Illuminated Texts

Illuminated texts, otherwise referred to as digital storytelling in my Cybertexts class, at its most basic core is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories. Digital storytelling revolves around the idea of combining the art of storytelling with a variety of multimedia, including; graphics; audio; video; and web publishing.

Like traditional storytelling, most digital stories focus on a specific topic and contain a particular point of view. However, as the name implies, digital s usually contain some mixture of computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips, and/or music. The topics used in digital storytelling range from personal tales to the recounting of historical events, from exploring life in one’s own community to the search for life in other corners of the universe, and literally, everything in between. Researcher and digital culture consultant, John Seely Brown described digital storytelling this way:

“I’m particularly interested in Digital Storytelling, in new ways to use multiple media to tell stories and in the ability of kids, who are now growing up in a digital world, to figure out new ways to tell stories. They have the ability to build interpretive movies very simply and to lay sound tracks around the content. They condition or “sculpture” the context around the content. The serious interplay between context and content is key to what film—and rich media in general—are about.”

Today the use of digital storytelling is being practiced in neighbourhood community centres, schools, libraries and businesses, by novice technology users to those with advanced skills. In the field of education, teachers and their students, from early childhood classrooms through graduate school, are using digital storytelling in many different content areas and across a wide range of grade levels. 

There are several ways that digital storytelling can incorporated into classroom practice, a notable example being Inanimate Alice. Inanimate Alice is a new media fiction that allows students to develop multiple literacies (literary, cinematic, artistic, etc.) in combination with the highly collaborative and participatory nature of the online environment. The media is interactive, requiring the reader to drive the story forward at their own pace, encouraging them to co-create their own versions of the story, either filling in the gaps or developing new strands. It uses text, images, music, sound effect, puzzles and games to illustrate and enhance the narrative. The story itself is episodic, at the time of writing four episodes are available and they can be read on any device capable of running Flash Player. The website also provides a lesson pack with suggestions on how to use the media in the classroom over four lessons.

Another effective application for integrating digital storytelling within the classroom is Tellagami. With Tellagami, you begin by creating a character, after that, you can select a pre-supplied backdrop or use one from your pictures. One teacher, Richard Byrne, takes a picture of the front of the classroom and has his character introduce him to the class. After customising your character and background, you can choose how you want your character to talk, which can be done by typing or by recording your voice (with recording your voice however, you will only have 30 seconds to relay your message). Some ideas that Byrne puts forward are: having your character tell a story; pick a person in history and have them introduce themselves; use a plant cell as a background and have the avatar name and discuss the function of each part of the cell; recite a famous poem or speech; read a poem they wrote; take a trip or go back in time and describe the location/time period; speak in Spanish, French, Mandarin or any other language. Tellagamis can also be linked into the class blog, if there is one, by using the embedding function to embed the video into the page. Sounds like something fun that all the children can sink their fingers into, right? The only drawback with this program is its accessibility, unlike Inanimate Alice, which can be displayed on the class whiteboard for all to see, Tellagami is an app, which needs a suitable platform to work the app on. Although the videos can be viewed through the class smartboard, in order to create an animation their selves, the learners will need to be able to access a phone or tablet that has the app on it.

Of course, there are many more strategies and applications that can be used to integrate digital storytelling into the classroom and it’s something I personally would be interested in doing. What about you? Do you think there’s a place for digital storytelling in the classroom?

Advertisements

eBooks

Ahhhhh eBooks. A form of technology sharing the epicentre of a huge debate: “what’s better? EBooks or physical books?” Now, to be clear, I’m not writing about the debate in this post and I’d like to avoid it at all costs. It’s a personal rule of mine to not jump into an argument online with a bunch of strangers. However, I will talk about some of the benefits it holds over physical books in the classroom. This blog is about using text-related technologies to improve teaching and learning in the classroom, after all.

 

Now, you might be saying that eBooks don’t hold a candle to the practical range of uses one might find for a physical book, but the view would be wrong. Now, that’s a bold statement, outright declaring that somebody’s view is wrong. But in this scenario, it would be. EBooks and traditional books (which I’m going to refer to simply as books from here now) do hold some differences. A striking feature of e-book apps, which are generally viewed on iPads, pods, phones, e-readers and android, is that a reader can touch the screen of their device in order to activate various features. Including colour balances, dictionary applications and even articulation applications to pronounce words you might struggle to read. Options like this not only encourage students to learn visually, but also kinaesthetically, because they have to use their fingers to activate the different features of the applications.

