While using my iPad for article-reading, a blog post about Storify appeared

It has been ages since I talked about a new tool/service like this but Shaun came home talking about Storify the other day and it sounded good so I got myself an invite.

Basically, it lets you pull content from the dynamic web, including all of the social social media suspects plus search results, into a timeline-like interface. You add text (or not) and you have a story.

Reading the “one year out” iPad posts that have been popping up, I have been thinking about how I use mine — especially how I use it differently than I expected.  One thing I didn’t expect was the extent to which I have used it to replace some of the paper in my life.  Not all of it, but some of it.   And one of the most interesting pieces of that story, to me, has been the extent to which some of the papers being replaced are the reams and reams of paper worth of article printouts I used to create.

Those printouts were totally outside my workflow in so many ways – but I had to be able to:

  • Take them places (even my laptop is so much less mobile than a folder of paper and a pen).
  • Read them (which I could technically do, but not really do on my phone).
  • Take notes on them (typing doesn’t count for me.  I wish it did.  But it doesn’t).

With the iPad, some of that started to change.  Here’s a story about how.

 

Screenshot of the top few lines of a story created using the Storify tool

 

There are definitely some glitches – the integration with Flickr wasn’t working at all for me, for example.  But it was quick and intuitive and I like the output a lot.  I have some more interesting ideas for using it than this one.

Peer-reviewed Monday post-conference-drive-by

ResearchBlogging.org

Oh who am I kidding.  It probably won’t be short.  But it might be disjointed.  My good intentions were foiled by intermittent Internet access at the Super Conference, which was not that unexpected.  And by a seriously limited amount of power for my computer, which was totally unexpected except for my expected ability to do boneheaded things like leaving my power adapter at home.

{FYI – the Canadians, they know how to treat their speakers.  It’s been great.}

I do have something to say about peer reviewed research today though – it’s about this 2005 Library Quarterly article by Kimmo Tuominen, Reijo Savolainen and Sanna Talja.

Fair warning, I really liked this article.  I first read something by Savolainen when I was working on an annotated bibliography in library school (I think the topic was genre) and I’ve been something of a fan ever since.  Like AnneMaree Lloyd who was discussed here two weeks ago, these authors argue that we need to expand our definitions of information literacy.  And the expansion they’re arguing for is similar to Lloyd’s.  I find more food for thought here – more connections between the different things I’m thinking about and working on.

Perhaps this is because this is not a research article – these authors are not bound by their own sample, questions, or data.  Perhaps it is because tthey do a better job of placing their vision of information literacy in its theoretial context, or at least of explaining what that context is and why we should care about it.  Or perhaps it is just because their vision is broader.

In any event, their starting point is similar to Lloyd’s -

The predominant view of information literacy tends to conceive of IL as a set of attributes – or personal fluencies – that can be taught, evaluated, and measured independently of the practical tasks and contexts in which they are used.

And they have similar conclusions -

We argue that understanding the interplay between knowledge formation, workplace learning, and information technologies is crucial for the success of IL initiatives.  Needs for information and information skills are embedded in work practice and domain-dependent tasks.

So from here the authors look back at the IL discussion over time. They locate its start in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, trace the initial involvement of professional associations in the 1980’s, touch on the Big 6 model in the 1990’s and then argue that the concept of information literacy began to be associated with the broader concept of lifelong learning in the 1990’s.  They conclude this history section with the argument that since the 1990’s there have been many attempts to define competency standards for information literacy.

From here, they move to talking about challenges to the idea of information literacy.  Interestingly, they place the argument that IL instruction requires cooperation with faculty, integration into the curriculum, and a grounding in content-focused classroom assignments as one such challenge.  Given that that model has been presented to me as the norm (with the separate, credit-course instruction idea as the exception) since I was in library school, this rang a little strange to me.

The authors dismiss the challenges to IL.  They argue that so long as definitions of IL take the individual as subject, and outline a set of generic, transferable skills that individual can master – there is broad agreement as to what the potentially vague concept of “information literacy” means.  They argue that the ACRL IL Standards for Higher Education, for example, define a set of generic skills that are supposed to have relevance across the disciplines and across contexts.

This is very interesting to me, because we spent a long time on my campus defining just that kind of generic, transferable information literacy standards.  We did so in conjunction with faculty across the disciplines – from all of our colleges and who taught all levels of undergraduates.  The thing is this, this was a really invigorating process.  We held focus groups with faculty and had conversations with a lot of programs and units across campus and I’m really, really proud of the document we came up with .  As a model for objectives/ goal-writing, this document is not bad.  Look at the action verbs!

