February 7, 2006

Asking the hard questions

On the 1 year anniversary of my blog, I thought I should try and write something so deep and profound that it would shake all my readers.

Okay so that’s not likely to happen so I’ll just throw out some thoughts around relevancy and communication.

When I think about our provincial language arts curriculum it seems to cover the 6 basic strands of communication: reading/writing speaking/listening viewing/representing
Most would acknowledge that we’ve over emphasized the reading/writing aspect and definitely are working towards incorporating more of the viewing/representing strand. The thought that occurred to me yesterday was about relevancy. If you asked the 10 adults if they did any writing in the past few days, I wonder how many actually did any writing other than making a list or a quick email or text message. While there are definitely a number of vocations where writing is part of the daily routine, my instinct tells me this is the minority. Most people do not engage in much writing. In fact, of these 6 strands, it is definitely the consumption strands (reading, listening and viewing) that we engage in. Speaking is obviously right up there as well but writing and representing do not really have a regular place in the life of your average adult.

So if this is true, why do we continue to spend the time we do helping students to write? I suspect the initial response to that is to help them communicate and also be better readers. I agree. David Warlick often talks about the future and how our students will be asked to create movies and other multimedia projects. Many of our enlightened educators are helping students to be contributors of this new read/write web. Creators not just contributors. It seems that we believe because of the new tools and openness of the web, all can be creators of content.

All can be but my feeling is few will be.

I say this because of two observations. One as I’ve alluded to earlier was that few adults communicate with writing or representing (ie. video/imagery). Even if they were given an audience, most people aren’t interested in sharing with a larger audience. This number is obviously growing as evidenced by the number of teenage blogs. But it still is a small percentage of the total population.

The second observation is that just because the tools are there, doesn’t make the creation of content and less stringent. I do a lot of video editing. I love it and appreciate the advancement of hardware and software to make the process almost as easy as it can get. But creating a quality video is hard work. My son spent 5 hours last night working on a short video for school. That doesn’t include the pre-planning and actual filming. Anyone who has created video understands this. I think teaching kids this is important more because it helps them better view the media they see everyday. I don’t think the majority of citizens will be creating video. It’s just way too hard. Same with writing. Although it’s easier than video, crafting a well written, readable document takes time; more time than most people are willing to give.

So after all that here is the hard question…

Should we be teaching the creation aspects of communication in equal proportion to the consumption, if indeed very few will be regular contributors?