“This is How We Write” talk by Richard Miller and Paul Hammond RESPONSE

The use of technology as an informational resource, Richard Miller and Paul Hammond have realized, is not a looming in the future; we are not on the brink of a world in which technology will slowly take over; it is happening NOW, and we are living in this world. We have brand new technological tools such as Al Gore’s interactive textbook, “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis” that can be downloaded as an app on Apple devices, and the New York Public Library’s Biblion, an extensive online archive. However, instead of taking advantage of these resources, many school systems have banned the use of Wikipedia as a source of information and often limit the sources students can use when writing essays. There is so much information made accessible to us by the internet, and we can display and express our ideas in so many different ways due to advances in technology (video, audio, etc.), but we still seem to be confined to five-paragraph essays for the majority of our educational career. Learning is a never-ending process, and is not constrained by limits; this should be mimicked in the way we write, where we express and synthesize what we have learned. Our writing, like learning, should not be confined by the limits of an essay, but rather can be a never-ending process. The internet gives us a larger space in which to write and express ourselves; we can add on to an blog post as we learn more, and can embed all different types of resources and source materials such as videos and audios and photographs.

At the same time, all these different stimuli can be distracting, and it often becomes hard to focus when you are required to switch back and forth from different links and pop-ups. Because there is such a huge amount of information, it is easy to include links to anything that related to what you are writing about, but at the risk of losing your reader’s attention and losing the focus of your message. According to economics, the more something is produced, the less its worth. The abundance of information on the internet is perhaps causing a shallowness in the information and even stunting our learning. Instead of reading a full book on a subject in order to explore all aspects of it and its context, we can simply type in a few key words into Google and get an answer without digging deep into the subject matter

Also, there is another danger that was not mentioned in the Richard Miller and Paul Hammond’s presentation that I believe to be one of the main problems with the use of technology and the internet for educational purposes. Many of my classes require students to write blog posts either on Sakai or Tumblr. When I read my peer’s blog posts, I often find a large amount of summary and very few original ideas. Because the internet allows us to link and embed almost anything, we can fill up our blogs with tons and tons of information, very little of it original. Also, because of people’s conceptions of blog posts which are often only to organize or archive events, videos, photos, etc, students tend to summarize and maybe write shallow responses. The humor in blog posts is often implicit, and the blogger has to write very little, maybe even a one-word punch line to get his message across. When teachers try to include blogging into their curriculum, these prior conceptions of the nature of blogging as well as the excess of information can produce shallow and unoriginal writing. This problem grows more daunting when students may even be at the risk of plagiarism when there are no original ideas in their blog posts and they perhaps forget to cite all the information they are bringing in.

This is why there MUST be a systematic approach to synthesizing the internet and technology with our educational systems. Just as we have developed a system for writing essays, we must apply and adjust those devices in writing blogs and other internet projects. For example, when writing essays, we must make sure to pick out quotes appropriately (often I tell my students to pick out analysis quotes and not summary quotes; they can tell the difference because with an analysis quote, you HAVE to explain it). We make sure that we do not have too many quotes, and we have an appropriate amount of explanation for each. We do not really have these guidelines in blogging, but it is extremely necessary to be applied if we are to include it in our education. Teachers must critique our links and embedded photos and videos just as harshly as they do our quotes in essays. We must choose wisely what we reference and make sure they are extremely relevant if not crucial to our arguments. Before we include online components in our syllabi and decide to make use of technology, we must establish a set of rules and norms, (well, actually more like standards) so that we preserve the depth of our knowledge but without limiting our learning

At the same time, we must find a middle ground between delving into an unknown world ready to learn about everything, and maintaining a clear focus and doing learning one thing thoroughly. By this I mean that we must take into account the brain and how we can use it to facilitate learning the BEST way possible. We must take into account the time it takes to process different stimuli, and how many pieces (7 plus or minus 2) of information we can hold in our working memory at one time. This way, we can provide just enough stimuli to help students synthesize and learn many different things without overloading them with information so that they do not learn anything. We also cannot organize everything in the same way; not all material is taught best with videos, or audio, or reading. There are so many different ways of organizing material using different technologies, and we must find the best way of doing so with each different subject matter. Shakespeare, cannot be taught in the same way as Environmental Science. While science can be taught in a sort of textbook format with pop-out graphs, Shakespeare plays are meant to be read through straight at least once for the reader to really appreciate the play as a whole. However, students can get a better understanding of both Shakespeare and Environmental science by watching videos (moving diagrams of a scientific process or different interpretations of Shakespeare plays being acted out). Before we hand over our educational system to the world of technology, we must know how to make use of the technology to organize what we teach and what students write in showing what they have learned so that we can express ourselves and learn the best we can.

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About Sophia de Baun

Principle of Literary Study 250:219 Section 6
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