And more than that, the repeated conversations with faculty were really morale-boosting.  Getting faculty to come over to the library and talk, and talk in-depth and really, really intelligently about information literacy wasn’t a challenge – it was easy.  And the faculty had such useful and smart things to say about the stuff we all cared about.  It was a good process.

Since then, we’ve been wondering what to do with the document.  Our campus doesn’t have any instiutution-wide learning goals; we don’t have a structure where our competencies could fit in or be adopted on a campus-wide level.   So that’s an issue.  But even within the library, we’ve struggled with where to go next.

And I think that the factors mentioned in this article may have something to do with it.  We use the course-integrated, there should be an assignment, IL has more meaning with taught in the context of an actual information need model.  And we thought and still think that we *could* define disciplinary or context- specific versions of our competencies (or at least of the examples), but we haven’t done that.  Our one attempt to do so got bogged down in a nightmare mire of granularity.

We want to define a program that integrates the branch campuses, the archives/ special collections, faculty programs and all levels of graduate/undergraduate student instruction and I’m not sure that the competency document is that helpful in doing that.  It was a useful reflective exercise for us, and the process of creating it collaboratively with faculty was very useful.  But beyond that, I’m not sure how to make it useful for us as we try to structure a doing-more-with-less type of instruction program.

And it might be because of what is articulated in this article.  When I think of how to create a document like this for beginning composition, for example, which while multidiscipinary has a clearly articulated goal of introducing students to academic writing and knowledge creation.  And that goal is a context – academic writing provides a context.  Context is even easier to conceptualize in different fields.

The authors argue that these standards-based ideas of IL are based on an assumption of information as something factual and knowable (I think our collaborative process with faculty undercut this in our case).  They also suggest that the standards are too focused on the individual as agent seeking and using information.  This piece I have a little bit of a problem with.  It’s kind of a typical criticism of constructivism – arguing that it’s too individual, too grounded in individual cognitive processes:

Most of the published IL literature draws from constructivist theories of learning stressing that individuals not only absorb the messages carried by information but are also active builders of sense and meaning.

What they’re missing here, or probably not giving the same emphasis that I would give more than ignoring – is Vygotsky.  Kuhlthau, who they acknowledge as influential, deliberately focuses on Vygotsky’s brand of constructivism, which was a deliberate effort to integrate the social and cultural back IN to constructivism.  Still, much as I love Vygotsky, and much as I respect Kuhlthau for going that route — I have to agree that the *image* of the solitary scholar undergirds the picture painted by most IL competency standards.

Beyond this, the authors idea of the social in information literacy is very specific – grounded in this idea of socialtechnical practice.  As they suggest, “the most important aspects of IL may be those that cannot be measured at the level of the individual alone.”   By this, they mean, that it is not the individual but the community that decides what kinds of sources are useful, and valued, and important — which things you have to master to be successful within the community:

Groups and communities read and evaluate texts collaboratively.  Interpretation and evaluation in scientific and other knowledge domains is undertaken in specialized “communities of practice,” or “epistemic communities.”

Which is why I think the “academic writing” context in beginning composition is not too broad as to be useful.  For new or neophyte scholars, the idea that there are practices of communicating knowledge, that there are types of knowledge more avalued than others – these ideas are new enough that they deserve an introduction all their own.  Expecting students to jump into the epistemic community of a discipine before they really understand that there is such a thing as epistemology… that seems unreasonable to me.

The authors here tend to argue that IL is too grounded in school and that it misses the communitie of practice aspect because it’s too grounded in school.  I think I would probably argue (though this just occurred to me and I’m a classic introvert which means I need more processing time and thus must reserve the right to argue the opposite of this later) … anyway … I would probably argue that the problem isn’t that we focus on generic academic writing skills instead of grounding things in context – I would argue that we present generic academic writing skills without really grounding them in their context.  I agree that we have an assumption that these skills, mastered in any context, will be useful and valuable.  That we don’t have to explain their significance across contexts because students will be able to draw those connections.  I’m not sure that’s true unless we specifically, and deliberately, explain the academic context in the first place.

And I really like the idea of grounding those pieces of information literacy – that what you will even be looking for is determined by the discourse, by the practice-standards of a particular discourse community — in the community or the context.  So, to these authors, “sociotechnical practice” means identifying where the community determines what it means to be information literate.    And that’s really, really valuable.

