Category Archives: Writers Writing

Getting the Picture: Writing in a Parallel Pedagogy Classroom

It has been a while since Joel Malley provided the following video in preparation for a congressional briefing on digital literacies. However, after a couple of months of conference attendance, I think the video is still needed, relevant and effective in providing a picture of the changing nature of writing in the digital age, and the pedagogical changes that must follow. What I appreciate most about this video is the way it clearly demonstrates a “both/and” mentality toward print and digital tools, text types and processes.

Writing in the Digital Age from Joel Malley on Vimeo.

In an article in the Journal of Media Literacy, Richard Beach described a course similar to the one seen in this video in which he attempts to reach goals around print literacies (such as text interpretation, argumentative/creative writing, verbal communication) and digital literacies (such as interactivity, connectivity/linking, multimodality, and social networking). He borrows from Kevin Leander‘s notion of “parallel pedagogies” to explain his “both/and” approach:

Kevin Leander (2009) has identified four stances teachers adopt related to using [digital] tools: 1) «resistance» to using digital literacies, 2) «replacement» of old literacies with new, 3) using new literacies to validate or «return» to older print literacies, and 4) «remediation» in which students use digital literacies to “re-mediate” or transform print literacies. Adopting a “re-mediation” approach involves use of what Leander describes as a “parallel pedagogy” approach, in which neither print or digital literacies are considered as exceptional.

And herein lies my question for you the viewers, (and I’d love to hear from Joel Malley as well!):

Which of these four stances does this video exhibit?

I think I see a “re-mediation” approach; however, the language used to describe the activities sounds like a “replacement” or “return” approach. Malley says that “even though” digital tools are a part of the course, writing (in print) “still” holds a place. “Storytelling” is used as synonymous to “writing” throughout. The “first step” is described as always being to “write extensively,” which in my opinion, especially given the image on the screen at the time, gives premium to writing long-form by hand. Finally, digital writing explained to have “more purpose” and to be “more collaborative.” Both of these attributes may be true in some projects, but I am wary of saying they hold true for the nature of digital literacies as opposed to traditional print literacies. The audience for whom Malley was composing this video obviously influenced the ways each of these statements was phrased. I wonder what the voice-over track would sounds like, however, if the parallel pedagogical approach was able to take the front seat.

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A Lesson in #21stCenturyReading: Being ‘Readable’

In the #teachread project, we have each set up a particular social media venue (we are new to) through which we share and interact with others regarding the YA books we are reading. For instance, even though I have this blog, I wanted to try microblogging and set up a Tumblr site called Part-Time Harlemite. My posts there deal with my reading of The Absolutely True Diary of  Part-Time Harlemite by Sherman Alexie, as well as issues of teaching and learning discussed in our Teaching Reading in ELA course. This post is a cross-posting from that site. 

Through this we are studying what it means to read in the 21st Century: What do we read? How do we make sense of it? When do we read it? What do we do with what we read? 

My first lesson in using Tumblr in my inquiry into reading in the 21st Century was not the one I was expecting. I quickly learned that reading in the digital age not only means equal amounts of writing, but making my writing ‘readable.’ I put ‘readable’ in quotes because I don’t mean ‘legible.’ Rather I mean making the writing palatable to a wide range of potential readers. Here are some of the keys I’ve learned. How to execute them on different platforms, I am still figuring out.

What is a Readable Blog?

  • Easy interaction:Tumblr comes set up for reblogging, but not for interaction. I, and many others I’ve spoken with, want to interact with ideas, not just read them and repeat them. Dan Pontefract in a recent blog post, defined social media as a connector—of people, ideas, and content—rather than a source of those things. Reblogging allows ideas to move, but not for ideas, people and content to meet.
  • Bite-size pieces of information: Reading on the web is as much a visual as a linguistic activity. I often read about the vapidity of social media, implying that because information comes in snippets, lists and/or limited characters that the ideas across social media are light in terms of content. Rather, they can be incredibly complex ideas skillfully written in concise and dense packages.
  • Trans-friendly: I need readers and I need to people whose work I can read. We find each other not just through searches within Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc. in which we are composing, but rather through other interconnected social media. My titles need #hashtags for Twitter. It needs a Google+ +1 button and a Facebook Like button. And then I need to make sure my posts roll out to those venues.
  • Here’s where you come in… What other aspects of a post makes social media ‘readable’? 

