Thursday, August 1, 2013

Level Completed (ED504)

Three thoughts on Text, Search and the Screen: Three questions and their answers in the reverse order

How do we reconcile Nel Nodding's assertion in Education and Democracy in the 21st Century that "[w]ith available technology, we can always find facts and details, we need not memorize long lists of them" (p. 42) with Daniel Willingham's statement in Why Don't Students Like School when he comes to "a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts" (Chapter 2, Kindle)?

How do we reconcile that strategies of "talking to the text" described in the Reading Apprentices Framework with the screen literacy skills required for taking computer based tests and the movement towards digital text?

Has search made citations an anachronism?

If you Google "a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts" the third search result will offer a summary of Willingham's book. When writing a paper, I have to include the publisher in the references list because [insert plausible reason here]. For some reason, I will spend half an hour figuring out periods and commas in a citation with the goal of [insert reasonable goal here]. Certainly there is a purpose in giving credit to the originator of an idea. Beyond that, it seems like the formal citation has become an anachronism. Listing the publisher and the year printed made sense if someone wanted to find a book in a bookstore, but bookstores don't exist anymore. A Google search for "Willingham a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable" leads to an entire first page of Daniel Willingham results, with multiple links to the book showing up. Even if you shorten the search to "Willingham scientifically challengeable" Google will still take you directly to the book or Dan Willingham's site.

Talking to the text can still work in a digital world, it will just look different. I use my Kindle to annotating and highlighting text. Again, we see search changing the way that we use text. I can easily electronically compile all my highlights into one document. I can search through my notes or for any key phrase in the text. In this case, we are still talking to the text, it just looks more like typing to the text. I am using a different input device, but still accomplishing the same tasks of noting important points and asking questions about the blurry parts. The real question comes about when taking a standardized tests, where highlighting the text on the screen is impossible. That is still a mystery as to how talking to the text will work.

Finally, Noddings later admits to the need for some basic knowledge. Willingham finds the memorization of 'longs lists of facts' useful for building up background knowledge, making connections and building new concepts. In this case, we'll trust the cognitive psychologist when he says that memorizing facts giving students a cognitive advantage.


  1. Hi!
    I think analyzing the reason behind the tasks we ask students to do is a great idea. You take it further by thinking about whether the reason is outdated due to technology, whether the same objective is accomplished by doing something different ways, and what is lost cognitively when we rely on technology.

    I'm still trying to figure out why we have to cite things... Parentheticals make sense because it reminds us what ideas are our own and ensures that claims aren't made without support. As for the information we include in the references, maybe the year is helpful if there are multiple editions or author is useful if you paraphrase/have info asserted by multiple authors? But yeah, they are rather annoying!

    Thanks for compiling these thoughts!

    1. From this morning's Farmer-Hinton Reading, consider one of the in-text citations.
      "(Ceja 2000; Farmer-Hinton 2008; Freeman 1997, 1999; Gonza´lez et al. 2003; Hossler et al. 1999; Kaufman and Chen 1999; Kozol 1991; Levine and Nidiffer 1996; McDonough 2004; Noguera 2003; Plank and Jordan 2001;Roderick et al. 2006; Schneiderand Stevenson 1999; Stanton-Salazar 1997; Stanton-Salazarand Dornbusch 1995; Veneziaet al. 2003; Wimberly and Noeth 2004; Yun and Moreno 2006)." (p. 572)

      I remember one of the earlier readings during orientation week that went something like "Ice cream is cold (Hiesenberg 1947; Cohen 1983), tastes very good (Dinh 2007; Lemoyne, Everard, Song, et. al 2013; Smith 2008), comes in vanilla (Hagen and Das 1987) and chocolate (Ben and Jerry 1967), loved by children (Crosby, Nash, Young 1978) and a major cause of obesity in children (Dinosaurs, 1999; Crichton 1987; Malcolm et. al 1993)." It's almost unreadable. The parenthetical citations completely interrupt any flow and make the sentence difficult to decode, much less understand.

  2. You know, I've never stopped to think about the impact of digitalization on references and citations, but it's very interesting. You're totally right, Google does pretty much all of the work for us nowadays. Do you think our process of citing works needs to be updated? If so, to what extent?
    Your point about talking to the text on standardized tests is a good one, too. I'm the kind of person who likes to go through and cross stuff off, and to flip between questions quickly. I don't know about technological limitations, but perhaps eventually a tablet and stylus could start to help with this? But for the present, I think it's a very valid point to raise, especially if the inability to write on a test paper or scratch sheet could impact student performance.

    1. For the research papers that I wrote in high school, we had to included a packet of photocopies or printings of any text that we cited. Now that we are in the 21st Century, we should be able to do the same thing, only better. At no point in the program have we ever turned in physical work, so we should be able to use the advantage of links/hypertext. If I use a direct quote, I can click on the quote and it will take me to a copy of the specific place from where it came. While the quality of Wikipedia articles often leaves us wanting, the design is first rate. If I have any doubts or confusion about what I am reading I can go straight to the source.

