Thursday, March 29, 2012

Screen reading versus paper

 Yesterday at work I was discussing the issue of note taking in the classroom with a colleague.  Very few of our students seem to take notes; some claim to use their smart phone and others will bring a laptop.  When I bring in a guest speaker, I don't allow typing of notes because I know it can be distracting. I have also always secretly felt that if they write it down, it will help them remember it. (Actually I have said this out loud to students and most ignore the advice!)  But one of my top students this year does in fact use pen and paper to take notes during lectures. She's one of a few.

My colleague told me  that she heard of a study that has made a link between cursive handwriting, which causes the muscles in the arm to be engaged, and the brain and memory.  I came across a couple of items regarding this issue but am still searching for anything that would be more recent.

Today in my local paper there is an article that tells about a study that finds textbooks outperform e-books, that it is easier to grasp and retain information from print. The study was  done in the U.K., by Kate Garland, a lecturer at the University of Leicester.

Specifically, she found participants in the study needed "repeated exposure and rehearsal" of on-screen material in order to grasp the same information. Paper readers were also "better able to apply the knowledge in the material from books."

The News services article in the Waterloo Region Record went on to explain:
"People recall information through episodic memory or 'remembering' which involves consciously identifying the context in which they learned something, and semantic memory or 'knowing' which doesn't require context. In the long term, 'knowing' knowledge is better because important facts are recalled faster and more easily, Garland says. Her findings suggest that the shift from 'remember' to 'know' happens earlier when participants read paper than when they read screens."

Daniel Wigdor, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto specializes in interfaces with new technologies. He says the problem with e-readers is that they lack physicality and tools, that the endless scrolling through pages can be "overwhelming, distracting and slow." He does believe that the way people read will shift and adapt to technology but that "toolmakers have to meet us halfway and give us things to do the kind of not just reading, but active reading that you need to do when you're learning."

I can relate. I purchased a e-book to read over my holidays and have now bought a paper copy so that I can highlight and find sections easily for reference. I also want to pass the book on to family and could not do that with my e-reader. But the books that I would just read once for pleasure and escape were great for the e-reader. I also could take lots of reading for the beach without taking up space in my luggage.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Week 11: Libraries and Transliteracy, Questions from Bobbi Newman

One of the questions I am repeatedly asked about transliteracy is - what are the set of skills for transliteracy? I understand where the asker is coming from - in a world where we base to much on standardized tests, having a list you can check off and mark complete is something we have been trained to expect. We need it for validation.

You don’t need me to tell you that the world is changing around us rapidly. That approaches to teaching and learning are changing and that the “old” way of doing things isn’t working any longer.

There is no defined set of skills for transliteracy. That is not because Sue or others researching, reading, writing and talking about transliteracy have not bothered to create one, it is because transliteracy is a moving target. It is fluid. As the world around us changes so much we change with it. We must continual learn, unlearn and relearn. This process is more than a set of skills, it is a process and journey.

Watch this slideshow and consider the messages. Transliteracy is about more than technology.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Narrative Interventions in Photography

[Art by Simryn Gill, Photograph by Jonathan Teghtmeyer]

[Art by Carrie Mae Weems, Photograph by Jonathan Teghtmeyer]

I had the opportunity the week before last to visit the Getty Center in Los Angeles, where I happened across across an exhibit entitled, Narrative Interventions in Photography, that seemed to be right up the alley for our conversations around transliteracy. Works by three artists, Eileen Cowin, Carrie Mae Weems and Simryn Gill, are unified by the theme of telling a narrative through photography with critical reflection on the use of text.

Cowin's series, I See What You're Saying, uses books as a medium to create a subject for photography where the books are personified and tell a narrative through how they are positioned as opposed to what the words say. Gill uses paper with typed text as a medium to take the place of natural artifacts. For example, in one piece she cuts the paper into the shape of leaves, attaches them to a living plant and photographs it in a natural setting. Finally, Carrie Mae Weems, has etched text (and in one piece sheet music) onto glass that is placed over photos from the American slave trade in her exhibit, From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. 

In terms of transliteracy, the pieces provide a great commentary on the role of narrative in a way that is not reliant on text. Yet at the same time, they use text as a key subject for their art which is principally done using the medium of photography. Not only are these artists effective at using multiple media, but they use them together in the same piece in a way that provides commentary on the different forms. While they are not forms of new media, they definitely qualify as pieces related to transliteracy.

Slactivism comment

This posting may be out of synch with our class discussions but I came across this blog today and it offers comment on slacktivism – the accusation that social media really does not effect change because it is easy for people to sit behind computers and click “like” without making any real commitment.  It is part of the criticism that Malcolm Gladwell made in his commentary in the New Yorker when he compared this to courageous activists who bravely fought for racial equality in the deep south during the 1960s .  This was one of the references in Linda Komori’s posting, Cute Cats and the Arab Spring. 

