On “Wikiality”

By now, you have seen Stephen Cobert’s piece on Wikiality. If you haven’t, watch it before you read on.

In this response to the piece, Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post takes an interesting angle on how and why Wikipedia works:

But if Wikipedia is going to exist as an open-source resource and is going to resist single-peer review for its entries, then it needs to be transparent, as it has been in l’affaire Colbert. If Wikipedia’s DNA prevents it from hosting a single standard for truth — or truthiness — then its sources of information need to be evident and their tracks easily seen so readers can have as many facts as possible to determine their accuracy.

It’s on Wikipedia, So It Must Be True

So, I have two concerns with this line of thinking. First, it assumes that Wikipedia is meant to be a definitive source on anything and I think that argument was over with the Nature piece comparing Britannica to Wikipedia. (To his credit, Ahrens makes this point clear — and takes a jab at himself ” at the end of the article and suggests that “Not, of course, that anyone would or should use Wikipedia — or really, anything else besides this column — as a single and authoritative source on any topic.”)

Second, and more importantly, I think that Cobert understands the inner workings of Wikipedia, the idea that it does, indeed, try to agree on facts. It is called the Neutral Point of View. And, despite take-offs like Colbert’s and The Onion’s, I think that many people who criticize Wikipedia — and similar projects — forget that it is not about the facts, per se, but one’s ability to contribute to a group’s understanding of the facts.

On The Media did an excellent piece on this issue about a year ago, right after the London bombings and when Wikipedia was the most accurate news source. It was, indeed, the power of the people to collaborate that made it a great site… Lest we lose site of that in our culture’s furor to constantly seek a single truth. Wikipedia has its own form of peer review and, for what Wikipedia is and wants to be, it works perfectly. And that is why Colbert’s idea of wikiality is so funny… because the idea itself just isn’t true.

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IM and Code Switching

A study from the University of Toronto’s Linguistics Department has now verified what many writing teachers have been trying to argue all along — instead of ruining kids’ grammar, IM is actually a different discursive register and that kids end up code switching between IM and other forms of communication quite clearly. Here is an excerpt from an article about the study from technewsworld.com:

“What we found is that kids are using the colloquial vernacular language but they’re also using this formal language that isn’t used in speech,” says Denis, 21.

“So it’s really a combination, a fusion of both these styles. It wasn’t surprising to me because I’m a user of instant messaging and … I knew that it wasn’t as bad as people say it is.”
Tagliamonte says participants would use different levels of diction, both informal and formal, in their speech. For instance, they’d use “shall” alongside words such as “gonna.”

“It shows that this generation of kids is fluidly moving through media of communication that just didn’t exist before and they’re doing it extremely well,” she says.

Katherine Barber, editor-in-chief of Canadian Oxford Dictionaries, says she views instant messaging as a sub-dialect of English that likely won’t have an effect on spelling.

“The analogy I always like to make is, you know, we used to have things called telegrams and people had to tinker with their syntax, their normal syntax, to write,” she says.

“Telegrams as well, they created this telegraphese and that hasn’t had an effect on the language as a whole. It was used for that particular circumstance and that’s where it stayed.”

Technology News: Wireless: IM No Syntax Spoiler, Says Study

I have been asked many times if I think that technology is enabling kids (with spell check in Word) or ruining their spelling (with IM) and my answer has always been that kids will switch discourse based on the rhetorical situation. If we teach them that way. This study appears to confirm that pedagogical belief.

What do the rest of you think? Is IMing really just a chance for kids to code switch and practice different language? Or, is English doomed? I would be curious to hear what you think.

Reflections on Tech Matters 2006

For the moment, the home page of Tech Matters 2006 reads like this…

Tech Liaisons participating in Tech Matters ’06 are from all over the country. Look at the map below to see where everyone is from and what Writing Project they are with.

NWP : Technology Matters 2006 : Welcome!

Sadly enough, I am blogging right now from the airport as everyone who was gathered in Chico this week now scatters back to their original points on this map. We have had a spectacular week, however, so I know that the temporary feelings of leaving will soon be replaced by the excitement of nearing home and sharing new ideas with TCs back at our site. Thanks, Tonya, for creating this map for us.

For the moment, I offer some brief reflections after this one tech tip that I learned from Paul and Karen: If you are a blogger, get Flock. I have just downloaded and installed this new web browser which, according to Paul, is being developed by some former Firefox guys and is about as blogger-friendly as you can imagine.

As for my reflections on the week, I am constantly reminded how technology both flattens the world, in Friedman’s terms, as well as making the peaks and valleys of the digital divide even higher. We all came to TM06 with varying degrees of tech expertise in a variety of areas — blogging, wikiing, social bookmarking, Flickring, digital storytelling, podcasting, etc. — and I think that we all left smarter than when we arrived. For some, the tools shared at TM06 opened up a whole new world of the read/write web. For others, these tools were old hat, but launched new learning and collaboration that wouldn’t have been possible before hand.

So, as I think about the variety of workshops that we will be offering at RCWP between now and the end of the summer, I am reminded of the fact that we have to plan accordingly. Generally, the pattern for TM06 was: 1) intro to the new literacy tool, 2) a case study of the tool, and 3) playtime. I think that I will carry that model back into my own workshops that focus on technology. The TM06 experience reminds me that all of us, from the geekiest to the most “tech-challenged” come with some ideas about how and why to use technology in our classrooms and, as a workshop facilitator, I need to be cognizant of that fact.

Well, enough for now. There are planes to catch and bills to pay, as Harry Chapin might say, and I want to finish up a few things here with the Sacramento Airport’s free wifi. Thanks SAC!

Blogged with Flock

Playing with Podcasts


DSCF0396.JPG

Originally uploaded by tlwitherspoon.

Here, Tonya has captured me in a frantic state, trying to encode an MP3 in Audacity, download the Our Media installer, and trying to run one of our group sessions. Yikes!

I guess that this reminds me how often I take for granted the fact that I can usually multi-task without too many problems and when the technology gets in the way, it can be a real stumbling block for anyone. A good thing to keep in mind when facilitating any tech workshop…