Slow Teaching

Those who know my work with digital media may be surprised to read that I largely support this remark by Mark Bauerlein in his article Online Literacy Is a Lesser Kind: Slow reading counterbalances Web skimming in the Chronicle of Higher Education (19 Sept 08):

—given the tidal wave of technology in young people's lives, let's frame a number of classrooms and courses as slow-reading (and slow-writing) spaces. Digital technology has become an imperial force, and it should meet more antagonists. Educators must keep a portion of the undergraduate experience disconnected, unplugged, and logged off. Pencils, blackboards, and books are no longer the primary instruments of learning, true, but they still play a critical role in the formation of intelligence, as countermeasures to information-age mores. That is a new mission for educators parallel to the mad rush to digitize learning, one that may seem reactionary and retrograde, but in fact strives to keep students' minds open and literacy broad. Students need to decelerate, and they can't do it by themselves, especially if every inch of the campus is on the grid.

I don't agree with restraining the digitizing of classrooms, which Bauerlein also calls for, but I do agree with ensuring there's a mix of learning spaces available. I also think that teachers should have the imagination to sometimes teach outside of the classroom altogether. In my own case, I teach mostly online and am constantly struggling with ways to bring that slower and more physical engagement into the learning experience.

Most of Bauerlain's approach is the same-old same-old but I do think we must pay attention to the need for slow spaces both in teaching and in life. Slowness is certainly a vital element of transliteracy.

Thanks to Mez at Facebook for the link to Bauerlain's article.

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Word Spy gets it wrong about transliteracy

It's interesting to see the concept of transliteracy being taken up in various concepts, but frustrating when a spur definition starts to go in what I would call the wrong direction. Word Spy recently picked it up, but the definition it uses seems to come from no quoted source and it is incorrect. According to Word Spy, it is:

The ability to read and write using multiple media, including traditional print media, electronic devices, and online tools.

The problem with this definition is that it leaves out a vitally important element of transliteracy, namely the literacies of the 'pre-print' era – orality, signing etc as per the definition agreed on and distributed by PART and found at Wikipedia, where it has already been extended in an intelligent fashion:

The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. (PART 2007) The modern meaning of the term combines literacy with the prefix trans-, which means "across; through", so a transliterate person is one who is literate across multiple media.

I run a Google Alert for transliteracy and it's interesting to see where it appears these days, but sometimes depressing to see that it is already – of course – being misunderstood. I did post a correction at the Word Spy forum but it was ignored.