      Part of me thinks that in-text citations are an "ad hominem" justification for making our own thoughts look more credible. It as if I write something down and then put (Dewey) after it, it somehow makes it a better idea because someone famous once wrote down the same thought.

  3. Greg, thanks for the insightful post(s)! While I am inclined to comment as you have on your blog, I crafted my own blog to present ideas from EDUC 504 and our other classes as they might be experienced in situ sometime in the future. It has also given me the creative writing outlet that I presently crave. Nevertheless, coming here to read what you have written is, in a way, refreshing.

    First, I believe that there is some merit to what both Noddings and Willingham discuss in their respective texts, as you later outlined. While I don't believe that it is possible to be an omniscient human, the ability to have and use factual knowledge as part of problem-solving and decision-making does seem to be important. Technology, in various forms, could be a valuable tool, but it can also be a crutch. So, what happens if the tool or crutch is out of our possession and/or presence?

    Second, if I remember correctly, Jenalyn said that she is able to "write" on documents on her iPad and save them by using a specific app. That might help to reconcile "talk to the text" with a movement toward digital text. As for screen literacy skills, I would advocate for teaching students both print and screen literacy skills. I believe that, presently, it is both possible and imperative to do both. But, maybe technology needs to catch up to what we are able to envision technology doing. (Doesn't it always seem that way? People such as Jules Verne, for example, were just ahead of their time in what they could not so much predict as suggest.) Perhaps sometime in the near future, assessments, including standardized test, will all be on a screen that will allow students to highlight and annotate.

    Third, I do not believe that citations per se are anachronistic. Not everything is digitized. Are all archaeological engravings digitized? Are all texts that make up a world of literature digitized? Are all pieces of artwork digitized? I think that I could list more questions along those lines, but I can admit, at the very least, that there does seem to be a lot that is available through some electronic pathway. As for how we reference, though, I agree that certain styles do seem rather clunky, get in the way of decoding and exercising fluency, and simply detract from the reading experience on the whole. But, maybe it's just the parenthetical citation style that is clunky, etc. Endnotes (and maybe footnotes) provide a more aesthetic alternative, and you make a good point in a comment about links and the Wikipedia design, at least for those things that are contemporaneously digitized. One final note: There is a proprietary issue that might preclude us from clicking on a link that might otherwise bring us from one source to another.

    1. 1) I think we've come to a consensus. Knowing things is useful in part because technology isn't always reliable.

      2) The idea of taking a standardized test on tablet was not what I was considering; I was thinking about the standard desktop computer. If a student is using a tablet and a stylus, the experience is going to be much more like the paper. I am still not used to a world where touch interfaces are the norm.

      3) I skimmed a slightly dated article:

      The article claims that "humans have 'published' at least 32 million books, 750 million articles and essays, 25 million songs, 500 million images, 500,000 movies, 3 million videos, TV shows and short films and 100 billion public Web pages." It goes on to say that storing all that data would take 50 petabytes of storage (50,000 terabytes). If we just wanted one digital copy of all the items listed in the article, we copy have them put on hard drives and stack them in a room the size of one of the bathrooms at the SOE. If we want duplicate copies and wires connecting all this stuff to the internet, we're talking about a building the size of a house. While every book and article is not yet digitized, that day is not that far away. I would put it in the realm of years away, not decades.
      (Google is also working on pieces of art,

      Furthermore, the process of digitizing becomes part of the research. For our work with our Scarlet students, we had to make copies of their work as artifacts. It was really easy. I used my camera, took two pictures of everything (in case one turned out blurry) and then had a digital copy. In the last ten years, it has gotten really easy to make digital copies. You used to have to have a flatbed scanner and a computer, now a camera-phone works just as well.

      I'm not sure if I explained the linking well. In my head, I was thinking of internal links. Every image, page or article that was cited in my composition would be part of one file or in one folder. So, if I cited a statistics that you doubted, you could click on the sentence and a copy of the original table that I pulled the data from would pop-up (regardless of whether you were connected to the internet). This is something that I could do with Notepad and using the little bit of HTML knowledge that I retain from my youth. To a certain extent, Word already has this feature. If you use the headings, you can have Word create a table of contents that will scroll to the write place in a Word document with a single click. This is already technologically doable, it's just a matter of making it more user-friendly. Maybe over the summer break I'll write a research paper using my idealized citation method.

      I am glad that everyone I have talked to finds parenthetical documentation either aesthetically or functionally unpleasant.

      4) I enjoyed reading the narrative you wrote for your blog, although for the sequel I hope you pick a different font. I got in the habit of copying your posts into Word and switching the font when I read.

    2. First, thanks for the lengthy reply. Second, on that last note (#4), thanks for the feedback on the font.