We’re now examining how the format of the text–and text means everything i.e. blog, essay, poem, wiki, Facebook page–changes our thought process and writing/creative process.

It does, of course. It always has.

When I write poetry, I don’t sit at my laptop. I write on paper with a pen–a thin black felt-tip, if you please–because using that precise pen gives me as much pleasure as the writing itself. Pen and paper put me in a comtemplative mode. I know I’m entering that stage, and welcoming it, when I take them up. I can write poetry on a Tim’s serviette, or a scrap of an envelope, anywhere the mood takes me.

On the other hand, writing an essay goes, of course, straight onto the laptop. I write fast, the first draft is just a bleed on to the (oops, I was going to write “paper”!) screen, get my thoughts down quickly, a second draft to polish, be more reflective, and third for punctuation and citations. It’s a very business-like procedure.

Speed v. reflection?

No, because I spend time reflecting on the poem too, and I do end up typing it. I start it differently, though, for a reason.  The creative process is different. The computer implies haste; the pen and paper on the lap in the backyard imply leisure. No deadlines; enjoy the process!

Ah, there’s a novel concept; teaching our students to sit still, bask in the sunshine, and take the time to reflect…and enjoy!

There’s an argument still to be made for taking them outside to read among the grass, compose their thoughts under the trees, and just to relax. Don’t produce for the sake of producing, produce for the sake of enjoyment, fulfillment, sharing and receiving.

I find that when I start a lesson with the latter (finger painting as an intro to poetry, drawing as an intro to short stories, doodling air balloons before essay writing), we all enjoy the process more. Chunking it down into different steps, and adding some reflective, creative time to the practice, invites us to become more involved in the process, more invested and empowered and engaged, and results in better outcomes.

I often do all the steps along with my students. It’s meaningful shared time. We also get to know each other better–there’s an intimacy to finger painting or colouring! We can let slip personal remarks, share stories, memories, feelings, ideas–often on a one-to-one basis. So we take time to bond and knit as a class. I create trust and relaxation as I’m doing the work with them, laughing, making the same mistakes…usually more!

Working on the new digital literacy still has to incorporate this experience of trust, camaraderie, humour…humanity. So I would advise others that yes, blogging or Twitterature is great…but always, always, always, make time for the human aspect.

And what is the implication for our alternative students? Our students with special education needs? Would Annie Sullivan be as successful a teacher, or Helen Keller as successful a student, if they hadn’t taken the time away from the classroom to indulge in the environmental and the emotional? Of course, the time spent on Helen’s needs, when she needed it, helped her in other areas and, thus, actually accelerated the learning process.

Otherwise, why wouldn’t we just have RoboTeachers?

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See Brenda. See Brenda Blog. See the Blog Change Brenda from Jekyll to Hyde!

Such challenges this course raises! This particular set of readings has overwhelmed me; that is, I am plagued by the responsibility of trying to introduce my students to the principles upon which the World Wide Web is woven. I don’t even understand it all myself!  I confess that I have probably been blind to the implications of textuality for much of my life, starting with the glorious Dick and Jane whom I now suspect of training me, albeit surreptitiously, with the WASP working ethic I embody. Ring a bell! I respond!

Believe me, I am completely serious: when we were taught to read using the popular duo, we were awarded gold stars for the most books read. Who didn’t want the longest line of stars alongside her name, sparkling on the pink bristol board on Miss Clark’s wall? Thus, we were taught to read for speed, and not for enjoyment, and certainly not for critical literacy.

Frightening thought: when I was visiting my grandson the other night, Dick and Jane and Vampires was lying on the table. How long does it take meaningful change to be implemented?

Did that text construct its audience?

Currently I’m conducting an experiment on myself. Throughout this course (shades of Dr. Jekyll which I have in PowerPoint, most useful on a Smartboard,  if anyone wants it, by the way), I am writing my own blog. Am I constructing it or, in some way, does it construct me?