 

There are some justified beliefs that the multimodal features (animations, sounds, etc.) of interactive e-books may potentially distract children as they read and make sense of the story (Burrell & Trushell, 1997; Matthew, 1996). However, studies have found that reading motivation appears higher after children interact with multimodal texts, especially among children with reading difficulties (Glasgow, 1996). On top of this, eBooks can be presented in an individualised format. Students with special needs (ELL, visually impaired, struggling readers) may benefit from the additional text tools available with the use of electronic texts (Larson, 2010). A case study conducted by Larson found that a teacher, Mrs. Miles, who only had one classroom computer, relied heavily on a ceiling-mounted LCD projector to display the computer screen during whole-class instruction. Through shared literacy experiences, her students frequently read and responded to digital texts. During weekly visits to the school’s computer lab, the second graders practiced independent computer skills or engaged in Internet explorations. In addition, Mrs. Miles encouraged her students to use the class blog to share their opinions about books that they read in class (Larson, 2010).

 

If my talk of eBooks has piqued your interest in integrating eReaders into classroom practice, then let me tell you one possible method of introducing the idea to the school. To get started, you should communicate closely with school administrators and technology staff to develop common literacy and technology goals. Discuss funding options for acquiring digital readers and subsequent e-books (i.e., grants, PTA/PTO support, or fundraisers). You must also decide how to effectively use the digital readers during whole-class instruction, literature circles, and individual reading experiences. If the access to digital readers is limited, download multiple book titles on each device, which can be shared by several students. Use a visual presenter and projector to initially introduce the e-book reader’s many tools and features. During ensuing lessons, students may further use this technology to share digital notes or favourite text passages with their classmates.

 

Secondly, craft a schedule that allows each student frequent blocks of uninterrupted reading time. Establish class expectations for note taking and markings in the e-books, particularly if multiple students share a digital reader. Decide if students have the right to access one another’s books and if they can read one another’s notes. Also, consider if multiple students may add notes in the same book, possibly responding to one another’s notes and comments.

 

Finally, as students read and respond to e-books, it is important that teachers carefully observe their reading behaviours. Note how students access and use e-book tools and features (e.g., font size, dictionary, text-to-speech). Review students’ notes and mark-ups on a regular basis. Carefully consider types of notes written, as well as strategies for nudging students toward a broader repertoire of response options. Encourage students to share how the digital readers support their individual reading processes.

 

The sad reality of eBooks in the classroom is that it can’t be done properly without the appropriate funding, and with an incredibly large amount that would be needed for the classroom, even if they are shared between students, makes it difficult to guarantee its integration. EBooks will not magically make the reading experience the best it ever will be for an emerging reader, the factors that encourage reading must all still be there, including the most important factor, parental support. What about you? Would you ever want schools to integrate eReaders into the classroom environment?

Tray

Have you ever come across an ingenious program that holds an exponential amount of potential for use inside a classroom with a name that equally scales in common use? I have. That program is called Tray. And I dare you to try and find out anything about it with Google.

Tray is a completely open-ended piece of software (a phrase that consistently makes me weak in the knees, in case you wanted to know) and can be used with emergent readers right through to sophisticated textual analysis at A-level. Does this sound like a teacher’s best friend to you yet?

Tray is ideal for using collaboratively with pairs, mixed ability groups or with whole class involvement. Initially it will need some non-directive support and assistance from the teacher, just like the majority of new-fangled technologies, but because the program works very well with a large screen or on an interactive whiteboard, this task is made simple.

The program supports reading development by showing that reading is not simply a visual process but relies on anticipation which confirms language and meaning through a very light sampling of the text. Implicit grammatical and syntactical awareness can be foregrounded and made explicit and helps pupils practise and strengthen their grasp on the invisible cueing systems (semantic, syntactic, logical, affective or stylistic) upon which fluent reading depends. It enables pupils to engage in collaborative exploration of written texts and can support analysis of more complex and demanding texts. TRAY is based on the belief that comprehension is a case of emergent understanding and although the examples that are supplied with the program are usually poetry, it can be used with any form of text. On top of that the program provides provisions for you to create your own texts, making it very flexible.

