I had studied karate at a local dojo in North Western Ontario for three years, but because of a bad bout of mononucleosis and an injured hip decided that I needed to retire my gi for stretchier pants. Also, I will admit, I had reached the point in martial arts where I either needed to develop a more competitive attitude or get out. With a blue belt, there could be no more avoidance of sparring, breaking blocks of wood with a bare hand, or training for longer hours than I had time. Thus began my inner questioning. What exactly did I love about martial arts? Where could I get the same fulfillment without the stress of competition?
When I was taking my ESL Part One course this fall, one of the questions we were asked to consider was, “Are students who may be reluctant to talk in class in front of others more comfortable engaging in electronic “conversations”?”
As the Technical Resource Teacher in our school, my answer is a resounding, “Yes”. Computers do assist with learning on many levels, from delivering a variety of content, to practicing skills, to enabling communication, to teaching responsibility. Computers do not teach, nor do they solve all problems, but they can help us to look at curriculum in a different way; they also encourage us to create a layered way of thinking.
Computers, on a very basic and practical level, force us to think sequentially. Just think about all of the steps you go through to find that file you need to upload to your blog. For ELL’s and every other learner, using a computer requires that you can follow written, oral or visual instructions. Often, the path to creating a document, editing a photo, or finding something online is not always as straightforward as you would assume if you knew nothing about computers. Simply creating a document in Word is a good way to test students’ comprehension. Either they do it, or they ask for help.
While on vacation this Christmas, I’ve had ample opportunity to consider how computers can also assist with the creative process. The question came up when my sister asked me what on earth I was doing on my laptop, iPad and iPod for so many hours in a day. (Honestly, I didn’t realize that I was glued to my devices for that long. I have gone skiing, attended 2 bonfires, a book making workshop, made 5 wreaths and several other gifts, watched a couple of movies, indulged in many interesting conversations with real people, and even gave my dog a haircut.) However, in comparison to a sibling who spends relatively little time on computers, I guess the question is valid.
As a writer, I can honestly say that I would not want to go back to the pen and paper method of recording my thoughts. Yes, I do jot notes and sketch diagrams of ideas but when it comes to the nitty gritty of painting an image or developing an idea it’s the computer and nothing else for me. I love the swiftness of recording my thoughts, the satisfying click of the keys and (a little anal here) the cleanliness of the white screen. Unless I choose to use mark-up in Word’s review pane, I experience the absolute joy of an untouched document. Visual perfection.
Another added benefit to working on a computer is, of course, the value of saving multiple drafts. Of course, with that privilege comes great responsibility. Experienced drafters will shake their heads when I admit that I committed the ultimate sin when I first started work on my novel last year. Yes, I created more than one draft but if took a while for me to remember to number and date my work. It didn’t seem like such a big deal until I took a 6 month break from the work, and then tried to pick up where I left off yesterday. Needless to say, I spent a fair bit of time sorting my files into folders. I know. Computer Survival School 101. What can I say except that I was so caught up in the creative process that my usual neat-freak went on vacation.
Lately, I’ve been sampling and following a lot of blogs. Also, to my pleasant surprise, I have found that people have been following me. In spite of my sporadic posting it would appear that I have something to say that other people want to hear. Although I do enjoy a great dystopic novel, I must admit that I am a fan of a computer driven society. Where else would I be able to meet, carry out a conversation, share ideas, and learn from others with the click of a button?
Essentially a logical/sequential platform, computers teach layered strategies of thinking, creating, communicating which can add to our understanding of being. I would even go so far as to say that my imagination has grown because of the interactive nature of computers and the internet.
My clearest memory of school when I was a child is the yearly project on culture. I say, yearly, because it seems like every teacher in the world thinks that they have developed the “BEST IDEA” to get kids to not only explore their personal histories, but to appreciate the cultures that they come from. I wouldn’t say that I was a cynical recipient of the ever-present “culture” project, but I wouldn’t say that I was enthusiastic either. In fact, my general thought was that my culture was pretty boring, and I’d really rather study someone else’s culture. Any culture.
Dutiful, obedient, compliant – I would trudge to the front of the room to collect the large sheet of white paper that my teacher wanted me to fill with the patterns of my cultural background. Then, there I would sit, wondering just what was my culture? As I had already done this project the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that I already knew what my mother would tell me when I asked her for help. “You are Canadian,” she would say, “just show what it means to be Canadian”. And I would sigh and stare at that big piece of white paper. Are we Scottish? Irish? English? Continue reading