We live in an increasingly reflective society. Some would say it is merely narcissism, but I believe that the key affordance of digital technologies is that they allow us to capture moments in time, moments of spontaneity, and then reflect on them. The implications of this for education are enormous. Stephan Harnad has theorized that this confluence of the immediacy of oracy with the reflective power of literacy constitutes a Fourth Cognitive Revolution. While this may be too sweeping a claim to call right off the bat, I believe it is important for teachers to start exploring how to use digital technologies to open up this immediate-reflective, oracy-literacy space.
At the end of last term I finished off with a poetry slam with my grade 10 Academy English class. The Academy is an after-school initiative by Roedean, where girls from inner-city schools in the area attend Maths, Science and English classes. I teach English and I try t try to supplement what they are doing in their own schools with a programme designed to promote digital and communicative skills generally. With the poetry slam each girl had twenty minutes to compose a poem on one of three given themes. They could compose on paper, or on computer, but if on paper had to scan their poem for digital upload. Most of the girls chose to compose on computer, although some used a combination of writing down ideas on paper and then typing their poem out.
At the end of twenty minutes we went outside to the cultural courtyard, and each girl performed her poem, to loud clapping, ululations and great support. The girls then voted on the winning performance. In the meantime, of course they had already uploaded their poems, in Word, or scanned, onto their Moodle page. I took plenty of pictures of the poetry readings, and put together a composite of pictures and poems (where permission had been granted) on the class Facebook page.
When the girls return to school after the holidays they will have an opportunity to read the poems, and leave comments on the Facebook page. While the space of a few weeks between the performance and the reflection is not ideal, I think some distance is also helpful. In any event I needed some time to put the poems and pictures together. It is my hope that the students will be able to use the time reading the poems to reflect on what it meant for them as audience, and how it impacted on their sense of identity.
I chose to use Facebook because I don’t want the reflection to be seen as an academic exercise. I just want the students to be able to read a few of the poems (laboriously cut and pasted), and relive the photos. I was hoping that some of the girls would be checking out the Facebook page over their holidays, but no-one has to date!