So what’s the teacher’s role in a program that can be used autonomously by the pupils? The learners will initially need support during the Tray-based activities from the teacher. After the first attempts the teacher will need to encourage more fruitful approaches to using the technology be encouraging speculation and the use of the scratchpad feature. As time goes on and the learners gain more experience with using the program, the teacher should start to discourage frequent checking of individual letters and encourage larger units of text to be attempted before checking, therefore improving their skills in grammatical and syntactical awareness. The learners will also benefit from debate in the group as to why some decoding might be right or wrong. Initially, it’ll be up to the teacher to encourage the debates. Once the children become competent with the program the teacher will be able to step back and allow them to continue their autonomous development. Of course, competition is always a good motivator, so the introduction to prizes through high scores may be excellent encouragement for some development.

In Tray, you can change the appearance of the text at the start of the session by changing which letters are revealed and which are kept concealed, allowing the teacher and learners to adjust the degree of difficulty while using the program. Earlier session will naturally provide a lot of information so that speculation and prediction can begin immediately. A great way of keeping track of the predictions and progress would be to jot down the attempts and letters used on a piece of paper.

With all that being said, what do you think? Does Tray have a place inside the classroom? And just how hard is it to find anything out about it using Google?

Wikis in the classroom

Despite the constant instruction that many students face around exam time to “absolutely never use Wikipedia to help with your assignments”, could the structure of the wiki and its open source nature prove to be beneficial to teaching and learning in the classroom?

 

Given that I’m a teacher trainee, I have an unspoken obligation to lean on the side of ‘the classroom is a no Wikipedia zone’. However, there are more to wikis than Wikipedia. A wiki is a web site that lets any visitor become a participant, it allows you to create or edit the actual site contents without any special technical knowledge or tools. Pretty handy, right?

 

 So then, why use a wiki? Wikis are generally used by people collaborating on projects or trying to share things online, for instance, travels journals from abroad and collaborative cookbooks. In other cases wikis are used for free expression, such a s a youth group online graffiti space. The greatest potential that lies in the use of wikis for educational purposes is the student participation in the on-going creation and evolution of a wiki.

 

Sounds like a tricky thing to integrate into the classroom, doesn’t it? Here are some neat ideas to give you an insight on how to use a wiki in the classroom:

 

  • Listings and commentary on independent reading students have done throughout the year.
  • Collaborative book reviews or author studies.
  • A virtual tour on your school as you study “our community” in KS1.
  • A primary class “encyclopaedia” on a special topic, such as explorers or history, which can be continued and added to each year.
  • A travel log from a field trip or non-field trip that the class would have liked to take as a culmination of a unit of study. For example, our (non) trip to the moon and what we (wish) we saw. 
  • Detailed and illustrated descriptions of scientific processes. For instance; how mountains form; a wiki “fan club” for your favourite authors.
  • Family tradition wiki – primary students share their family’s ways of preparing holiday dinners or celebrating birthdays (either anonymous or not) and compare them to practices in other cultures they read and learn about.

 

Of course if you’re looking for any justification for implementing such a teaching strategy then you have Blooms Taxonomy to back you up. Wikis build creativity skills, especially elaboration and fluency; they also help to build creative flexibility in accepting others’ edits. Something that may become increasingly important as a child grows and has to continue working in group projects. Wikis encourage a hitch-hiking on ideas, a type of creative elaboration and analytical thinking. It encourages the learners to dive deeper and in more detail into the topic their wiki revolves around: If X is true, then what about Y? And because a wiki is continuously under revision, the introduction of wikis for collaborative projects will also introduce and reinforce the idea to learners that a creative piece is never “finished”. Even though there are many creative benefits, the connections to Blooms Taxonomy continue on into: synthesis & evaluation; engagement; interpersonal; writing; and metacognition.

 

When creating a wiki for a collaborative project in the classroom, there will be many basic decisions that need to be taken into consideration:

 

  • How do you envision using the wiki? (How will you explain it to parents?)
  • Who will be able to see the wiki? (The public? Members only?)
  • Who will be able to edit the wiki? (The public? Members only? Vary by section?)
  • Who will be able to join the wiki? (students only? Parents? Invited guests? The public?)
  • What parts of the wiki will you “protect” (lock from changes)?
  • Who will moderate the wiki for appropriateness etc.?
  • Who will have the ability to reset changes?
  • Will you, as the teacher, be notified of all changes?
  • Will the wiki have individual or global memberships? (by individual students if you want an individual record of who made changes, or with one log-in per group or class?)

