Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Yusef on Beyond Traditional Text

Blog: Moving beyond traditional textbooks

Today's highly energetic debate on the role of non-traditional texts inside our classrooms brought up some insightful points and valid arguments. Our class debate was action packed as both sides came out the corner swinging by presenting their group perspectives on this topic. When I was not busy ducking Drew's overhand right or blocking Maha's left-handed jabs, I listened and internalized the oppositions statements-- does technology hinder my cognitive process? Can a complete reliance on non-traditional text limit reading and writing literacies? Where would I be as a student or person without my laptop, Smartphone and access to millions of online resources? What if Google is making me stupid?
The 21st century has spawned the power of mass media, and provided online education; the internet has changed our conception of literacy. The ability to read and write' or traditional definition of literacy has transgressed to a modern definition or what Id explain as the ability to understand information however presented'. New types of literacies have been developed which has placed a strain on the traditional form of literacy. These strains inherently lead to specific challenges that educators need to address: 1) Disconnect- incorporating technology poses a real challenge for students/educators who grew up in an environment where digital skills werent needed 2) Safety- how can educators introduce technology appropriately in their classrooms 3) Accessibility- is technology and are computers accessible for everyone? 4) Dependence- has the vast amount of information made us too reliant on the internet? Does this technological dependency affect our concentration and contemplation? 
The Internet has become the universal medium of information, never before has a communication system played such a major role in our lives. But Is Google making us stupid? This was my first time reading this very intriguing article by Nicholas Carr. I really enjoyed it because it brought up questions that I don't often contemplate. In the article the author informs us on how technology is negatively affecting our cognitive processing. We are simply becoming too used to receiving information very quickly and easily. Is Google becoming the new human brain? The article claims that technology is a huge distraction in our lives and discusses how intellectual technologies' can eventually be engrained into our daily lives. 
Moving beyond textbooks
Non-traditional texts like graphic novels are powerful tools that can help students become more engaged in reading and writing. Research shows that students are motivated to read and write when they have a choice of topics and when the reading/writing is relevant to their lives. I believe every student is unique, technology provides opportunities for teachers to explore ways to use tools to help students at multiple levels. This differentiation can be helpful especially, with ELL or students with learning disabilities. 
Moving beyond traditional text allows more opportunities for interactive classroom interactions, self-expression and group collaboration. The internet enables us to explore new information; were now able to acquire instant information from various types of resources. Research that took years can now be done in a matter of minutes. Web 2.0 applications like Wix, Blogger and Google, provide students with more meaningful and authentic learning experiences, these opportunities help equip students with literacy skills that are required in todays world.


  1. Yusef, this is all so comprehensive and I can see how you've made all these connections about the role of technology, moving beyond traditional books, over reliance on the internet for information and as a means of distraction, and how non-traditional can be very useful as a hook for struggling, disinterested and even ELL students. It's not just for entertainment.
    Interesting how you mention how "intellectual technologies can eventually be ingrained into our lives" as an anecdote to being over-reliant on Google or the internet. I wonder intellectual technologies might be like.
    You mention our debate earlier today, yes it was quite an experience, always good to know how to argue for a side that one might not agree with but to know how to critically think about an issue from different side. Im all for technology but now that I have been doing some research on it, one should not dive into it without making oneself aware about what it is, the pros and cons. Not always easy. For example, while technology like the computer can give immediate access to information through the internet, are we questioning the quality of that information. Can it make up for a quality activity like a debate in class, which helps to build critical thinking skills. Also personalized interaction between peers helps build new ideas. Thanks for sharing.
    On a lighter note, I was amused about the earlier remarks about the right hand block and left hand jabs. Very visual!

  2. Yusef, your post was really elaborate and I particularly enjoyed reading your understanding and synthesis of the different readings. One thing caught my attention as I read through. One of the challenges you pose about the use of online resources is, “how can educators introduce technology appropriately in their classrooms?” It got me thinking that while I strongly believe that that technology is what will be driving most of the instruction in the future (if it is not happening already), I also feel that many educators do not know how to introduce technology in classrooms. For example, with so many apps that are easily accessible and even free, educators are simply randomly “throwing” them at their students. Making sure that the apps and the technology introduced in class are appropriate is key. One way I see this happening is by schools having specific apps that have been carefully scrutinized in terms of how appropriate they are. These can by apps used by different grade levels. I know that some teachers will say that this is limiting creativity but with the rapid advancement of technology, putting measures in place to ensure appropriateness of the technology should be a priority of any school. Thanks for sharing!

  3. From Drew.....Yusef,

    My overhand right is a beast. I totally agree with you on the points of your blog post. In the 21st Century, the technology we’ve developing is absolutely changing the meaning of what it is to be literate and we absolutely need to respond in the way we’re teaching our students.

    I wonder, what strategies do you think exist for training older teachers, or teachers from disadvantaged backgrounds to deal with new technology? I think this is one of the biggest hurdles that exists; not so much in the situations we’re going to face as international teachers, but for teachers and students in mainstream education around the world. I know that there are very entrenched interests: unions, governments, parents, who all feel that they need to protect what areas they can. Unions defend teachers like rabid dogs, governments desperately seek to limit costs, and parents fight to get the best education for their kids. These three groups seem to be working exactly against each other in the effort to develop critically literate kids.

    Personally, I’m happy to stay largely out of the fray and hide away in an International school for years and years, but it is, and is going to remain a serious issue. I guess, if I had a question that I would ask, when it comes to getting older teachers trained (or out of teaching) who is it that you think needs to bend? Unions letting older teachers go, governments (and taxpayers) being willing to spend the money, or parents being willing to accept a slightly reduced form of education for their kids?

    Personally I would argue that the bend needs to be on two sides: Unions and taxpayers, but I was wondering what you thought.

  4. Maybe teaching will continue to evolve more from the bottom up, where new teachers bring new trends in thinking and practice into the craft and it evolves organically from there... top down requirements to enhance tech integration seem to me to put more older-school teachers in a weird place where they know that they know certain methods well, but are somehow being asked to divorce themselves from that. Crafty use of the overhead is better than a crappy powerpoint. Suggesting and attempted convincing rather than requiring seem like better admin action words..