, and in Phaedrus, we saw classic oratory in the rhetoric form, which was also exemplified in the Plato Iliad excerpt. The irony of the Plato oration is that the written word is the vehicle he uses to expound his theories about the downside of writing, and he proposed that nobody who had serious and important ideas would write them down—how ironic is that! The issue Plato raises of the relationship of memory with written word is revisited in modern times in the Visible Language article, Hypertext and the Art of Memory.


James O’Donnell in “From Papyrus to Cyberspace” explored the flip side of new technologies—the downside, when we do not know fully the effects until after implementation. He believes that unpredictable change and a less intimate community are hallmarks of the modern time.  Dr. James Engell feels the state of affairs is that education is already transformed by new technologies, and the generational divide is a big one. He emphasizes instability in business and in information storage as examples of how unclear the future direction is in these frontier times.


Lamb’s article “Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, ready or not” is a good ingress into the next section of the course where we deal with the connections between text and fluidity of the web-based text realm. His thoughts about the use of wikis in academics and otherwise were a refreshing introduction to “wikidom”, the new and evolving kingdom of wikis.

October 11, 2009   No Comments

Upon reflection…

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak no Evil

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak no Evil

Why this picture you ask? I guess it’s because I feel this proverb epitomizes the changing nature of text and technology and the fact that it’s not something we can or should ignore.

I want to begin by saying that it’s taking a while for me to get use to using this type of forum. As day passes, I believe I’m getting a little better at navigating and contributing to our weblog. I must say I was a little skeptical at first, perhaps because I’m more ‘old school’ and more comfortable using older technologies. That being said, I’m always up for a challenge and this certainly seems to be pushing me to the max. It helps knowing that I’m not the only one that’s struggling on the technology side of things. The bottom line is that I’m learning plenty of new and interesting things.

I was surprised to learn in Module 1 that there were so many different definitions for text and technology and that these terms are used in so many different contexts. I’m used to be surrounded by books but in more recent years, I find myself spending more time working from a computer. I’m not a gamer but I can see the attraction. I think the internet is a wonderful thing and I use it for many reasons, everything from communicating to family and friends, to finding out information on just about anything. I believe that, as a technology, the internet is responsible for transforming the way we see and use text. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

After I listened to O’Donnell’s From Papyrus to Cyberspace and reviewed the discussion postings on the text and technology, I couldn’t help but wonder what lies ahead. I think it might be interesting to listen to what people are prophesying about today, particularly with respect to where they believe the technology is expected to go but also about how they think it will alter the way we view text. Based on the Papyrus to Cyberspace experience, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that some of what is said will come to pass. We should also expect the unexpected as it is almost impossible to predict with certainly, just how things will unfold. As with most things in life, what we think will happen and what actually happened are usually two different things.

If I could rewrite my first impressions on text and technology I suspect the entries would quite different than what they are now. I can’t say I would have changed what I wrote previously. Instead, I would probably have expanded it to include all the other things I hadn’t thought of previously or hadn’t known until now. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to reflect on these two terms again, towards the end of the course.


September 25, 2009   No Comments


In this first Module, I think we all learned how to get acquainted with new resources. Personally, I’ve never used Vista or a Weblog, so it has taken me quite some time to try to figure out the “method”, pace or way to do the assignments.

Although Vista has a more structured format, I’ve found the Weblog to be much more user friendly. I can check others’ postings easier, and now that we have new features (authors, dates, etc.) it’s easier to look for information within the blog.

As students and teachers (most of us are active teachers), I think it is essential to get acquainted with new technological resources. This is the first course I’m taking directly with UBC and it’s my first experience using “alternative” delivery modes- we always used Blackboard at ITESM. These new resources push us to learn new things, force our brains to work a bit harder and to find the solution to technical problems we’ve all had.

One great advantage I see in the weblog over Vista, is that we’ll be able to see the postings we’ve made after the course has ended (or at least I think I do).  We probably won’t be able to sign in as users, but we’ll be able to read older posts.


September 16, 2009   No Comments