 

An issue with any implementation of teaching strategies is safe guarding and security. In order to guarantee the safety of the learner’s information on their wikis, it is vital that you can make the following settings in your wiki:

 

  • Protect certain pages from changes, preventing accidental erasures. These settings should be located in the manage space/page options or settings.
  • Set the entire wiki to private view, making it only visible and editable by members, if such is your school’s policy. Again, this should be in the manage page options or settings.
  • Set the entire wiki to protected or member-only editing, if you wish to prevent non-student visitors from making changes.
  • Make sure that any wiki tool you choose permits YOU to view and edit the page.

 

The other issue, of course, is copyright protection. Wikis CAN include writing, images, sound and video files. Most wikis will fall under a special copyright agreement called Creative Commons. This essentially means that any content users place on the wiki can be used by others under a “share and share alike” arrangement. Meaning at all Creative Commons must be properly cited.

 

Like most of the digital texts strategies I’ve mentioned so far, I’d recommend integrating wikis into the classroom. Despite its potential issues it holds many benefits for teachers and learners alike. Just remember when you start out using wikis in the classroom to be careful of the content they carry and that it’s a time consuming strategy. Like most strategies, it won’t bear fruit overnight. 

Creative writing and Twitter

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that Twitter doesn’t look like a model application for teaching creative writing to primary school students. Up until very recently I would’ve have cocked my head to one side and said the very same too. But Twitter and its 140 character limit would prove you otherwise.

 

Twitter, for those of you who may not know, is an online social networking and microblogging service. Its primary function is to enable users to send and read “tweets”, which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets but unregistered users can only read them. At the time of writing, there are three different methods users can access twitter, these include through websites, SMS or the app for smartphones. Twitter was created in March, 2006 and in 2012 it had 500 million registered users. It has been described as “the SMS of the Internet”.

 

Next, let’s take a look at what you can do on Twitter. Despite the implied simple functionality that Twitter holds in the above description, it certainly does have a few uses. The first being that it provides users with real-time information that can connect you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting. In other words it has the potential to tie you to a network that suits your needs!

 

Twitter’s functionality of being able to provide real-time information has proved itself to be very dependable in important global news & activities. A recent example of this is the 2013 Turkish protests (dubbed Occupy Gezi), in which protestors and police clashed rather violently. This is an event I do not intend to go into all that much, but I highly recommend you read up on it. I feel that the news didn’t cover it quite well enough at the time but through online articles and social media sites you can truly see the extensive damage that had been caused by the government in this incident.

 

The first news received worldwide about the Occupy Gezi event was through Twitter, where 90% of the tweets made about the event came from within Turkey. Twitter was being used to spread information about the demonstrations from the ground, providing outsiders with real-time information and those who had access to Twitter information on where in the areas of protest were safe, as the government had decided to take violent, suppressive action on all of those involved. At the time, Twitter was an undeniably valuable source of unbiased information for protestors and outsiders alike.  There are some more articles on Occupy Gezi are here, here, here and here. And of course, the Prime Minister of Turkey was not exactly pleased with the role Twitter played in the protests.

 

Twitter is also a form of microblogging, similar to mass text messaging. Imaging sending out a text to a couple of people, or a couple of hundred people, or even a couple of thousand people. The amount of people you can send this message out to is only limited to the number of followers you have on your Twitter, even then the number can be increased by using hashtags. Of course, it won’t take as long to send the text out nor will it potentially provide you with an unholy phone bill. Now imagine being able to follow the text messages of the same amount of people as well. All of these Twitter users interact with one another in a real-time environment. The idea is to be able to see everything that is happening in the world first-hand, free of the bias and filtering of traditional channels, such as the Occupy Genzi incident.

 

Much to many users dismay, Twitter can also be used for the purposes of marketing and advertising. The greatest example of this I can think of is the controversial Horse_eBooks account. As a lot of Twitter uses would know, Horse_eBooks was a widely followed Twitter account and internet phenomenon. The account became known for its unintentionally hilarious non sequiturs in what may have been an attempt to evade spam detectors. Exhibit A: “Everything happens so much”. However, in 2011 Jacob Bakkila took over the account and acted as the spam bot for two years before announcing it had been controlled by a human. Moreover, it was to be used as the first phase of an art project called “BravoSpam”. (More on this here, here and here.

