Sunday, November 18, 2012

Way Out There

This is going to be one of those way out there posts. I had some free time today, if you count walking back in the cold at night from the grocery store as free time. It was free time, though, in the sense that my mind was free to go where it wanted.

I was musing on words. As an English teacher, I think about words a lot. I am also a person who actually thinks in words a lot. My husband thinks in images. When he describes something, he can see it. I have to make a little movie in my head, very deliberately, and even then, if it's not something I've seen before, I can have trouble "seeing" things in my head.

I can see words, though. I have even typed out my dreams at times. In my dreams, I was typing and I read the content. I am convinced that Typing I and Typing II were two of the most useful classes I had in high school. I had amazing English teachers as well, and a few others, but Typing was incredibly practical. It has allowed me to do work much faster than I would do if I was either a poor typist or if I had to write.

So, I was thinking about my son and how he's not very good at typing. He's ten years old. Ten years back when I taught K-12 computers, I would have said that young kids don't need to know how to type. I would have found all sorts of statistics on motor skills; I would have schlepped out a whole bunch of arguments about how much PE or art time they were missing to learn the home row keys, etc... Today my mind is different.

When we put pencils in our children's hands, they might not be ready for them. My son at ten and so many of my students at 12+ have such bad handwriting, but unless they practice, they won't get better. Some won't get better anyhow, but they need to try.

The computer is here to stay. (Hooray!) So I ask myself, "What about the keyboard?" I haven't thought much about alternate keyboards until tonight, but here are my thoughts on the mouse, and they aren't too positive.

I've been dreaming of a mouse glove for years, a little device that would attach to my index finger and would work without me moving my hand down to a touchpad or over to a mouse. So far it seems like this is the best I can get - Not the device I have been imagining, but hopefully a step in the right direction.(Although the foot mouse is kind of a cool idea)

Back to the keyboard. We do have the ability to talk to our computers. My friend Ellen loves Siri on her phone and my college professor with Parkinsons would not be able to blog prolifically without his Dragon Naturally Speaking. I dabbled with Rosetta Stone learning Korean and was fairly impressed on how well it understood my Korean. That's funny, isn't it? The computer understood my Korean when real people don't?

Back to my walk. I was thinking about words and computers. It seems like we cannot separate the two. While my students have done some amazing work using images to tell stories and communicate ideas, there is a depth and specificity available in the written word that is not available in images. Images serve a different function. For me to think about getting this very point across solely in images is difficult. What would I show? I would need to show words. I suppose I could use two very different images, one of which is very specific and another which is not, but as long as we talk in words, we will continue to be text-based, even for computers.

Yes, multimedia is here to stay. Content that is not based upon the written word will continue to grow, but the written word will be with us for quite some time. 


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