Making Connections

I was speaking with a retired educator-administrator the other day who, for a time, taught IT.  We got to discussing the state of technology in the classroom and I noted it was interesting how, in teaching students for the future, we use antiquated technology.  He questioned that isn’t it more about teaching them how to learn than how to learn a specific technology?  If we aim to teach them the latest technology, it will still be outdated by the time they are in the work force.  What we need to teach them are the principles of how technology works and is used… and how to adapt from one form to the next.  IT courses really become a bit of teaching computer history to prepare them to move forward much in the same way that History courses teach social and political histories so as to prepare students for the future (the whys and hows of past decisions such that we can understand them, how we’re gotten to where we are and think critically about how to proceed from here).

This timely conversation and its enlightenments connect for me with the definition of digital literacy of Alvin Toeffler’s that Cindy Leach Plunkett cites in her major project on Digital Literacy:

This definition does not necessarily assume an understanding of encoding schemes or internal logics as Dobson & Willinsky suggest digital literacy entails (2009, p. 16), but I think it is a more relevant and likely description of what digital literacy will look like for most functional citizens of the digital era.

Throughout teacher training programs, statements of becoming lifelong learners and promoting lifelong learning in our students resound.   It becomes more and more about the ability to learn and continuing to learn.  In today’s digital economy (see more here, under Ashley Ross’s major project subheading “The Psychology of Advertising”), this seems to be what will be required: perpetual acquisition of new skills.  We cannot teach all the skills required for each new technology that comes along any more than we can teach every element of history, science, math or language in 13 years of required education nor any more than we can follow our students until the end of time to ensure physical fitness goals are maintained through out a student’s life.  And yet it seems this becomes a point of paralysis in technology.  Teachers in every discipline lament they cannot keep up to their students in this area.  But the one edge educators do likely have over their students, the one skill they do likely have that their students likely need their critical assistance on is learning how to learn: to recall, effectively encode, analyse, evaluate, judge, synthesize, and adapt.

In the Bolter readings we have been doing through out this course, I have repeatedly struggled with the use of the word remediation.  It seems unconventional usage to me.  And yet, as I reflect on this course, Text and Technologies, and what it has done to my understanding of text and technologies, this word seems oddly appropriate.  My understanding of text has been remediated; hearing or reading the word now, an internal dialogue on how restrictive its context is echoes: in its context, is it referring to the alphabetic form or more inclusive modes of communication (the audible (the richness of oral traditions in native cultures; cautions of ethnocentricity (ethno-linguisitic-centricity?), visual (from photography to sign language), some combination of audio, visual and textual, or is it about texture or the tactile (Braille, the sensation of pen in hand))?

Not that I am done, but I have enjoyed reading my colleagues’ contributions, gaining insight to multiple perspectives across the immense breadth of these two words, text and technology, when they are ambitiously combined.

References

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

Dobson, T. and Willinsky, J. (2009). Digital literacy (draft). The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. Retrieved online at http://pkp.sfu.ca/files/Digital%20Literacy.pdf

Plunkett, C. L. (2010).  What is Digital Literacy?  Digital Literacy. Accessed online November 30, 2010 at https://cleach.wordpress.com/what-is-digital-literacy/

Ross, A. (2010).  The Evolution of Advertising: From Papyrus to YouTube.  ETEC540: Text Technologies. Accessed online November 30, 2010 at http://blogs.ubc.ca/etec540sept10/2010/11/29/the-evolution-of-advertising-from-papyrus-to-youtube/

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3 Responses to Making Connections

  1. ashleyross says:

    Vicki,

    What an interesting commentary and I have to say that your opening paragraph really got me thinking! I never really thought about the fact that the technology that students learn about would be “…outdated by the time they are in the work force.” and that it is more important for them to have a solid foundation in regards to technology so that they can learn and adapt as new technology comes along.

    If you haven’t already, you should read Danny’s Commentary 3 on Web 2.0 storytelling (http://blogs.ubc.ca/etec540sept10/2010/11/29/web-2-0-storytelling-physics-teachers-and-rabbit-holes/). The section on teachers needing to be prepared for the disappearance of technologies was particularly thought-provoking.

    Ashley

    • vschrader says:

      Thanks Ashley – you are absolutely right; Danny did a great, thought-provoking job here, highlighting a number of concerns and considerations for educators. Somewhere in there, his words also got me revisioning digital story-telling as a collaborative venture with additional potentials when blended with independent work… the possibilities Web 2.0 affords the classroom/educational experience are limited only by our imaginations.

      I also appreciate his message to simply give it a try. We need to heed the cautions, for sure, but we should not allow ourselves or our students’ education to be paralyzed by them.

      Thanks for highlighting Danny’s work here.

      Vicki

  2. Iris Chan says:

    Ashley,

    I think you come at the heart of the MET program as well. We just can not keep up with the pace of technology. And teaching them the latest application is simply not going to them justice by the time they hit the work force. In examining the technology and discussion the pros and cons and having them start to think about the “technology” beyond just computer technology and helping them to see principles is much more helpful for their future.

    Iris

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