Beyond this, I think we need to start deliberately teaching our students how to figure out what those community standards are.  Not teaching them what they are – but how to figure that out.  I wondered the other day if students are using search engines to figure out how to enter the scholarly discourse even if they aren’t taught specifically what “peer reviewed” means, or anything like that.  Looking at my referral logs, I don’t think they are.  That kind of bothers me – they should know how to go looking for the how-to information they need.  And I suspect we should start teaching it.

********
Kimmo Tuominen, Reijo Savolainen, Sanna Talja (2005). Information Literacy as a Sociotechnical Practice The Library Quarterly, 75 (3), 329-345 DOI: 10.1086/497311

academic writing-by-number?

I gave a short presentation on assessment at the 7th Biennial Conference on University Education in Natural Resources on Saturday. I don’t usually get the chance to attend specific discipline-focused conferences like this, even those about the scholarship of teaching and learning, and if UENR hadn’t been hosted by the OSU Colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry, I never would have attended this one either. I took advantage of my registration to see some sessions and now I just wish I had cleared out my Friday earlier so that I could have seen more.

One of the first sessions I saw came out of Northern Arizona. Tom Kolb described the development and implementation of a sophomore-level, discipline-specific class on Writing in Forestry. The whole presentation was interesting, but I just want to focus on this one piece that I think ties in well with the academic article template I linked to last week, as well as to some of the work we’re doing here at OSU in beginning composition.

The TA’s that NAU’s school of forestry hires to work as writing consultants usually come from the English Department’s applied linguistics program.  These students have the experience writing about data, particularly quantitative analyses, in a way that works well for teaching forestry students how to write in that discipline.  But as a bonus, they can also bring their research into play.  He presented data gathered by an NAU writing consultant TA, using corpus linguistics — a systematic way of analyzing large bodies of text (corpora).  In this case, they looked at the body of text produced by the students in this 200-level writing class, and the body of text produced by professional scholars and researchers in forestry (by looking at articles published in a selection of forestry journals).

The two pieces of data that he presented were – a comparison of the students’ and the researchers’ use of verbs, and a comparison of the students’ and the researchers’ use of linking adverbials (terms like also, then, therefore, i.e. or e.g.).  Initially, when I heard about the research method, I was thinking about keyword selection and how difficult it can be for novice writers to predict the kinds of terms that scholars will use in their writing — and the problems that creates for the novices’ keyword searches.

But the language uses he was looking at were more structural, and the results were fascinating — with verbs, for example, both the novices and the professionals used the same two verbs the most:  “find” and “show.”  But the professionals supplemented those two verbs with a big list of additional terms.  The novices, on the other hand, used “find” and “show” almost exclusively.  Similarly, with linking adverbials – the novices picked up on the most commonly used terms, but did not use most of the terms professionals used much at all.  This I think could be really instructive for students — as a very non-threatening way to show them how writing for different audiences (scholarly/popular and disciplinary audiences) is different.  At NAU they do share the data, and the students ask for copies of the pros’ lists, so they can incorporate those terms in their own writing.

While I’m sure we’ve all read papers where word choice seems to be thesaurus-driven, and not too effective – I do think that it’s helpful to remember that when we’re asking first-year students to write scholarly papers, we’re asking them to write in a genre they have very little experience with — they don’t know how scholarly writing is supposed to sound, because they haven’t had to read it before.  These kinds of tools – the template from last week and the list from this one – can be a way into those conversations I think.  And a way in that says to the students — “you can do this too.”

You can find Dr. Kolb’s full paper here (opens in Word).

At OSU, the Writing Program uses a textbook by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein called They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing.  This text takes a template-based approach – working on the assumption that if students can see how scholars get from point A to point B to point C, they can focus their time figuring out how to fill in those blanks.  And the blanks require them to really figure out some things about their topic, and about the sources that they use.   Templates look a bit like academic Mad Libs:

What __________ really means by this is ______________.

Having just argued that __________, let us turn our attention to _______________.

My colleague Kate asked if the NAU assignments made students better readers of research articles – which I thought was a great question.  And it gets at the reason I’m thinking a lot of these approaches that seem overly  prescriptive  at first might be really valuable for a lot of our students.  It’s one thing to prescribe content, but when it comes to form — the format of a lot of academic writing, from the citations to the headings to the titles, is prescribed.  For all of us.  Spelling out the how and the why of that format can not only help a student think about their own ideas in a new way (is there a difference if I use “show” or “suggest”) but can also give them some insight into why the articles we’re asking them to use are written the way they are, so they can read them more strategically, and more effectively.

digital publishing, ARG’s and collective storytelling – one stop shop!

