Researching storytelling in Ghana for our presentation was an interesting learning experience, although there were details that I was previously aware of, predominantly that the act tended to be verbal rather than written. I did find it of interest that being a storyteller is considered being a profession, it made me think of the differences in what we value in this society in comparison. We value reading and literacy, but it is of higher value to be able to write stories down than it is to pass stories on verbally. In spoken word poetry we can see value placed on verbal storytelling, but that art form is valued by a few and is far from being universally appreciated. Why is that we value one form of transmitting knowledge, experiences and stories over another?
Given the nature of our course and our affinity towards the inclusion of technology, as well as comments made via Twitter recently, I’ve been considering the impact technology can have in other educational settings than our own.
I’ve been thinking back on my own education and the slowly growing incorporation of technology into it. I remember when it used to be if you had a projector in your classroom you had advanced technology. How is technology currently used in a public high school? When I was a senior in high school, we had ONE SmartBoard in the school, in my A.P. Physics class, and we must have used it about two or three times throughout the duration of the school year. For the most part it was off to the side of the room and no one was inclined to use it. When our teacher brought it out, it was mostly for play - what he was showing us was physics-related but it was just for fun as it was after we had already taken the A.P. exams, so it was never really used in the daily lessons.
On a visit to a public high school last year, I talked with some teachers who expressed frustrations with the increase in technology brought into their rooms as they did not know how to use the products brought in, i.e. SmartBoard or otherwise, and were given no instruction as to how best to incorporate them into the lessons nor any orientation towards their functions.
One of my biggest questions for many years of my life has been, “what grade do I want to teach?” It has never been a question of IF I’m going to teach, but rather where I will be along the education spectrum. Throughout middle and high school I desired to be a Pre-K teacher, then moving up to include Pre-K through first grade. Upon coming to Bryn Mawr, the question arose all over again and I thought I had settled on third grade and had been complacent about that decision for about half a year, but have recently been questioning and re-evaluating things again. My recent thoughts had been that I wanted to have an impact in a place in the students’ life where it was more content-based, as the toddler years tend to be more about teaching social skills.
I’ve been working at Thorne School (the pre-school on campus) for the past two years and have loved my interactions with the children. Last year I was thinking that while I like working there, I wanted to have a different impact on children. But this year, I seem to be going back to my previous choice. This past week while reading books to children at the school, I was noticing how their vocabulary repertoire was building through those simple interactions as they continually asked for clarification on the meaning of words that they were unfamiliar with. It got me thinking that I love that, helping build their understanding and witnessing their desire to understand, and how important that can be at that very young and tender age.
It’s interesting to see the definition of literacy develop and how they vary, whether within my own definitions, external definitions, or dictionary definitions. The definition of literacy in its most basic and most well known meaning is: “the ability to read and write”. The definition on my computer goes on to note a second explanation: “competence or knowledge in a specified area”.
My own working definition that I wrote down in class on Tuesday was, “the way we interact with one another, how we communicate and understand each other”. In a way it seems that there are two distinctive forms of “literacy”, as the ability to read and write are very specific skills, but broadening the definition to include competence in any area makes the former definition seem redundant. Part of me continues to work out a definition for “literacy” that makes sense within our discourse. But maybe it is that the class will be incorporating literacy in all its forms.
The revised definition that came out of our small group discussion was: “a way to manipulate secondary discourses to give one agency”. In a way it reverberates my original, working definition but also expands on it. This definition also seems a bit removed from that which sees literacy as simply “the ability to read and write”, all of which serve to complicate and clarify my understanding of literacy as we discuss it in class.
I am very excited about this course and the potential for great dialogue that it has thus portrayed. We have various means of communication, which I think is important to suit the needs of different learners and for the different ways that people express themselves. At the same time, I do have my concerns about the Twitter component. What irked me the first couple of tweets I posted was that the character limit would inevitably cut me off before I had finished saying what I wanted to say. It reminds me of the multitude of literacies we have discussed and will continue discussing throughout the semester. A new (for the newbies to Twitter as myself), different type of literacy is necessary when communicating via Twitter. You are not able to talk in long drawn out thoughts, but rather it teaches you, or more so requires you, to be succinct and to find the shortest and most effective way to express your thought. I have yet to make up my mind about how I feel about this aspect of social media, but I will say that I am interested in seeing how the combination and interweaving of Twitter and Serendip will play out, where in one you post short statements or links to articles, the other requires you to expand on your thoughts and lay them out in a more thought-out manner. It might just end up being the perfect balance between these two types of thinking and expressing oneself, lending itself to a constructive class dialogue.