Friday, September 25, 2009

What's New About New Media: Take 2

Ooooh . . . I am steaming, piping, hot mad.

I thought Kylie was one of those earnest, sincere professors, the last person to take up mind games.

But here I am, at 8 AM on Friday Morning, reading some good old "Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation" by Bolter and Grusin (1999.) (If you haven't read this, you better get to it by Tuesday.) And I find, that this seriously posed discussion question, as posed by Kylie to be the topic of blogs this week, is actually a complete and total TRICK question. Unbelievable.

The authors write, in their climactic last sentences:
"Once again, what is new about digital media lies in their particular strategies for remediating television, film, photography, and painting. Repurposing as remediation is both 'what is unique to digital worlds' and what denies the possibility of that uniqueness."

So I guess my sort-of-hunch in my last blog post resonates pretty well with their theory. The "new" in new media changed both everything and nothing, because the very aspects that make them especially new, but definition, incorporate all of the old.

Who woulda guessed?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NEW Media: A Matter of Semantics or Reality?

You know how there are these people you've known, that, no matter how far removed you become from them, geographically or temporally, you still have constant little visits from them in your head? Well, one of inescapable voices, for me, is Professor Keller, a kind, unassuming, balding man who believed that deodorant was simply created by marketers and that any ethical, moral person with a shred of independence should avoid wearing it. He usually visits me with one sentence, a sentence he repeatedly referred to no matter what the topic of our public speaking or communications course was, a sentence coined by Marshall McLuhan: "The medium is the message."

So, let's just pretend he and McLuhan are right. If all of our media ARE the messages, and the question of the week is "what is NEW about NEW media", then is the answer, EVERYTHING? If every message being sent through my iPod, through my blog, through my status update, and my Scratch creation somehow becomes MORE about the medium itself, than the content of the message, does this mean that new media are changing the world in subtle ways all of the time?

A quick check on good old Wikipedia (which is a great example of the medium being the message), helps me see the radical nature of McLuhan's philosphy:

"Hence in Understanding Media, McLuhan describes the "content" of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. [5] This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time.[4] As the society's values, norms and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we realize the social implications of the medium. These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions [4] that we are not aware of."

Despite Prof Keller's resonant voice, I remain highly skeptical.

Sure the medium influences the message. But I have a feeling that new media, for all their hype and promise and true, good, real potential, have more in common with old media than we think. Content has always mattered, does matter, and will continue to matter. Humans do change and evolve, but fundamental aspects of humanity keep popping up in various media, such as our need for human social connection and interaction. Whether I send a love note written with quill and ink, or a love text on my little cell phone, I still have the same purpose in mind, and can still, hopefully, invoke a feeling of "awwww" on the receiver's end. On the other hand, some still find "an old fashioned love note" to be a much more highly romantic expression than a quickly rattled off text.

So what's new about new media? Is new media changing everything, or nothing?

I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in between.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why I hate texting, and other secrets about not learning in new media . . .

I have a confession to make. I want to be cool. Not cool in the hipster, slangy sort of way, but cool in the sophisticated, modern, techno-skilled, I-can-do-anything-and-quote-anyone way. But I have a problem. I have a terrible memory for pop culture. Sure I love good music, but ask me a band's name and my palms start to sweat. Not only this, I am 5'3" tall, with naturally curly curly hair, and I can't get the hang of walking in heels. Forget sophistication. And then, there's the worst offense of all. I hate texting.

So, as a way of getting to some thought on how we learn in new media, I'd like to approach from the opposite end of things . . . how don't I learn in new media. Why do I so often find myself waiting until I'm absolutely the last person on Earth who hasn't joined Facebook, owned a laptop, gotten a cellphone, downloaded pictures on the Internet, so that the unescapable force of peer pressure finally knocks me over and conquers my inhibitions?

Not-Learning-in-New-Media (and why my lack of motivation never ceases to amaze me)
1. The media doesn't fit my needs.
(Texting is annoying because it forces me to make all of my thoughts into short, concise, simplified sound bytes. I think better in full, lengthy, convoluted sentences.)
2. I don't have the time to learn/use the new media.
(It once took me fifteen minutes to find the exclamation point for texting.)
3. Old media suits me just fine.
(I like the smell of books. I like taking notes in lecture classes. Super Mario Bros is so much more fun to play than these new-fangled video games.)

I could go on, but I figure that my list can be boiled down into one word. Fear and intimidation. (Okay- maybe two words.) My not-learning in new media involves a not-wanting-to-learn, which is linked to entirely complex and psychologically interesting string of insecurities. Unfamiliarity is made of some fascinating stuff. It makes some people crazy with excitement and hope, and it sends others into immediate self-defense-mechanism-mode.

As for me, I'm willing to play with Scratch a bit longer. . .

But I'm not making any promises.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Constructionism Article and Why I Love Writing Workshop

First of all, a quick confession . . . I have been completely, totally, fully, and wholly brainwashed by my colleagues connected to the National Writing Project of Indiana (ITW). Just one summer, one month really, of sessions devoted to the practice of writing workshop and the incredible quality of the professional development that ensued was enough to convince me that the process writing approach via writing workshop is the only REAL way to "teach" writing in school. Perhaps it is this particular bias of mine that caused me to read everything in Bers' introduction about technology and coonstructionism in early childhood as pure validation for the hunches that I already had . . .

Here are some similarities I noted:
**Writing Workshop involves "learning by designing meaningful projects to share in the community." (Especially if the teacher plans a read-in, share, exhibit, etc day after portfolios are finished.)
**Writing workshop also focuses on ideas, dictated by each student's interests . .
** The self-reflections I had students do on their portfolio certainly aid in engaging metacognitive skills.
**"Technology circle time" seems nearly identical to "author's chair" time.
**"Debugging" according to children's needs are favored over general lectures.
**Gaining help from peers (through peer review and peer writing groups) are essential.
**Both content AND process is emphasized

Of course a myriad of distinctions set apart manipulating concrete robots and writing a sci-fi short story. But I think an important truth unites both actions. Good teaching, clothed in any garment, is good teaching. Bad teaching, despite the good intentions, is bad teaching. It seems to me that Bers' description of constructionism is just about as pure a form of "common sense powerful pedagogy" as is out there in the world of education.

Welcome to my World

Julie Rust. Mother. Grad Student. Teacher. Wife. Sister. Daughter.
There is always so much more to us than can be stuffed inside these labels.

A PhD candidate in the Language, Literacy, and Culture Department at IU, Bloomington, I find myself pleased to be back in the "student role," after four years of teaching middle school and high school English in Terre Haute, IN. My 14 month old daughter, Lucy, consistently colors my life with her giggles, facial expressions, babble, and occassional, real, English word. My amazing husband of five years, Justin, is a compassionate nurse, and spends three days a week working 12 hour shifts and the rest of his week taking care of our child and all of the other things I throw at him.

I absolutely love to travel, eat, run/work out (which naturally follows after all of this eating), act in theater, play music (jazz trumpet), and, of course, the obligatory English Teacher hobbies . . . I like to read and write. Most evenings you can find me on the couch simultaneously watching Food Network and "reading" with my daughter, who has recently learned to climb said couch. Our recent move to Bloomington this summer has also facilitated a love for walking around downtown, enjoying the flair of this diverse "little" town.

I came to IU obsessed with wanting to learn more about student engagement, community in the classroom, digital literacies, authentic writing in the English classroom, and the ability (and lack of ability) to "transport" during the reading experience. I'm also interested in how schools and policies need to change and adapt in today's technologically-charged learning environment. I still find myself driven by these questions and am struggling to actually narrow down my quest here at IU.