Imposters and Doppelgangers: Plagiarism Remixed

Mural with De La Vega’s Signature Fish on 104th Street and Lexington

This post comes again from running in NYC’s Central Park. If you are one of the thousands of runners who frequent the park, you already know of street artist De La Vega’s recent increased running path messages. If you are not in NYC, here’s an intro and here’s an article about the one-part controversial/one-part mainstream artist. De La Vega pushes the envelope of art and the idea of artists’ statements. Sometimes his pieces are just quotes–often they’re social commentary, statements of witness to the social milieu of historically underserved parts of NYC, such as Spanish Harlem and the Bronx.

104th and Lexington (working on license)

Most often, the De La Vega pieces I see are sidewalk messages. And most often these messages involve fish, a fishbowl and the message: “Become Your Dream.” The sidewalk pieces in Central Park are unfailingly similar to his Spanish Harlem and the Bronx sidewalk chalk messages of hope and encouragement, De La Vega’s work is recognizable without a signature–just as a Monet or a Miro is unmistakably their own.

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Imposter De La Vega’s close but not quite print and fish

Two week’s ago, however, a few chalked images appeared that I immediately questioned as De La Vega. They used the fish, but not exactly the same fish. And they said, “Become Your Dream” but not exactly  the same print. I then noticed between these drawings were sometimes signed, “Imposter De La Vega #4” or “Doppelganger De La Vega Strikes Again.”

The sidewalk sketches then morphed and the fish were then engaging with each other in ways I haven’t seen De La Vega do. The lines of the art then also shifted–more angular and graphically pronounced. I imagine this is the “imposter’s” aesthetic when he or she is not playing this game of artistic identity. It’s even possible that this all was De La Vega, himself, at play with style.

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How do we understand what “Doppelganger De La Vega” was doing? Is it plagiarism of form and style? This month’s English Journal theme is all about ethics in the English classroom. Obviously there were multiple articles about plagiarism in the digital age. The articles hinted at the ways that plagiarism is “easier” now that we have the Internet–and not just with words, but with multiple modes. However, in the end, most of the articles concluded that we need is to have better conversations with students about how plagiarism is wrong. But is it? Is it in all it’s forms?

One of the Imposter’s quotes read something like: “Stealing can sometimes be good–when it’s a De La Vega.” The artist was cognizant of the act–even intentional. Is that the difference between “stealing” and “tribute”? Down the street and around the corner is a piece by De La Vega himself, which is obviously a “copy” of Picasso’s Guernica. It is signed “De La Vega Homage to Picasso.” What makes this a not a “copy” of another artists’ work? The last five photos in this blog post were taken by me on my phone. What part of that is “copying” these artist’s pieces? Is just transferring media enough to ethically appropriate an image as mine? What about those shirts and magnets and  key chains with images stretched across? What about transducing to another mode? Can I set De La Vega’s quotes to music and call them my own? Can I interpret them into image–and then is this finally not “stealing”? It would be silly to pretend that now that we are in “the digital age” we are suddenly new to repurposing, remixing and regurgitating others’ works. This practice is not new–and it may not even necessarily be “easier.” These artists did it with chalk and sidewalk.

The bigger question is: How else do we make new ideas, if we don’t have another’s ideas to start from? The discussion of “plagiarism” must move past “it’s wrong” and how to make it “right” by incorporating references, understanding digital licensing, and copyright checks. Further still, perhaps we need to fundamentally reconsider what we imagine an individual does when he or she creates.

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De La Vega’s Homage to Picasso on 110th and Lexington (taken on my cell phone)