The classroom teacher of the future is already here.
It’s a pop-up version of the 19th century schoolmarm wrapped up in a Monty-Python circus of images. Smartphones and digital tablets have replaced phonics, spelling, and sentence sense.
As the world of learning shifts toward cyberspace and Power Point presentations, educational gurus are gearing up for the media coup de grace.
The written word (the legacy of 2,500 years of the printed word) has been replaced with a hodgepodge of visual clusters on a virtual white board.
Case in point: Although the definition of literacy remains a hotly contested topic among educators and researchers, it is hard to deny that technology is driving the debate: It appears that technology has sounded the death knell for reading and writing as we know it.
No doubt, this new approach to literacy could solve the illiteracy problem once and for all. In a world where half the people cannot read and write, the problem of illiteracy is irrelevant if nobody can read and write.
Think about it.
If standard literacy education is suddenly wiped out, there’s no need to teach reading to anyone. One cannot fail in school, because school is only a state of mind, which only exists in the flickering imagery spouting from a data projector. Meaning is whatever the audience makes it. And to quote a guru of the 1970s, “the medium is the message.”
In the future, no one will read—that is, decode words in a linear fashion for meaning—once literacy has been replaced with hyper-textual images in a floating mirage of multi-media.
Instead of discussing literature in a contextual sense, the student of the future will become the message—the context.
If you are skeptical, look at the boardrooms and college lecture halls.
Dynamic multi-media presentations have replaced round-table discussions and office meetings, and the speed at which technology is altering classroom communication is overwhelming.
Currently, in high schools across the country, many students are expected to present complex visual ideas using a variety of multimedia applications without serious direct instruction.
Student ability to “participate fully in public, community and economic life” is quickly being redefined through emerging technology.
The verbal and the visual now are locked in perpetual cosmic conflict.
As we move to an increasingly visually-dominated culture, where students are expected to code and decode complex messages in a variety of ways, it’s only natural that visual instruction will incorporate visual media.
Meanwhile, visual literacy is loosely defined as the ability to communicate and understand through visual means.
On the other hand, one rather obtuse pedagogical definition puts it this way: “Understanding and competent control of representational formats that are becoming increasingly significant in the overall communications environment, such as visual images and their relationship to the written word—for instance, visual design in desktop publishing or the interface of visual and linguistic meaning in multimedia.”
Well, why didn’t they just say so in the first place?
Gosh, anybody could figure that one out. Or could they? On second thought, my grandmother had a word for that kind of gobble-de-gook: she simply called it bulls**t.
Because hypermedia is non-linear in nature, it reflects a fragmented approach to literacy, one that differs greatly from print reading.
No wonder our language is disintegrating before our eyes as students increasingly are altering the way they write online.
As literate society continues to relinquish sequential control over language, it’s only a matter of time until slovenly communicators customize their messages to conform to whatever configuration they relish now.
This shift in communication is fundamentally changing the way generations to come will think about books, reading, and writing.
If the goal of literacy education is to empower students with the tools to communicate effectively and thrive successfully in society, shouldn’t we consider the current literacy demands of the technological age? After all, who is going to teach literacy to our children if we fail to do it?
Top o’ the morning!