Well, maybe. I don’t think we know for sure how all of those things are in here…

Anyway, I was talking yesterday with a group of colleagues from my library and across my campus about the potential for ARG-type things on a college campus such as, say, OSU. And one thing we kept coming back to was the importance of the narrative, or the story, to lift a game beyond “scavenger hunt” or “puzzle.” And even beyond this — the importance of creating an experience where the player (or reader) of the game plays an active role in creating that narrative. if:Book yesterday articulates really well what I mean by co-creating – it’s something more complex (and compelling) than allowing the player to choose between a set of pre-defined plot directions.

Which makes this project (also briefly mentioned by if:Book today – hive mind?) interesting, connected as it is to Penguin Books, home of lots of people who know how to tell stories really well. It seems like this project is going to launch in some form on March 18, but I wasn’t able to find anywhere that seems to know exactly what form it will take. What we do know –

The site itself has changed a few times over the last few weeks – initially displaying this quote from Alice in Wonderland, favorite resource for ARG designers everywhere:

Alice was very nearly getting up and saying “Thank you, Sir, for your interesting story,” but she could not help thinking there must be more to come, so she sat still and said nothing.

There was also an image of the Cheshire Cat with seven tails — very mysterious. The early developments and a little bit of speculation are easy to catch up on at the unfiction forum.

Now the image has shifted to focus on the first of the six digital stories that will launch here over the next several weeks. There’s nothing that immediately jumps out and yells ARG on this page – but there are game designers connected to the project and they’re calling it an ARG. Penguin itself is calling the site an experiment in storytelling, but they’re also highlighting their connection to the ARG community at unfiction.

So it’s looking like there will be some ARG component to this, beyond the digital narratives promised on the website, but one reason I’m pointing this out is that it might also be a pretty good first-ARG experience if that’s something you’ve been wanting to try out. Even if I don’t have time to get involved in the actual game, I can lurk a bit and still get the fun of reading the stories, right? And the fun of thinking about new ways to tell stories – what digital publishing might mean beyond e-books and Amazon Kindles — which I think is a useful thing to think about.

Six to Start, the group behind whatever this is, includes many members of the creative team behind Perplex City, which they call the first “self-sustaining” ARG. I’m going to talk about a couple of them for a few more minutes here, because they’re recently been discussing this question of writing for the web, or “designing” for the web –

Naomi Alderman was the main writer behind Perplex City, and she’s also a published novelist (by Penguin). She wrote an article in the Sunday Times (UK not NY) about the Kindle, but which really goes much farther than that in talking about what writing for the web could be – beyond the device we use to access it.

(For an interesting look at Alderman’s experience with ARG writing – look at this short article in the Telegraph)

(For a disappointing article about how she sees libraries – look at this short article in The Guardian.  I’m not sure it’s intended, but the subtext I’m getting is that she doesn’t see libraries as part of this new kind of storytelling.  And that makes me sad.)

Adrian Hon, another Perplex City veteran and Chief Creative Officer of Six to Start, picked up on the theme on his blog a few days ago. This is the part that jumped out at me:

While a lot of ’stories on the web’ today involve some interesting technology, unfortunately, they’re just not very interesting stories. This leads a lot of people to conclude that the format of a book is superior. Of course, I disagree; we need to put a lot more thought into designing stories for the web, and that needs to be a collaborative process between not just writers and programmers, but also people who design interactive experiences on the web…

That feels true – that the problem with some web stories is in the story, not in the web. And the idea that people are likely to blame the new delivery mechanism first also resonates. I liked his suggestion that designing interactive experiences on the web is something special itself, that we can’t assume is covered by “writing” or “programming.”

This sounds a little bit like what a lot of us are lacking when it comes to support for the delivery of instruction on the web. We have the content, we have the programming – but increasingly we know that there’s another special bit in there – the people who know how to do this stuff on the web. And we don’t always have the same access to that kind of expertise — and we probably should.

Again about reading

This isn’t really a continuation of the Caleb Crain post, more like something you might find on the shelf nearby.

Going through my feeds this morning I came across a couple of different things that got me thinking about reading, reading online, and reading in new ways –

First there’s this project, kind of like social reading — Book Glutton. They are operating on the premise that the time when you want to take notes about a book, or talk about a book, is while you are actually reading it. So it’s part online book reading thingy, part book-related social networking site.

