Tuesday, 23 February 2010

On reading again

I was feeling a little out of sorts this morning and stayed in bed. Officially, the EVO-TESOL courses finished on Sunday, but of course our minds don't stop there -nor have the meeting places disappeared.

And so, just like yesterday I was finally able to read a whole article from the Financial Times and a blog post response to it and a blog post on who made the best ESP teachers -professionals gone into teaching or teachers going into specialisation (I'm being reductionist here, the post went deeper than that) as well as a printed column by J.L. de Diego on cynicism...Just like yesterday I was able to read all that (something I hadn't been able to do on the past 6 weeks because I was more focused on doing things and then reflecting rather than on reading or listening to reflections and opinions and processing them) -today, it seems, I was ready to start reading the Keen vs Weinberger text debate from the online version of the Wall Street Journal (July 18, 2007) my fellow participants on the Multiliteracies course have been discussing these weeks.

I only got to page two before I wanted to come and write about it, which (I think) already says something about human nature.

So far Keen has explained his position -the topic being Web 2.0, and Weinberger has started to respond. Keen's argument seems to be taking an "either / or approach" so far: "Is Web 2.0 a dream or a nightmare?" "Is it a remix of Disney's Cinderella or of Kafka's Metamorphosis?" -I finally understood what "flattened"comes to mean in a context like this. Keen reminds us that there are arguments of great democratization in relation to Web 2.0. So flattened comes to mean "we are all equal in this new stage of the Web" (my emphasis), hence the democratization reference. I'd heard flat, flattened, and other derivations before in similar contexts but had never connected them to equality or democratic forces at work (granted, Keen uses it in a somewhat ironic way in my opinion, but that doesn't change the connection I've made in my mind).

And yet, if I go back to my childhood, I realize I should have connected it at once: I recall a local (Argentine) comic strip by Quino called Mafalda. Mafalda is a precocious girl interested in political issues (she "lived" in the 60s and or 70s). She has a group of friends and one of them is called Liberty (well, Libertad). Liberty is an advocate of class and social struggle. In one strip she's explaining to Mafalda what her father's explained to her: that today (I'm quoting and translating rather freely both in language and interpretation, but trying to be true to the original); "Today", she says as she points to a wall in the street, "we're like these bricks -one on top of the other, the ones on top pressing on the others. But one day,"she goes on,"we'll be like this", and she gestures towards the cobbles on the road, "all at the same level, without anyone above us or oppressing us".

In the next frame we see a luxurious car drive by.

Monday, 15 February 2010


Brainstorming, originally uploaded by Msbea3.
Last week was an interesting one as we worked with audio on the digital materials preparation techniques course (I recorded myself reading one of Shakespeare's sonnets -I'm awful at reading poetry...). It was fun to choose some music tracks and mix it all down and the music helped to cover my flawed performance (trimming also helped!).

I enjoyed listening to the recordings made by the other participants -quite different in tone: a nonsense poem that I loved, a poem written by the participant herself -powerful and passionately read...

I also had a go at creating digital stories and that was a lot of fun too (my first script was lousy but I liked the voices I chose for the characters). The second story didn't have voices; it was a cartoon with speech bubbles and background music. Fun to choose as well. And it was lovely to read and watch other people's stories...I especially liked the feel of those created at Mixbook, but the Flickr 4-6-frame stories with no words were also nice. Simple is good too -and they may appear simple but some (if not all) demanded quite a lot of preparation. I remember two with more than one version where family members posed specifically for the various scenes. Storytelling has that power...it brings people together at various stages and in various ways.

I'm also quite involved in a crosscultural project and thrilled at the positive feedback and interest we've been getting from the people we're inviting to join. It's very exciting.

Last but not least, I've joined the Flickr group that Plurkers have and it's a real treat to get into Flickr and see everyone's photos. I like building galleries there too.

And I love having a PLN that's not only growing but getting stronger, more fun and affectionate each day.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

I was listening and a white rabbit ran past me...

This week the Images4Education course centres around the world of  "digital storytelling". I love stories in any from: from the well-told anecdote to the printed and bound thick saga.

Some years ago I was studying Italian, and on our 5th year we'd start studying art&literature as well as language. The syllabus was structured chronollogically for arts&lit and so the texts we'd discuss were very old -for some we had modern Italian translations available, or a glossary. this happened mostly with short poems. With longer pieces, we had extracts in our coursebook. Now the extracts were not always the beginning of the stories, so some context was needed. Our teacher (who also had lovely anecdotes from her growing- up days in Italy) would then tell us what these stories were about. I was mesmerized; I'd forget about everything and go (internally!) "awww" when she'd finish. Dante's Inferno was never so appealing, I'm sure, as when she told it; Orlando Furioso and Orlando Innamorato were incredibly long poems and could have been terribly tedious, but Adriana made them gems -the gems they must have been to have endured the passing of time. She'd bring out all the internal suffering, the love, the violence...just with her voice standing in a classroom of 15 seated adult students.

That is the power of storytelling.

A few years ago I attended a session of storytelling by A.W., artist, EFL teacher and author of EFL books. The stories were not terribly elaborate, his telling made them wonderful.

Finally, in 2008, I attended (twice) a storytelling session by a Hugh Lupton, "professional storyteller". What a treat!! The stories were mostly folk tales and he must have told between 5-10 with only a break in between (leaving us expectant with only part 1 of a story having been told). Some of the stories were repeated in the second session. It didn't matter at all. I was as enthralled as the first time -if not even more, because I anticipated my favourite bits.

And now for a more recent approach (I think): that same year I also saw Francesca Beard perform her poems in her one-woman show "Chinese Whispers" . What an experience!! She used to have her Tesco poem up in her website but I can't see it now. You can still listen to some others, though. Her "how would you rather die" compatibility survey is coming to mind...

And there are other poets who perform their poems -and it makes the experience so much richer: Tony Harrison performing "Them and [us]" (it requires phonetic script between brackets). Benjamin Zephaniah...

Telling and listening to stories is a much richer experience than reading them or watching them on TV. It's not an everyday thing, though. I'd like to keep it special by indulging in it only when the right atmosphere has a chance to be established.

Now, the digital world is offering new possibilities -we can all tell stories to people far and near, in the way that suits us best.