My writing changes for my audience, of course. But I notice my vanity and arrogance showing through. I think I’m smarter than I am, wittier, and although I don’t spend much time looking in the mirror—in fact, only for 5 minutes each day when putting on make up; it’s a documented fact—I am slightly pickier about the picture I present to my anonymous viewership than about how I present to my family, friends, colleagues and students. Why is that? Because the anonymous viewership doesn’t know me? Because I prefer that my friends and colleagues “take me as I am” but I have some control over the anonymous world – I can present better and they don’t know it’s not the truth! George Sand wrote, “Vanity is the quicksand of reason.” What implication does that have for digital creators, developers and writers? Whether it’s vanity or power, it’s alluring, this feeling, of being able to say whatever I want. And that’s it, isn’t it? Because I can say whatever I want with no checks or balances, I start to believe there’s truth to it. Because I can see it, and others give it credence, I feel more powerful (over 40 hits from others so far!). Very frightening indeed.

Look what else I am doing! I’m writing a paper for a post-graduate course using pictures! And highlighting key words in blue—tags—lucky for my readers I’m not able to create an ad behind them to pop out at you). I have become so familiar with my audience that I am not even using citations properly! Does intimacy imply laziness? Something’s happening here!

Certainly, the Internet is a wonder. And we must use it, not only to engage our students, but to open their lives to new meanings in the world, help them understand their own meaning in the world and open the possibilities for them to pursue healthy functioning lives in the future.

Still, the Internet is a tool. One that has heft and weight, and possible danger if not wielded correctly. We must understand our influence upon it, and its influence upon us.

Furthermore, it’s important to always remember it is not reliable. Not only is it a tool that can be manipulated by the minority to affect the majority, it will never give us empathy, compassion, true understanding. That is the lot of experience.

And one more comment…what will we do when the power goes out?!

 

Stop the world, I want to get off!

We’re in Module 2; subject: ICT.

Here’s my response (second of about four in this unit): (Wait, before, we get started I need to doff the hat to Peter Cook and Dudley Moore for their always sublime inspiration!):

Stop the world, I want to get off!

 “Teaching critical literacy in classrooms requires teachers to know a lot about the world and how it operates (cf., Edelsky 1999, Lankshear 1997, Shor 1999).

             Truly, how achievable is teaching critical literacy? The key words in the above quotation are a lot. When did the high school English teacher become the answer to everyone’s problems? What’s the implication for the workload, not to mention the psyche, of today’s secondary school instructor?

            That teachers know a lot about the world and how it operates (italics mine) is a myth. Ever play Trivial Pursuit with a group of teachers? They seem to be just like the average joe, good in some areas, not in others. In fact, the opposite is true. Teachers know how to teach, and many do not teach to the point of mastery. If we are to be honest, we can see evidence in our own responses posted to this course. How many English teachers are checking their grammar? Their spelling?  Are we relying on our gut instincts and anecdotal evidence, or are we thoroughly and scientifically relating the questions posed in this course to our practices and those of our colleagues in a systematic way, using our own skills in critical analysis?

            Of course, we’re not! Because the high school English teacher is a human being with his or her own needs, desires, habits, interests, pressures, medical problems, and learning styles. To paraphrase Joseph Merrick, “I am not your child’s parent! I am a computer! I am a human being! I am a teacher!”  In fact,  according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the average Canadian spends 39.3 hours at work if he’s a man, and 33 if she’s a woman; that’s according to 2011 statistics. In contrast,  the average secondary school teacher worked over 50 hours per week (Time-Use Research Program, 2000). Note the research date–10 years ago!

            Should we expect English secondary teachers to provide an introduction to the understanding and implementation of multi-digital literacies? Of course, but not to master them. It’s inhuman, and can’t be done. Particularly if we’re also supposed to design and model best practices all the time, keep abreast of the Ministry’s expectations, and act as coach, mentor, social worker, family mediator and psychologist to our students whenever they need us. Again, the italics are mine, and it is a significant issue thrust upon our world by digital literacy: Just because we can be available, should we be available? Must a teacher respond through text, email, phone calls, websites, and Twitter, to all concerns whenever they arise? Just because I have the technology to instantly respond, should I? What are the implications to our workload? Our private lives and time? What lesson are we teaching our students if we are expected to automatically cater to every demand? Aren’t we modelling that reaction, not reflection, is our mode of operandi and, therefore, implying it should be theirs?

            Should secondary English teachers be responding to the new demands of the digital world? Absolutely! But who will respond to the increasing and overwhelming pressures put on today’s teachers? Digital literacy demands a significant training shift; it’s no longer sufficient for a provide a short introduction to Creating Websites or  Twitterature and leave us to it. We needs experts to teach us, and continuing practice time to effectively and confidently practise our new skills, before we can hope to pass them on to our students. In short, why are we expected to hold our students’ hands through previously uncharted and often difficult waters, when we have no one to guide us, provide the navigational skills, or even man the lifeboats?

