Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Socrates Would Go... 2.0

I've been dropping knowledge from Proust and the Squid in just about every conversation for the last week or so, and using the research and questions to drive my lesson planning. I'm only 90 pages deep but just finished a section about Socrates's protests of written language. It's not in front of me to quote (and I gotta blog when I have time) but he essentially said that written language will destroy the memory, for one, and that it gives words and ideas an authority that they shouldn't necessarily be afforded. Dialogue, on the other hand, requires memorization and analysis of all hitherto cultural knowledge, and leaves ideas up for challenge and revision. Wolf points out that Socrates's concerns are the same as our modern concerns about digital literacy and communication.

But there's a different comparison that has me thinking and questioning. She also points out that Plato, all the while, is putting Socrates's dialogues to writing. He had a better guess at what might be possible with the written word. Socrates didn't live long enough to see writing past its infancy. That's where I find myself and my school one year into a one-to-one laptop initiative. There are so many issues: distraction, bullying, superficial knowledge, reliance on Google, memorization-what's that. And there are maybe just a few places where the integration of technology has made better, after the cost-benefit analysis, teaching and learning. And mostly, I think we find ourselves doing the same things, just digitally.

I find myself in a funny place, between the two camps. I love my noteback and paperback, but don't have whole poems or books memorized. I can see the benefits of digital literacy, but how do I balance it all, helping my students navigate a new form of communication meaningfully. Sometimes it feels like a lot of guesswork, in the company of Plato, I guess I can deal. I think Socrates would have a blog too, since the written word has been networked. Authority of voice and content is a different matter now. Conversation doesn't necessarily entail only the auditory.

Can't wait to make it through the next few chapters and the discussion of how to purposefully teach new and old literacies.

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