Saturday, September 7, 2013

Read/Write and Math (ED402) & #hashtag

Our discussion in ED402/Literacy got me thinking about the differences between reading and writing. Originally, I thought of reading and writing as two distinct activities. Reading was inputting information and writing was outputting information. Then I thought more about the topic. Reading is much more complex than that. When we read, we are taking some sort of external stimulus and thinking about it. However, the information is not all new. What we often do is read something and relate it to something that we already know. At no point while reading this paragraph has the reader encountered a new word. Instead, a series of words in this text is being rearranged to communicate ideas. So, reading is less about input and more about arranging ideas and making connections.

What is writing? Well, writing is arranging ideas and making connections. In that way, reading and writing are the same cognitive task. The biggest difference is medium. When we read, it is a cognitive task. Physical manifestations like the movement of the eyes along the text or the mouthing of words might occur, but what is really going on is in the brain. Similarly, when we write, we are still arranging ideas and searching for the right word. It is the same activity as reading, it is just that there is a different, more overt, set of physical manifestations. Whether I am thinking about what sentence I am going to write next or evaluating the sentence I just wrote, I am doing the same thing.

Related to literacy, I gained a new idea of the components of literacy. Being literate means knowing how to navigate, understand context and extract meaning. I think that the part about being able to extract meaning is the part that most people understand as being literate. If I can take this jumble of stick figures and curves and turn into sounds or ideas, that is the basic aspect of literacy. The idea of navigating was something completely new for me. It is about knowing where to look for information. Part of that concept is related to syntactic literacy, the ability to understand grammar and sentence structure. If I write that "Alruk is welderl", then English speakers will be slightly confused. They will have no idea what "Alruk" is, but they will still know that it is a person, place, thing or idea. More specifically, they will know that "Alruk" is not just any noun but also the subject of the sentence. Furthermore, they might not know what "welderl" means, but they will have a good idea that is is an adjective.

Literacy has the potential to be a rather complex topic. We'll see how the semester goes.

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