Tuesday, March 6, 2007

What Texts Have You Read Today?

This week is Teen Tech Week, sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association, an event that asks us to think about the importance and availability of various technologies in the library. We may not all teach teens, but we certainly all use technology in the classroom in some way—and the students we teach interact with technologies regularly in the course of their normal daily lives.

The texts that students interact with have rapidly expanded from the days when the only definition of a text was a print-based book or magazine. While students interact with a range of print, visual, and sound texts, they do not always recognize that these many documents are texts (even though they may find all these texts in the library).

To encourage students to expand their definition of texts, try a simple activity in the classroom. Ask students to spend a few minutes freewriting about the role that technology plays in their lives. Next, ask students to brainstorm a list of technologies that they use, see, or know about in their notebooks, in order to give students a few minutes to gather their thoughts. You can ask questions to encourage their discovery:

  • What technology do you have in your desk, backpack, or locker?
  • What technology do you see in the classroom?
  • What technology do you see in other classrooms and locations in the school?
  • What technology do you see in the workplace (yours, a family member’s, or someone else’s)?
  • What technology do you see on your way from home to school?
  • What technology do you see in the mall or grocery store?
  • What technology did you see or use when you were younger?

If students have not included nondigital technologies in their list, share the first two paragraphs of the definition of technology from Wikipedia. The List of Technologies from Wikipedia may also stimulate discussion.

Once you have an extensive list of technologies assembled, step back and review the entire list with the students.If any patterns emerge from the list, take a few minutes to talk about the comparisons among technologies. As they look at the list, ask students to explore the various texts related to the technologies in more detail. Your goal is simply to ask students to think more deeply about the various texts that they use, see, or know.

Many follow-ups to this activity are possible:

  • Explore the defiinition of texts and literacy more completely with students at the elementary, middle, or secondary/college level.
  • Have students track all the technologies that they interact with over the course of a day and then draw conclusions about their “dependence” on technology.
  • Ask students to choose a favorite technology and discuss the ways it influences their lives.
  • Have students write technology autobiographies that explore why they use the technologies that they do.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list of questions, Traci -- they are going to be useful in an upcoming classroom discussion.

In the same email from NCTE in which this blog posting was announced, there was a link to a Washington Post article titled "In High-Tech World, Access To Students Still Difficult" .

Your posting had me thinking about how connected we can be because of all the devices (as I was just finishing posting on a niece's MySpace wall and as my father sends out mass emails to all my siblings to keep us posted, much easier for him than phoning us individually) -- but the Post piece also shows how the number of ways we stay in touch can make it difficult to get in touch when we need to.

The question of how to decide which get-in-touch technology to use in different cases would be another to add to your good list of questions, Traci, an opening for considering how people got hold of each other in other times and places...

Anonymous said...

I just wrote quite a bit about the subject of extending definitions of literacy for a chapter in a forthcoming book on adolescent literacy edited by Kylene Beers, Linda Rief, and Bob Probst. I have been thinking about this ever since someone told me that listening to an audio book was not "reading." I think it is. I think literacy and our definition of literacy has to continue to evolve in this new teachnological age.

I am amazed at how many students accept what is on TV and the net as "true." Here is an area of literacy that still needs a great deal of work, right?

Dickie Selfe said...

Why is it I always end up at your articles when I never look at the author until I've read it :-).

I'm going to adapt/adopt this for my graduate class next winter and have them do it for themselves, for a much younger person and for an older adult. Nicely done.

Laura said...

I'm fascinated by all of this, but struggling to find a way to apply it to my unique situation. I provide educational support to a group of 52 orphans in Bo, Sierra Leone (sometimes by traveling there to teach summer school), and this year will attempt to lead a team of teachers in a "virtual" version of summer school. We've established Internet connectivity to Bo, and we'll try a completely online summer school program - very daunting with kids whose whole computer experience to date has consisted of "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing", and for whom running water is only a recent development.
We're about to bring the world to kids who have lived their whole lives without a TV - what are the implications of that?!

Maryk said...

The irony here is too obvious to pass on. In an attempt to educate the effects of derogatory terms and "name calling" a teacher has been shot down. How can you teach without using terminology -- it certainly appears she wasn't promoting the use of these terms but instead showing the negative effect they had (and still have) on society in general. I feel for her.

dea c-c said...

Our students don't realize how literate they are. These questions begin to open eyes, of both student and teacher, to the prominence of technology in today's learning and communication environments. Sure, kids need more skills than they now possess and they need to operate at higher levels of proficiency with those skills. But we must affirm for them that the techliteracy skills that they do possess are meaningful and more advanced than those of their teachers. We need to show them how to transfer and channel social techliteracy into school and academic learning. Teachers, we must find ways to draw on our students' affinity for technology and its resources as a way to build academic strength. I have come to believe that the quickest and most effective solution to the literacy challenge.

Anonymous said...

To the person who doesn't get "graphic novels:" However artistic some may be (and some are quite well drawn), they still represent the current trend toward have students do anything but read good literature. Whether the reading is "identity-based writing" or picture-based writing, the focus is on something other than a literary art form. Quality of writing, sophistication of ideas, the beauty of language -- all are subsumed under these other interests. We are rasing a generation of near-illiterates and it's our own damn fault.


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