Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy B'day MM

It's Marshall McLuhan's birthday. Today, I think that the most famous of McLuhan's ideas, "the medium is the message," is more timely than ever. He added, by way of explanation, that when the medium changes, everything about the medium and the message changes as well. It was mesmerizing to hear McLuhan's own voice explaining this on the radio this morning.
This is exactly what we are exploring and pondering when it comes to integrating technology into classroom practice. How often have we noted over the past year or two that it's not just about the tools? The curriculum itself needs to be reimagined in order to truly transform the learning experience for our students.
Or maybe it's a matter of rethinking access to the same content. In fact, a la McLuhan, the nature of the content will change if learning a topic includes modes spanning print, voice, image, video. It will become not just 3D, but a new dimension will open in the student's thinking if they incorporate these different modes of input. And finally, if they are creating their own content, they will have models beyond the personal forum of FB as their personal channels.
In my thinking at the moment I certainly welcome the engagement that the tools themselves offer. I say Yes to anything that helps reach reluctant readers and writers. But I am still trying to get the hang of making units and lessons that integrate subjects, that make tech intrinsic, that use the tech to bring the world into the classroom and that prompt the students to publish in new dimensions.
That is the message that I think relates back to McLuhan. It is also reflected in the thinking of Will Richardson and the ideas of Clay Shirky in discussions of technology integration.
The use of tech throughout the curriculum has to be used to create more immediate learning experiences involving voices from beyond the walls of the classroom. Otherwise it's just backlit text and pictures being read, instead of those made by ink on paper. Having said that, back to the drawing board. Time to look at some of the grade 8 topics that I know I will be teaching next year.

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