I like Gladwell’s writings but I couldn’t help but think he may have missed an important point on this one. While we will never know for sure, I wonder if a quiet majority of people had had access to the Internet and used it to tell elected officials that they wanted change, what impact it may have had. I’m not suggesting it would have or could have replaced the hard sacrifices people made in that important movement.  I don’t think change would have happened without the actions of people like Ezell Blair and his supporters from North Carolina A.&T.  And while their actions spread quickly, social media might have provided another powerful message behind those actions.   No doubt mainstream media hampered the delivery of messages of those who were protesting for change – social media would have provided a channel that those in control could not have stopped.

It is said that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing. Perhaps those likes and links on social media are a way for good men to do something – if it is not within their abilities to take any other form of action.    

The toppling of corrupt regimes as we have witnessed this past year didn’t happen just because of social media, but social media did play a role.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ebook Trends: Info Pro Perspectives

Given this week's lecture notes and readings, I thought you'd all find this of interest:

Video streaming by Ustream

Transliteracy, information literacy, and librarians

Following a link trail from one of this week's readings led me to blogger and librarian Wilk's "philosophical library blog" Sense and Reference, where I found the very interesting Reorganizing Literacy post. The post contains a chart titled "A Taxonomy of Literacies" which divides literacy into communicative and evaluative categories. The Communicative category includes print, signing, visual, computer, and digital, and is subtitled "Transliteracy". The Evaluative category includes both specific literacies such as scientific literacy, and non-specific literacies such as media literacy. It is subtitled "Information literacy".

Wilk's chart struck a chord with me, as I've been trying to put my finger on this distinction but finding it slippery. In my own experience, I can see that my 14-year-old daughter is more literate than I am in specific "communication" categories (Facebook comes to mind), and she might be considered more transliterate than I am because of the ease with which she moves between communication tools. On the other hand, through the sheer advantage of years, I have broader literacy than she does in the "evaluative" categories, so, applying Wilk's taxonomy, I might be considered to have a higher level of information literacy.

Wilk goes on to employ a container/content distinction, and says that: ". . . information literacy addresses the problems of meaning, [while] transliteracy addresses the engineering problem . . . We need information literacy so we can think about the meaning of information. We need transliteracy so we can think about the communication of information" (Wilk, 2011, Containers and Content sect., para. 6).

So, is transliteracy separate from information literacy? Thomas et al. (2007) state that, "Our current thinking (although still not entirely resolved) is that because it offers a wider analysis of readings, writing and interacting across a range of platforms, tools, media and cultures, transliteracy does not replace, but rather contains, 'media literacy' and also 'digital literacy'" (Tracing transliteracy sect., para. 1). This statement doesn't stake ownership over information literacy - but implies that the breadth of transliteracy does allows it to contain many kinds of literacy.

In the comments section of Reorganizing Literacy, one reader comments that youth may have stronger ability to communicate across media, while older people may have stronger evaluative ability. Wilk responded by saying that:
". . . creating 'information literate' students may exceed our reach. Transliteracy, on the other hand, is well within our grasp as least, transliteracy in the restricted sense in which I'm approaching it . . . As a librarian my first concern is whether, and if so how, students are able to access the right information at the right time" (2011, Comment 4).
Wilk's suggestion that teaching transliteracy may be easier than teaching information literacy helps to reinforce the distinction between containers and content. It also sheds some light on one of this week's questions regarding how libraries position themselves to remain relevant. It makes sense for librarians, who stay at the forefront of information and knowledge management, to help library users find their way through the increasingly complex media ecology by teaching transliteracy "best practices". In contrast, becoming information literate in one of Wilk's "specific" evaluative categories would require deeper study, and would be beyond the scope of the services libraries provide.

However, media literacy and critical literacy, both listed by Wilk as "non-specific" evaluative literacies, are particularly entwined with the tools of transliteracy. If I were to rework Wilk's taxonomy chart, I would probably move the non-specific evaluative literacies into the communicative literacies.

I'd be curious to know others' thoughts on this distinction.

P.S. - As a bonus to those of us in the MACT program, in Wilk's post there's a nice tie-back to the Comm Theory course we all started out with - Wilk quotes Shannon on the "engineering problem" of communication. I had sort of moved cybernetics into the back of the cupboard, so it was interesting to see its relevance to this question. McLuhan is also standing at the doorway on the container/content discussion. To what extent is the medium the message? I can't say I have the answer but it's still somehow reassuring to see course content dovetailing, and oddly rewarding to see how the breadth of material we've covered in the program allows us to consider a variety of perspectives on questions like this.


