Making Connections

A major theme of this term has been remediation. Gordana Jugo refers to Bolter’s concept of (2001) remediation as “a newer technology taking place of (an) older technology but keeping some characteristics of (the) older technology while reorganizing and improving other characteristics.” Throughout history, communication has been remediated by technology. For example, oral communication was remediated by the scroll which was remediated by the manuscript or codex which again was remediated by print (Tobin, kimprobable, ajevne). Currently we are experiencing a remediation of print by digital text. Angela Novoa states that “hypertext has brought a redefinition of the way in which we communicate, (e)specially regarding organization and design of text.” Hypermedia such as animation, images and sound are also changing how we read and write (Tobinkenbuis). Bpgore posits that “the new media make it possible to use the mode that is deemed most appropriate both for the matching the representation to the audience and also using the best medium to support the material.”

Many teachers, even in this course, complain about the decline of student skills in reading and writing. It is comforting to think that mass literacy is not in jeopardy but is expanding its definition (Garth). Leonora Zefi suggests “literacy no longer relates only to written text but to the deciphering of symbols, signs and visual narratives in all forms of media.” In a digital world, this includes being able to navigate and think critically about the overwhelming amount of information available to anyone online. A benefit of digital text is that it affords debate and collaboration between readers and authors, similar to how the codex used to be shared orally with others (Tobin).

Print has also been affected by digital media. One discussion board thread about Bolter’s chapter on “The Breakout of the Visual” referred to the changing appearance of text books which are more visual and less linear today. Jasmeet Virk cites Svobodny, who noted in 1985 that “publishers made their books more attractive by using bigger print, less content … illustrations, drawings, and engravings” to sell to schools. Print has changed in a response to a visual culture dominated by film, TV, billboards etc. (Tobin).

The current generation of students were born into a digital world. Prensky (2001) calls them digital natives. These students are naturally attracted to using technology, often spending much of their personal time online, texting, watching movies etc. Prensky (2001) states that “Kids born into any new culture learn the new language easily, and forcefully resist using the old” (kimprobable) So why don’t more educators use technology to motivate our students to learn? Some of my peers have mentioned over the term that their colleagues fear technology, don’t have the necessary resources or are too comfortable with their current lessons to want to change.

Some of my colleagues believe that even though students are digital natives, they don’t know how to use technology to its full potential. This makes it even more important for educators to guide students to becoming technically literate to prepare them for a technology dependant work world. Alvin advises, “rather than distancing education from new forms of technologies and information flows in 21st century society, schools have the responsibility to help students negotiate safely and meaningfully in our increasingly networked world, as well as to encourage critical thinking about both new and historical technologies”. Dennis Pratt supports this view by proposing, “new technologies are tools for change but do not create change by themselves. Educators have to teach students how to judge between valuable information and the insignificant.” I think Alvin raises a good point that teachers shouldn’t automatically use technology in teaching practices but should be mindful about how to best integrate technology to enhance learning. For example, television can be used as a tool to improve writing (Juliana).

Television also has the reputation of draining our students’ brains. It is the perfect example of how technology has both benefits and drawbacks. Many of my colleagues (Kim MelvinGordana JugoJulianaAngela Novoa)chose to write their first commentary on Postman‘s article called Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology in which Postman (1992) describes Plato’s Phaedrus, where Theuth presented his invention of writing to the God Thamus as an achievement that “will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians” (p. 4). To which Thamus disagreed, “Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources” (p. 4). In his article, Postman cautions against seeing only the negative side of technology. Ajevne summarizes, “a key idea of Postman’s that is illustrated in this chapter is that all technologies produce both blessings and burdens for cultures that adopt them however, he still recommends that we think about new technology and err, if necessary, on the side of ‘Thamusian skepticism’ (p. 5), and to not let the inventors be the only voice in determining the value of their inventions.”

As the term closes, I will carry forward my learning into my classroom practice. I appreciated the opportunity to experience using a class blog as that is something I’d like to do with my own students. Blog affordances that stand out to me are the ability to:

  • include hypermedia to complement text,
  • link externally and internally. However, I’m not sure it was always obvious why I was linking internally. I wish we could link to a particular phrase or paragraph.
  • search for assignments by category instead of scrolling through all posts,
  • search for assignments by tags although I don’t think tagging was used as effectively as it could have been. For example, remediation was an important theme on the blog but it wasn’t a tag.
  • click on each blogger’s RSS feed to see their term work which I used when writing this assignment to find a connection I knew I had read previously;
  • leave comments on other’s assignments but I don’t feel this promoting a lot of conversation on the blog.

I would like to thank my peers in this course for much stimulating discussion on the discussion boards this term that encouraged me to reflect on my own teaching philosophies.

References

Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Postman, N. (1992). The judgement of Thamus. In Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology (Chapter 1). Retrieved from: https://www.vista.ubc.ca/webct/RelativeResourceManager/Template/Imported_Resources/etec540demo_det_course_20070517151759/pdfs/postman-thamus.pdf

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Svobodny, D. (1985). Early american textbooks, 1775-1900. A catalog of the 
titles held by the educational research library. Retrieved from ERIC
database. ED264601

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