You can read public domain books about Sherlock Holmes or Jeeves and Wooster, online — here’s what the reader looks like when you first launch it:

Book Glutton reader (closed)

But there’s more to the reader than that. Picking up on the “you want to annotate while you’re reading” idea – if you click on that little blue strip to the right of the text, an annotation panel opens up:

Book Glutton reader (annotation panel)

You can read alone, or you can join a group reading a book together. What I find kind of interesting though, is that they’re taking “reading together” a lot more seriously than “join a group of people reading the same thing.” Which anyone already can do in a lot of places online.

Within the reader, if you click on the blue strip to the left, there’s also a chat panel:

Book Glutton reader (chat)

And that’s what I actually find interesting about this site – that the basic premise is that people would rather read books together. I think this goes against a lot of our notions about curling up with a good book, in solitude and silence except for the rain drumming on the roof. Or the idea of “losing yourself” in a book – that doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for other people in it. But maybe that kind of reading only appeals to some, or only appeals in the abstract.

As the Stumbing Funsters, currently reading Alice in Wonderland, say — Rock on. We read, bub. We read. Mostly in the evenings, when we’re feeling social, btw.

So maybe there are a lot of people who would rather do their reading like this? On laptops, in coffeehouses, together? Or maybe this is a different kind of reading?

Then there’s this project, which is very different. Really, there’s nothing tying these together except in my head.

Where Book Glutton is largely replicating the physical act of book-reading, the “digital art publisher” tontonium goes somewhere else. The digital fiction, The Reprover was mentioned on the if:book blog today, and it looks like a fascinating re-visioning of one thing “reading online” might mean.

It’s something that you have to buy, and I haven’t yet. But I’m thinking that if I can convince myself that it will help me with my French, I might be able to justify the purchase.

Meanwhile, you can get a sense of what it is like on this page here, with one exception. if:book says that the fiction includes:

a witty text in French and elaborate English which expands and contracts – the same sentence blooming different additional clauses each time you pass a mouse across it. This is a deeply disconcerting effect at first, but once you’ve got used to it, a whole new kind of three dimensional reading emerges. It’s a fascinating idea which could only work on the web.

I think I’m going to have to justify buying it, just to see that.

YouTube & me

The Royal Family apparently started a YouTube channel about two months ago, but I don’t think many people over here noticed it until it came time for the Queen’s annual Christmas message.  At least, I don’t remember seeing anything about it two months ago, but I’ve seen it mentioned on three or four blogs this week.

I’m trying to figure out why I think this is such a good idea.  If the Bush Administration suddenly started a YouTube channel, I wouldn’t think anything good about it.  And I don’t think that’s entirely partisan.  I don’t see myself watching 20 minutes of old Clinton home movies on the morning after Christmas either.  But this morning, that’s what I found myself doing with the Royal Channel.  An old movie depicting events from the death of King George to Elizabeth’s coronation, followed by a silent movie about the Queen Mother’s wedding and all of a sudden it was 20 minutes later.

Interestingly, they’ve disabled embedding.

I think there’s some aspect of admiration for whoever in the Royal Household had the idea of putting video proof of charitable acts and royal family events out "where the people are," to use that tired phrase — but I don’t think that by itself explains why I’m taken with this idea.  I think that combined with the kind of information the royal family has available to broadcast in this way — those old videos, the historical stuff — is what makes this seem right to me.  Most of the time that’s where I end up losing time on YouTube.  Thirty minutes searching for Mario Savio talking about the machine, two hours of old Olympic coverage.  This is where my actual time has actually gone in the last year.

So that leads me to the question – is this just the historian in me?  Am I taken with the royal family channel because it’s way to see historical artifacts I wouldn’t otherwise easily see?  Or is this a more objectively cool example of the right medium for the right message?

Hmmmm…..

reading, thinking & Caleb Crain

I don’t often envy my friend Matt his Harvard education, except for on days like today.  After skimming through my RSS feeds and finding not one, not two, but three links to the same New Yorker article – I remembered why occasionally I think Harvard wouldn’t have sucked.  Because Matt went to school with Caleb Crain.

And if you want to know why, just read Caleb Crain’s latest article in the New Yorker – Twilight of the books: What will life be like if people stop reading?

