Archive for June, 2011

The medium is the message

The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. (from Wikipedia)

The more I think about this issue of medium, the more unsatisfied I am with the way that medium of production is dealt with in the English curriculum.

While English teachers continue to be led by debate over the definition and role of Literature in English, and over the best way to teach language, questions of medium have been significantly sidelined.

      iTeach Inanimate Alice

It also seems clearer to me now why subjects like Drama and Media (content areas that technically sit under the umbrella of English, if you accept that English is a study of how meaning is made through language and texts) go off and take up their own space in many curriculum.  It’s not just because those fields have their own traditions and pedagogies that need space, or because they have industries that create an economic drive for the subjects to continue.  It’s also because those field require keen attention to production elements, including issues of medium.

Little wonder that Drama, which often deals with live performance of language, dies a slow death in English classrooms where the curriculum is still dominated by print literacy.

Little wonder that we still can reconcile the gulf between ‘literary’ and ‘digital/electronic’ texts in the Australian curriculum (medium is not a genre!)

To move anywhere with this line of thinking will require some careful thought about the overlap between the words:

  • media as-in-the-artisitic-means-of-production and
  • Media as-in-the-field-of-media-studies.

Thanks to carolyn for stimulating my thinking on this.  Connecting the concept of medium back to the concept of narrative helped the penny drop today!

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Challenges to developing a blended learning course

This extract is from the article Development and Implementation of a “Blended” Teaching Course Environment in the most recent issue of JOLT:

Roadblocks/challenges to Developing a Blended Course

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to developing a blended course is the student fear factor. Many individuals in my class had never crafted a PowerPoint presentation, much less navigated in an online
discussion. Despite their familiarity with Web 2.0 tools like Facebook, MySpace, and instant messaging, the thought of being graded for online participation was somewhat threatening and intimidating. It was also difficult initially for students to understand the rationale for some assignments (such as Second Life). In future classes, more emphasis on business necessity, future usage, and SL current applications will be incorporated into the course pedagogy. Because there were many different types of assignments in this course (including group work, both on and off line), some students also expressed dissatisfaction with having to rely on team members. Use of the Team Agreement did however help to coalesce groups, and to give members a framework for expected behavior. Instructor feedback on the Team Agreement is essential in providing guidance regarding conflict resolution, assignment schedule, and interpersonal interaction among members.

The blended model is a student-centered approach that allows the instructor to behave as a coach, a facilitator, and a cheerleader for his/her students. It is a way to let students lead in an environment in which they’re guided to success. In the words of Singh (2002, p. 476), “To be successful, blended [teaching]… needs to focus on combining the right delivery technologies to match the individual learning
objectives and transfer the appropriate knowledge and skills to the learner at the right time.”

by Jacqueline Gilbert and Ricardo Flores-Zambada

Development and Implementation of a “Blended” Teaching Course Environment
Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 7, No. 2, June 2011 pp. 244-260

This interests me because I have been considering including an assessment of online PLN participation in my unit next semester.

Given that this study found that “the thought of being graded for online participation was somewhat threatening and intimidating” for students, I’m going to avoid actually grading their participation per se.  Rather, I’ve decided that students must show (in an assignment appendix) participation in their online PLN for the unit to achieve a Distinction (Grade ‘6’) or High Distinction (Grade ‘7’).  That way, they either do it, or they don’t.  They don’t have to feel anxious about quality.

Has anyone else done something similar to this?  Making students demonstrate their PLN building?  How can I do it – get them to attach a screen shot of three blog comments and five tweets?  Would that suffice?  Hmm…


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List of Artistic Media

Some more thinking about what we mean when we say ‘medium’ in English curriculum…this list of artistic mediums has been helpful in contextualising English as a subject area within a broader notion of ‘arts’:

In the arts, a media or medium is a material used by an artist or designer to create a work.

  • Architecture
  • Carpentry
  • Digital
  • Drawing
  • Film
  • Light
  • Literature
  • Natural World
  • Painting
  • Performing Arts
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture
  • Sound
  • Technology
  • Textiles

Wikipedia ‘List of Artistic Media’

Within that list, the medium of literature appeared with the following explanation and links:


Main articles: Literature and Writing implement

The art of writtenwords and typography is traditionally an ink and printed form on paper or is creatively written with many forms of media.

Common writing media

Common bases for writing

This is food for thought.

The investigation into medium continues…

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Media – Definition

Was looking for a good defintion for ‘medium’ in English and along the way have found my new go-to definition for media:

MEDIA as a word derives from the plural of Latin medium,  meaning ‘middle’ or ‘between’ (hence ‘mediator’ as a ‘go-between’, also medieval, coined in the nineteenth century to label the age between the classical period and the Renaissance).  From the early twentieth century, however, it has become increasingly common to talk of ‘the media’ (definite article and plural).  The media thus understood mean two interrelated yet distinct things:

  • those specifically modern technologies and modes of COMMUNICATION which enable people to communicate at a distance, characteristically through print (especially newspapers and magazines); the various telecommunications (‘tele-‘ comes from the Greek word for ‘far’, hence telegraph/’far-writing’, telephone/’far-sound’, television/’far-sight’), as well as film, video, cable, satellite and the Internet;
  • by extension, the institutions which own and control these technologies as well as= the people who work for them (e.g, newspaper proprietors, TV and film companies, advertising agencies and governments, as well as reporters, camera operators, editors, producers, presenters, etc.).

Pope, R. (2002) The English Studies Book: An introduction to Language, Literature and Culture (2nd edition)Routledge, London. p.68

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Book Art

Long have I prefered DeviantArt to Flickr, as I like the more ecclectic collection of ‘deviations’ (or text/art/photo/whatever-you-submissions) to the focus on photography at Flickr.

One of the best thinigs that I have found through my ramblings through DA are the other (seemingly increasing amount of?) ‘deviants’ and groups working on pieces of BOOK ART.

Take for example this whole group dedicated to making book arts:

Or this group, where altered books are featured (I think the difference is a focus on assemblege?)

Here are some examples of two excellent pieces by the deviant hogret:

the books never tell you. by hogret

the books never tell you. by hogret

autobiography (work in progress). by hogret

autobiography (work in progress). by hogret

The other genre of visual/written blending featured heavily in the DeviantArt groups is visual poetry.  From what I can see it’s a more established genre, but please tell me more if you know.

Some of my favourite pieces come from deviants carrieola and giantshadow, who often contribute their work to the Daily Poetics group.

Here are a couple to help you get the idea:

cosmic cradle on canvas. by carrieola

cosmic cradle on canvas. by carrieola

universed. by giantshadows

universed. by giantshadows

Enjoy 🙂


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