Q/A from “Technology and Education” Session

Movement, Mobility, and Migration Conference Logo
Movement, Mobility, and Migration Conference

A number of undergraduate students presented today at Central Michigan University’s first annual conference on English studies, “Movement, Mobility, and Migration.”

One particular session at the end of the day had a great Q/A, and I tried to capture some notes here from the “Technology and Education” forum. A few of the ideas that we discussed included:

  • What constitutes a “text” in relation to multimodal hybrid texts (especially graphic novels), and especially when considering texts for middle and high school students?
  • How do we help students of this generation better understand the ways that language — and exploring language — can be a wonderful, validating experience? How can we use language as an opportunity for play? This led to a broader discussion about dialect, code-switching, and social power.
  • Finally, I asked them to answer by describing one loss and one opportunity with the shift to technology.
    • A shift to e-books, because I don’t like them. There is value in having an actual physical copy of the text for you to annotate.
    • We are using the written word to promote more more literacies, but text messaging can be impersonal and emotionless.
    • Thinking about the ways that literature is evolving, and to see these ideas incorporated is exciting. At the same time, we don’t want to lose focus on the classics in literature to enjoy the word usage and beautiful language.
    • Along with countless hours lost to fiddling with things that won’t work, we are also at risk of a reduced attention span. There is a great deal of overstimulation in all of this, and what is it doing to our brains.
    • There are many new ways to be creative, and it makes more critical and creative modes of expression possible.

It is interesting to hear that these undergrads, members of the “digital generation,” are still expressing many of the same ideas related to the possibilities and pitfalls of digital writing as their elder counterparts are. The best part of all is that we continue to keep asking good questions.

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Notes from Erin Reilly’s “Remix Culture for Learning” at SITE 2010

The Gap Between Life and Art: Remix Culture for Learning

Erin Reilly, University of Southern California


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MakeBeliefsComix.com Online Educational Comics Launches WRITER PROMPTS to Help ESL, Literacy Students Write, Read and Tell Stories

A note from Bill Zimmerman at MakeBeliefsComix, a site I have written about before:

MakeBeliefsComix.com has launched a new WRITER PROMPTS feature that regularly offers educators new ideas to spark students’ imaginations and encourage them to write more.

The new writing tool is a direct result of the overwhelming positive user response to our free web site where children and adults create their own comic strips online and, in so doing, practice language, writing and reading skills. WRITER PROMPTS utilizes interactive techniques that I have pioneered as author, journalist and teacher to help people of all ages find their writers’ voices and express their deepest thoughts. Go to http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/ and click on the WRITER PROMPTS button at the bottom right to connect to these idea prompts at www.billztreasurechest.com/blog/.

At the WRITER PROMPTS blog site selected students’ written responses will be posted, reinforcing students’ writing and language-learning efforts. Please try the new feature and give us your feedback and suggestions. We also will post some of your own suggested writing prompts if you give us permission. Send them to billz@makebeliefscomix.com.

Since we launched our educational comics site in 2006 hundreds of thousands from 175 countries have visited us. And, Google and UNESCO selected MakeBeliefsComix.com as one of the world’s most innovative web sites in fostering literacy and reading (http://www.google.com/literacy/projects.html).

Some sample writing WRITER PROMPTS offered:

  • You are an author rewriting the story of your parents’ lives. How would you change their lives, what would you say? The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can use your imagination to create different worlds from what you know. If you’re feeling unhappy in real life, for example, you might want to create a world in which you feel h appy. If you are poor, you might want to imagine a story in which the characters are rich. You can change a story about your parents or family into something entirely different.
  • Three children in different parts of the world wake up one morning, each expecting the day to be like all the others. For one, in Mexico, this will turn into the most important day of her life; for another, in China, the day will be the happiest she will ever experience in her life, and for the third, in Chicago, this will become his saddest one. Write one of the children’s diaries for the day.
  • You are a six-year-old Pakistani boy sold into servitude by his family to labor 14 hours a day in a carpet factory. Your enslavement will help settle a $16 family debt. You spend the next six years chained to a rug loom, working 12-hour days for pennies. Then comes the day when you escape to freedom — here’s what happens:

Users of MakeBeliefsComix.com make comics strips by selecting from 15 fun characters with different moods — happy, sad, angry, worried — and write words for blank talk and thought balloons to make characters talk and think. This site is used by educators to teach language, reading and writing skills, and also for students in English-as-a-Second-Language programs to facilitate self-expression and storytelling, as well as computer literacy. Some educational therapists use the online comics with deaf and autistic people to help them understand concepts and communicate. Parents and children can create s tories together, print them to create comic books or email them to friends. Others will find the site a resource to be creative and have fun.

Acting on your feedback, MakeBeliefsComix.com now also enables users to write comic strips in languages other than English, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin and Portuguese. Many foreign language teachers encourage language practice by having students create comic strips.

Please share http://www.makebeliefscomix.com with your colleagues, students, friends or readers of your publications and favorite listserv groups. It takes a community to build and nurture a rich educational resource.

Sincerely,

Bill Zimmerman
(billz@makebeliefscomix.com or wmz@aol.com)