Thomas et al. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday, Volume 12 Number 12 - 3 December 2007. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from:

Wilk. (2011). Reorganizing literacy. Sense and reference: a philosophical library blog. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Books Without Paper and Libraries Without Walls

Of the readings, three are the jumping off point for this posting. Bobbi Newman writes that people need libraries to take on the task of helping them become transliterate (" Libraries and Transliteracy Slideshow," 2009). In her blog posting, Strange says “libraries provide ACCESS and COMMUNITY [Strange’s emphasis] to those who want it. And neither of those things, along with learning, are dependent on a technology, a medium, or a casing” ("Why we should stop caring," 2010). Finally, Charlotte Abbott poses the question as to whether e-books will destroy libraries ( 2010).

Libraries, in the meantime, appear to be stepping up to the challenge of the 21st century, offering a range of digital and traditional services. Edmonton Public Library (EPL), for one, appears to have invested heavily into its online presence at; it also is expanding its physical presence in communities such as Millwoods. People seem to be responding; in  2009, a population of 80,000 in that community generated 600,000 visits (“8278503222012045507648.PDF,” n.d.). In addition to its online presence and making e-books available to readers, the library is also lending e-readers (Unknown, 2012). It seems EPL’s wraparound approach isn’t limited to the provision of traditional offerings. A social worker has recently been hired at the downtown library to work with its regular users who have mental health and social issues. As the EPL says, “libraries act as community cornerstones that can help prevent and resolve societal challenges including drug abuse, crime and illiteracy that marginalize segments of the population” (“EPL receives over $600,000 for downtown community safety program,” 2011).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Assignment Two - Stalking Rheingold

 As I read through the postings, it was interesting how many times the thinking of certain thinkers emerged, such as Lessig, Bruns and Rheingold. Below are two word clouds using entries from the New Media Narratives blog. Rheingold is one of the 'bigger' names to emerge on the March 19 word cloud, although Bruns also makes an appearance. Using the power of the tag, I decided to follow Rheingold as he wandered through and influenced our submissions and offer a summation below. 

 My apology in advance for any misrepresentation of the intent of the blog postings referenced; all errors and omissions are those of the author, not the contributors.

February 18, 2012 – NMN word cloud (  

March 19, 2012 - NMN word cloud (

So, why Rheingold?

Rheingold approaches media literacy with an infectious brand of intellectual curiosity and plays up his personality and engagement with his subject and audience through his humour, playfulness and outrageous wardrobe – Don Cherry looks like an arch-conservative compared to Rheingold. It’s an everyman zeitgeist that takes the experiences we have on the internet and reflects them back in ways that deepen our appreciation of the power of the Web 2.0 powered world. 

As Rheingold says himself in Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies, he started first experiencing what he came to call virtual communities and went on to help create the this new field of cyberculture studies “only after personally experiencing something new, moving and authentic (para. 5, n.d.).

Rheingold creates a shared sense of experience with his reader;  we see our gossipy and otherwise selves in what he says in the same article about social networks from Illona’s posting Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies by Howard Rheingold:

“Online social networks can be powerful amplifiers of collective action precisely because they augment and extend the power of ever-complexifying human sociality. To be sure, gossip, conflict, slander, fraud, greed and bigotry are part of human sociality, and those parts of human behavior can be amplified, too. But altruism, fun, community and curiosity are also parts of human sociality−and I propose that the Web is an existence proof that these capabilities can be amplified, as well. Indeed, our species' social inventiveness is central to what it is to be human.”
 (Rheingold, 2011, para. 2) 

Smart Mobs
Jonathon Teghtmeyer referenced Rheingold when talking about Ito’s insights into the way that people need to be able to participate on the internet, at times being senders and/or producers of content and at other times taking on the role of receiver and/or user of content. Teghtmeyer goes on to point out that in Rheingold’s concept of the smart mob, what draws people together may be the ‘volume or persuasiveness of the content’ (Teghtmeyer, n.d.). 

Hillary Burridge gives examples of the ethical equivocation of smart mobs and talks about how Rheingold pointed out that smart mobs are not necessarily altruistic in her posting entitled When Smart Mobs Go Bad. Glenn Kubish goes on off the beaten social science path trek when he discusses MobEyes: Smart Mobs For Urban Monitoring With A Vehicular Sensor Network by Uichin Lee et al, but yet again, Rheingold’s contributions to thinking about affiliation and smart mobs emerge. 

