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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

#etmooc Reflections on IHE Intellectual Affairs "Before the E-Text"

"...squiggles into meaning..." is a lovely phrase in Scott McLemee’s thoughtful Intellectual Affairs contribution to Inside Higher Ed on 1/23/13.

It’s at the end of paragraph four – for you rapid skimmers out there! The phrase perfectly describes how I wanted to write even before I knew how. School papers of my older siblings were strewn around the oak dining room table, our collective desk, and I wanted to decode and create that wavelike motion. I was likewise bonded to books, like glue. A family story has me bursting into tears as a neighbor attempted to take her book back home.

Early today, I read a student's essay describing how he wanted to create a book even before he was able to read much.

All our tools – past, present, and future -- for capturing meaning are intriguing. What we feel wonder for is very important. But we shouldn’t always give away the “old” hammer for the old one. My dad had some great tools in the basement. I learned early that there’s power in the old tools, too.

Our danger as a digital-hooked-culture is losing something gained rather than adding tools on. One can lose the rapidity, immediacy, and self-expressive capability of cursive writing, for example…despite real struggles those of us who remember learning it with some pains despite our desire. Fewer than one third of my current students opt to write in cursive; their challenge to read it, too, reminds me of my struggle to read what-I-called Gothic script of my European forbears. Will my script marginalia to them be unread? I can’t risk that. I suspect that soon only one or two will be able to write cursive at all.

Andrew Piper's Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (University of Chicago Press) sounds worthwhile, as McLemee described it. (And wow: the reviews.)

Since toddlerhood, I have been hooked on the sensory/emotional/intellectual experience of books. I keep stuffing/packing them wherever they fit, not as disciplined as McLemee in dusting and arranging them and even turning the shelves. I just figured they'd bend and buckle indefinitely.
They must support all that comes back when I handle the books. "This one! I remember when I bought it!” “That one: Used the first time I taught freshman comp!" "That one! Lifted my spirits at a difficult time...."

Today’s "engagement with text" takes many forms; I'm thrilled to access text on a phone ... quite some time after others got that magical power. Technology drives the culture, and it does feel like magic. That’s the part I think we might strive to note, balance, straddle, control. Each day I wake up behind (in my eyes? in your eyes?) even as I try to advance.

In #etmooc I have felt profoundly overloaded. Everyone I access seems exhilarated and really into the groove (old slang). I asked a MOOC "dropout" question on Twitter and learned there is no such thing! So there's the joy that participants (well, those I click on) are feeling. And their quickness at pressing buttons (after all...it's educational technology...which I do use, but perhaps with a steeper initial learning curve).

I do want to grasp it all  in a course -- not just a segment of the sky through the window. Of course that vastness is impossible to grasp. I know that as a counseling student now, as a writing teacher, as a lifelong student. The context of the whole is impossible.

To help me span the then of the old tools and the now of the new ones: I have taken to keeping paper near the computer so I can write a bit by hand and use those muscles…just as I keep the phone near a book in case I want to stop to text a friend, preferably about the book – but maybe not, maybe just to say hello. Few people in my age group text at all. What will today's teens be doing to connect with others in their 50s? I wonder.





4 comments:

T.J. Thiessen said...

Mm, your comments about a love affair with old fashioned books resonate deeply with me. My husband and I go to used book sales a lot...not enough shelves!

T.J. Thiessen said...

Interesting mix of technology old (paper) and new. I am trying to write a masters thesis, and find I just can't do it on computer. At least not while its in progress, but typed at the end.

My attempt to follow my first #etmchat yesterday was very stress inducing. I intentionally chose multiple methods of following (with three devices), but found out it's not me. I must say I do love connecting via Twitter but don't know if I will ever like the chats. It felt like trying to follow all the conversations in a stadium at once.

Mary said...

Don't worry about using paper when in browsing the vastness of the etmooc. I find myself jotting down notes when reading blogs and tweets.

Maria said...

T.J. and Mary -- Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Stay creative!