I’ve read enough apocalyptic, end-of-knowledge type discussions of how the kids today, they just don’t read that as soon as I hear there’s another article on the topic I get twitchy.  And since the NEH report (To Read or Not to Read) hit the airwaves the number of simplistic mass media treatments of the topic have about made me crazy.  When I read this morning on Cliopatria that Caleb Crain had written about reading my spirits — they noticeably lifted.  Noticeably!

And he doesn’t disappoint –

He considers history.  So many critics worry so much about losing the habits of now that they forget that the now is a relatively short blip on the epistemological radar screen.  While the ideas of text, of authority, or single authorship hold a lot of power over us now it wasn’t that long ago that that’s just not how we knew things. 

"Taking the long view, it’s not the neglect of reading that has to be
explained but the fact that we read at all."

I just can’t take criticism seriously, no matter how serious it is, when it has no historical perspective.  And those who don’t recognize that ideas like the author’s voice, or even intellectual property itself are historically and culturally situated — no matter how insightful or intelligent their criticism is, I can’t treat it as such.  While I do think that we have something to lose if we stop reading, if we stop arguing, and if we stop communicating as we do now – I don’t necessarily think that we also have nothing to gain if those things go away. 

History is change – but the changes are the result of real people making real choices and at any point things could go a lot of ways.  Now isn’t inherently better than then, and tomorrow won’t be inherently better than now.  Just as a step away from now isn’t a step away from progress, the right path, the best way.  I don’t know what it is that we might gain, but I do know that we just don’t know.

Looking at Walter Ong and especially Maryanne Wolf, Crain looks seriously at what we knew pre-reading – how those brains differed from our post-reading brains.  When he says that if the movement away from reading continues in our culture "the world will feel different, even to those who still read" you believe that by "different," he means "different" — not "way worse OMG".  Western reading, western epistemology aren’t just the result of some inevitable progressive march towards perfection – it’s what happened, it’s not what obviously had to happen.  And that means if it changes, then the impact of those changes aren’t inherently good or inherently bad – they just are.

Which isn’t to say that they’re value-neutral or that there’s nothing there to value.  But this kind of examination is a necessary first step to any real, meaningful reflection on what it is we might want to preserve about what is.  What we might want to fight for.  Because we can’t pull out the act of reading itself and assign it inherent value and bemoan its lack — it’s not the number of words or pages that we read that we need to think about – it’s something else.  In higher ed, a lot of the people I know have come to call it "critical reading" — by which I think they’re getting at our students’ ability (or inability) to learn from what they read. 

Citing Wolf, Crain talks about how fluent readers have enough free brain time while they are reading — during the process of reading — that they can think about what they read.  They can reflect, synthesize, anaylze, criticize and evaluate. 

"The efficient reading brain, quite literally has more
time to think."

– and –

"The secret at the heart of reading, is "the
time it
frees for the brain to have thoughts deeper than those that came
before."

This resonates because I think we’ve all felt sometimes that some of our students are so focused on the act of reading that they forget about the thinking.  Or worse, that they’ve never really been taught that thinking is part of the process.  One of my colleagues in graduate school used to tell her students that "you can’t read without a pen in your hand."  Reading with thinking is an interactive process – the reader and writer both engaged, both creating, both thinking.   That’s the piece that we want to preserve — or to create — students who can engage with a text and learn from it.  That’s far more important than their page counts.

Crain talks at length, in part because Wolf talks at length, about television and other visual media.  The overarching theme is that exposure to visual media threatens out ability to think, to understand.  We lose grade levels if we watch too much tv.  But even here, Crain’s treatment shows that the picture is more complex than "tv makes us dumber."  Some tv for younger children is good, Sesame Street raises grade levels, older teens can’t watch much without damage…

When I read these types of arguments I wonder a couple of things.  One relates to what I was talking about above – is it really fair to use the ability to read and engage with text as our only or primary measure of the impact of our students’ engagement with visual media?  Or is that focusing on what’s lost, without considering what might be gained?  Beyond this, but still connected, is the idea of creativity.  Does it change the equation if our students are engaging with media interactively, if they are creating, if they are thinking while they do it.  Is there a media fluency that can free the brain up to think and read and consider and analyze and evaluate?  I don’t think that all kids today are doing this, because I’m not crazy.  But I’d love to see someone examine the question of is there a difference – is there a difference between people actively engaged in the creative production on visual media and those who only consume?

Anyway, read this – pass it along – this is the kind of smart, complex criticism we need to really think about how we can help our students learn today.  Reifying the past without criticism means we won’t get there – articles like this one make me think we can.

Note: Karen Munro points out another good article on the reading question.