Mobile Devices and Computer Hardware
The authors of MobEyes also bring out Rheingold’s fascination with the devices we use to access the internet. Whereas with Bruns and Shirky, the focus is predominantly on the electronic interaction, Rheingold discusses smart phones and what they mean for an interconnected world. Kubish draws on Rheingold’s insights in this area. “The diffusion of mobile devices, says Rheingold, “will help people coordinate actions with others around the world -- and, perhaps more importantly, with people nearby. Groups of people using these tools will gain new forms of social power, new ways to organize their interactions...” (xii-xiii).  

Illona draws out this aspect of Rheingold’s academic work as well in her posting about Clay Shirky , New Book “Here Comes Everybody” – YouTube video file, pointing out that Rheingold focuses on the impact of technology on the ability to write and publish in the video file, “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution”, whereas Shirky looks at the internet’s impact on group formation and collective action. 

Digital Literacies
Another contribution by Rheingold lies in his work on literacies for the digital age.  Glenn Kubish, Hillary Burridge and Jonathon Teghtmeyer all brought out this out in their blog postings.

Kubish and Burridge both talked about the importance of being able to determine if information and the motives of the people creating the content are trustworthy. Kubish quoted from Rheingold: “Perhaps the most important question about the future of augmenting collective action through the use of the Internet and mobile communication is the degree to which trustworthy and accurate information can be distinguished and screened from misleading, false, missourced information.” (2008, p. 237)

Burridge draws on the same point in talking about why videos go viral, noting that when a celebrity endorses a video, the “video is thrust in front of millions of people with the celebrity's seal of approval. As Howard Rheingold (2002) says, "reputation is one of the ways we mediate trust" (Burridge, n.d.).

Teghtmeyer provided a thoughtful posting on digital literacies and the call for them to be taught in the school system, pointing out that:

Bruns would likely include literacies that enable both the production elements required as well as the user elements. On the production side, elements of creativity, reasoning and collaboration would be critical, whereas on the usage side literacies related to attention, critical thinking and analysis would be favourable. These literacies with some overlap mesh nicely with ones outlined elsewhere by Howard Rheingold: attention, participation, credibility, collaboration and network awareness (Rheingold, 2010).

Teghtmeyer brings in an article written by Asselin and Moayeri, pointing out that their work on ‘expanding literacies for learning’ ‘complement Bruns and reinforce Rheingold’ (Teghtmeyer, n.d.). Asselin and Moayeri's literacies include criticality, metacognition, reflection, and skills for creating and publishing content” (p. 2). The authors draw out the distinction between using Web 2.0 in the classroom as a glorified electronic scribbler versus having students use the connectivity of Web 2.0 to truly master new Literacies and new ways of thinking, what the authors call “ ‘mindset two’ learning and knowledge: participatory, collaborative, multimodal, democratic, and distributive (2011, p. 4).

As Jarret Macleod said in his critique of Rheingold’s TedTalk, “Through scholars like Rheingold, we will perhaps one day be able to see the true collaborative power of the Internet (Howard Rheingold on collaboration | Video on, n.d.).

Rheingold combines his intellectual prowess with a willingness to give of self (one of the hallmarks of transformational leaders) as, alongside us, he explores our new media world. If he seems a bit glib at times, his pioneering work on smart mobs, digital literacies and cyberculture itself stand on their own merits. His wry running commentary is insightful and eminently quotable.


Asselin, M. & Moayeri, M. (2011). The Participatory Classroom: Web 2.0 in the Classroom. Practical Strategies – Literacy Learning: the Middle Years: 19(2).

Bruns, A. (2007). Produsage: A Working Definition [Online]. Available: [2012, Mar 17].

Clay Shirky on New Book “Here Comes Everybody”. [Video file]. Retrieved from 

Howard Rheingold Profile. TED: Ideas Worth Sharing. Retrieved from

Lee, U., Zhou, B., Gerla, M., Magistretti, E., Bellavista, P., & Corradi, A. (October 2006). MobEyes: Smart mobs for a urban monitoring with a vehicular sensor network.” IEEE Wireless Communications, 52-57

Rheingold, H. (2002). “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.” MIT World. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Rheingold, H. (2003). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Rheingold, H. (2008). Mobile media and political collective action. In J. E. Katz (Ed.), Handbook of mobile communication studies (pp. 225-237). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rheingold, H. (2008).  The new power of collaboration.(2008). Retrieved March 8, 2012, from []

Rheingold, H. (2010). Adora Svitak: A 12 Year Old on Digital Literacy [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Rheingold, H. & Ito, M. (2010). Video Interview: Mimi Ito on Participation Literacy, Part One of Three [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Rheingold, H. (2011). Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies. In ITO, J.(Eds.), FREESOULS captured and released.  Retrieved from