Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Oral vs Written

I have finally watched the week four video. One last thought before I move to week five on the idea of "Is books making us stupid?" I write for many reasons. To keep records, to list what needs to be done for the day, to communicate with others, to work out my thoughts, for the sheer joy of a cleverly turned phrase.

Dave is right about the distance of writing, but wrong to think that this is somehow a cheat or dishonest in terms of communication. I think the reverse. I think that because one has to consciously think about what one is going to write, one is actually self censoring prior to writing as well as editing once it is down on paper. I am glad of that objectivity, glad of that distance. Too often words spoken in haste lead to unhappiness. Interpretation of oral words is just as culturally biased as reading is. Are we just celebrating the immediacy of the spoken word vs. the thoughtfulness of the written? The preference for the engaged immediacy of the spoken word can be as dishonest a cheat as the written word for are we truly truthful when we speak? And do we remember what was actually said or what we think was said? Is any communication truthful then? Or just simply truth as I know it and interpret it?

How is the give and take within an educational community any different? I have been present during some fabulous lectures, but most likely the ideas were synthesized after both reading information, discussion with peers and the application of practice. And I expect the lecture was written down first, prior to delivery. In a round robin discussion, how many times have I seen them veer off course because they have gotten bogged down in semantics or the inability to communicate a larger idea or guide the discussion? Sometimes groups mesh as an engaged community, sometimes they don't. Communication, like all human endeavors, is a flawed one.

This year I will be married for thirty years. As I look back, many of our arguments and fights were over our inability to adequately communicate our ideas verbally, by improperly interpreting the other's words, expressions and making assumptions as to meaning. A part of our life together has been lived apart due to his career. A phone call could lead to hurt, while a letter soothed the sting because we could explain ourselves fully. In a letter, I could explain what was in my heart and head, I could express my anger, hurt, love, loneliness and all of the other emotions that encompassed our relationship at that time.

I think, and this is an assumption, is that Dave is asking us, in the same way Prof. Sicoly (my research and methods prof) used to do, is to not make assumptions. To take every item of truth that we hold dear, whether written or oral and question it. And to remember that long after the spoken word has gone silent and no longer reverberates in our head, that the written word has a very long life span.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Books is Making Me Stupid

Confession time: I still haven't watched the video for topic #4. Instead I made a video on, you guessed it, "Books is Making Me Stupid." The title seemed appropriate.

Since the question/statement has been rattling around in my brain all week I started to write some thoughts down (walking the dog is my time for clarifying thoughts!) I then recorded it using Audacity and hunted around on Freesound for some background music. But none of the music matched the rhythm of what I had sung. So I just started looking for jazz instrumentals that had an underlying beat. I played the music, while I spoke the song. It's not perfect (there is some squealing in the background which came from I know not where) but overall I was pretty pleased with it. You'll notice that the final is different from the original.

Now there are some things I wanted to do differently in terms of the images I chose, but two things happened: a Windows 8.1 upgrade (yuck!) and sheer laziness. (I just didn't want to be bothered hunting around for software that strips the sound off the video and leaves me the video alone, I always seem to pick up a virus, it was late, I was tired, Windows was hurting my brain, yada, yada, yada.) So instead I just went to Goodreads, plugged in the different words, picked a book that tickled my fancy and just worked on the timings in Movie Maker. For the videos I just went online (I knew I was going to use a still from Zoolander), except for the last clip of Mariana Funes, who graciously sent it to me so I could work on a zombie video. I was having trouble finding the steamed image, when I remembered how wispy Mariana's video was and decided to use a chunk for my video. Thanks goodness for my time in DS106 that gave me some background in making a video!

So here's my final product. As always, the video seems to look and sound so much better in Movie Maker. In YouTube the music in the background is fainter. Oh well.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

I am uncomfortable....

with this week's topic! "Is books making us stupid?" Now I haven't even watched Dave's video and I haven't read anyone's post because in my mind I am thinking "Uh, no?!" and "Fix the grammar!" So I know Dave is being deliberately provocative to try and make me challenge some long held assumptions about literacy and reading, books and the idea of fixed knowledge. So I'm uncomfortable and really reluctant to go there- to engage at all. After all, I am a readaholic- I always have at least 3 or 4 books on the go. There is not a day that I do not read something, even if it's drivel. But I am also driven by curiosity to know what Dave has posted. Honestly, I completely understand Pandora!

But the statement alone "Is books making us stupid?" does speak to me on so many levels. First, of course, is the idea that books are a source of fixed knowledge- that once written down, it is finished. Except at its heart this idea is false. Any writing, and therefore any written idea, is fluid. Volumes are edited, abridged, reworked, rewritten, lost and then found (think Shakespeare, the great borrower and the great influencer- the ultimate in recycling of ideas!) The fact that an idea is written down gives us time, as the reader, to mull over in our minds what the writer means to convey. The beauty of it is that as soon as the thought is coalesced into writing it is no longer the property of the writer but the reader. Each of us, when we approach a text bring a different viewpoint, life experiences and cultural dynamic to bear. We shouldn't expect to engage in understanding text the same way, because we are different people.

As to those who read and cannot find the "correct" meaning as according to the educational powers that be, good for you! If you can articulate your point of view and derive a different meaning from a text, that is as it should be. As far as I am concerned, your perspective is valid (after all, you're reading the writing of someone who loathes "Waiting for Godot" supposedly the best play of the 20th century! What about Pinter? Or "Rhinoceros"?)  As well, different words, especially in English, have multiple meanings and multiple interpretations. I find that as I get older, my writing and language usage is becoming archaic (Karen the dinosaur!) Does this mean that I am a poor communicator or that I should stop writing? And reading?

And how can books be making us stupid, when the internet runs off of text? Text messages, blogs, visual presentations, email, Twitter, reviews all rely on our ability to interact with text. Or perhaps books and text are making us stupid because we have stopped listening to each other? And yet, if that were true why is YouTube, Skype and Google+ hangout and radio such communication mainstays?

As educators, our challenge is to make sure that our students are comfortable engaging with text as well as the spoken word and other forms of media. Reading is such an immense hurdle for so many students and writing even more daunting. Is that because we assume there is a "right way" to interact with text? A right way to write? As an elementary teacher, I've had some brilliant students, gifted at writing and reading, in understanding the contextual meaning as defined by what the ministry has determined a book means, etc., etc. But I've also had some students who are gifted, imaginative writers who cannot spell and grammar eludes. To them I say, keep writing! (Hire a good editor!) Because in the end, what we really are trying to develop in each student is their gift or talent in the area of communication.

Next stop? Dave's video!