            Furthermore, in today’s climate of economic cutbacks, which board will be the first to offer the dollars demanded by increasing software, hardware and support? How are English teachers going to respond to the needs of multiliteracies, let-alone, digital literacies, in a work-week that already stretches between 50 to 60 hours?

            Today’s secondary school teacher already wears an invisible superhero cape, but without the supports needed for his or her own education and classroom implementation, the tears around the edges will begin to show, and may come off.

 

Stop the world, I want to get off!

 

“Teaching critical literacy in classrooms requires teachers to know

 a lot about the world and how it operates

                              (cf., Edelsky 1999, Lankshear 1997, Shor 1999).

 

            Truly, how achievable is teaching critical literacy? The key words in the above quotation are a lot. When did the high school English teacher become the answer to everyone’s problems? What’s the implication for the workload, not to mention the psyche, of today’s secondary school instructor?

            That teachers know a lot about the world and how it operates (italics mine) is a myth. Ever play Trivial Pursuit with a group of teachers? They seem to be just like the average joe, good in some areas, not in others. In fact, the opposite is true. Teachers know how to teach, and many do not teach to the point of mastery. If we are to be honest, we can see evidence in our own responses posted to this course. How many English teachers are checking their grammar? Their spelling?  Are we relying on our gut instincts and anecdotal evidence, or are we thoroughly and scientifically relating the questions posed in this course to our practices and those of our colleagues in a systematic way, using our own skills in critical analysis?

            Of course, we’re not! Because the high school English teacher is a human being with his or her own needs, desires, habits, interests, pressures, medical problems, and learning styles. To paraphrase Joseph Merrick, “I am not your child’s parent! I am a computer! I am a human being! I am a teacher!”  In fact,  according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the average Canadian spends 39.3 hours at work if he’s a man, and 33 if she’s a woman; that’s according to 2011 statistics. In contrast,  the average secondary school teacher worked over 50 hours per week (Time-Use Research Program, 2000). Note the research date–10 years ago!

            Should we expect English secondary teachers to provide an introduction to the understanding and implementation of multi-digital literacies? Of course, but not to master them. It’s inhuman, and can’t be done. Particularly if we’re also supposed to design and model best practices all the time, keep abreast of the Ministry’s expectations, and act as coach, mentor, social worker, family mediator and psychologist to our students whenever they need us. Again, the italics are mine, and it is a significant issue thrust upon our world by digital literacy: Just because we can be available, should we be available? Must a teacher respond through text, email, phone calls, websites, and Twitter, to all concerns whenever they arise? Just because I have the technology to instantly respond, should I? What are the implications to our workload? Our private lives and time? What lesson are we teaching our students if we are expected to automatically cater to every demand? Aren’t we modelling that reaction, not reflection, is our mode of operandi and, therefore, implying it should be theirs?

            Should secondary English teachers be responding to the new demands of the digital world? Absolutely! But who will respond to the increasing and overwhelming pressures put on today’s teachers? Digital literacy demands a significant training shift; it’s no longer sufficient for a provide a short introduction to Creating Websites or  Twitterature and leave us to it. We needs experts to teach us, and continuing practice time to effectively and confidently practise our new skills, before we can hope to pass them on to our students. In short, why are we expected to hold our students’ hands through previously uncharted and often difficult waters, when we have no one to guide us, provide the navigational skills, or even man the lifeboats?

            Furthermore, in today’s climate of economic cutbacks, which board will be the first to offer the dollars demanded by increasing software, hardware and support? How are English teachers going to respond to the needs of multiliteracies, let-alone, digital literacies, in a work-week that already stretches between 50 to 60 hours?

            Today’s secondary school teacher already wears an invisible superhero cape, but without the supports needed for his or her own education and classroom implementation, the tears around the edges will begin to show, and may come off.

 

Cat v. computer

Cat wins, every time.

Just spent 3 hours working on course; Daughter #2’s cat–which I am babysitting–leapt off mantle, onto my shoulders, onto my keyboard, and hit a key which I had never before had cause to notice.

Result: Computer turns off.

I have control over the computer, but not this blasted cat.

In the battle of nature v. man, nature wins every time. Good lesson to learn.