 

So then, what does Twitter have to do with creative writing? Well, a surprising amount actually. Twitter allows only 140 characters per tweet, essentially the same size as a text message, or roughly 20 – 25 words. Being restricted to so few words forces you to be concise and to the point, which is a useful discipline for any writer. It puts forward the notion that if you can’t really explain something in a sentence or two then you don’t really understand what you’re talking about. A prime example of creative writing used on Twitter would be a famous tweet made by Ernest Hemingway, who wrote what is credited as the very first Twitter fiction. A Complete story in six words that encourages the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” It’s certainly effective, isn’t it? (More on Twitter fiction here and here.)

 

Finally, we arrive at the main point of this blog post: How can Twitter be used in the classroom? A surprising amount, actually. Jim Newman at Northern Illinois University uses Twitter as a bulletin board for his class, letting students know about last minute news like cancelled classes, which I, and possibly a lot of other people would agree that it’s much more convenient than relying on word of mouth. This isn’t exactly a prime example of creative writing, however, this is: at the College of the Holy Cross, assistant professor Daniel Klinghard uses Twitter to teach students to be concise, summarizing major political texts without going over Twitter-imposed character limits [Source]. I wouldn’t expect primary school children to be able to finish a political text, let alone summarise it in 140 characters (I’m open to being surprised though) but I believe this premise is a good tool for teaching children creative writing. I’d absolutely recommend this method, so long as the text and summary match the child’s ability level. We wouldn’t want their confidence being affected by having a text or story given to them that’s too advanced right off the bat.

 

To conclude, Twitter is something I believe to be a very interesting teaching tool with a whole realm of benefits in improving children’s literacy skills. However, teachers implementing teaching strategies around Twitter should extensively prepare for what they want the children to get out of it and how they’re going to get there. Like most teaching tools, if it’s not used properly it can be very counterproductive.

 

In case you’re interested in reading up some more articles related to this post, I’ll leave some links here, here, here, here and here. I’d like to know your opinion too! Would you use Twitter in the classroom? And what for?

How are digital technologies influencing literacy development in children?

Modern technologies are influencing literacy development in children, the increasing access of which children have to technologies like tablets is allowing them to simultaneously develop more literacy skills than what could be previously be achieved with traditional forms of teaching literacy. The use of technology incorporates traditional literacy’s focus on acquiring the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking and also includes interplay between visual, aural, special and gestural skills, which are becoming increasingly more vital in the growing digital era.

Young children have proven just how quickly they can come to grips with a tablet and begin to use it competently, as demonstrated in this YouTube video. Granted, it probably isn’t the little girls first time using the iPad, but it’s certainly remarkable how she can manipulate it at such a young age. Especially compared to the many adults who struggle to work their way around it.  

Of course, this means that teaching methods will have to adapt to suit the needs of the ever growing amount of children who use this technology on a daily basis to improve the quality of their learning. The theory behind using technology to enrich children’s learning is called Connectivism.

Behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism are the three most referred to learning theories in the classroom. However, these theories were constructed before the process of teaching and learning were impacted on by technology. Over the past 20 years, technology has reorganised how we live, communicate (I talk about this here) and learn. The theory of utilising these developed technologies to enrich the learning experience is known as Connectivism.

According to Siemens (2004), these are the principles of Connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making itself is a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality.

I was told that our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more importance than what we know today. This is something I can definitely see the truth in; the process of learning is in the present, we’re constantly learning every day, sometimes without even realizing it. It’s all preparation for the future application of our cultivated knowledge, whether it may be immediately after or years down the line.

The theory of connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. I’ve witnessed this first hand during my teaching practice, some of the teachers I worked with often talked about how they love the new initiatives and teaching methods that NQTs (newly qualified teachers) brought into schools with their practice. The same teachers, a few hours later would put down said new initiatives that were brought to the table, claiming that the old methods were the best. Technology was no exception, especially the use of ICT. It’s amazing how many teachers believe that taking a photo for evidence of work is a valid use of ICT, which I believe is not. Nothing is usually done with the photo; it’s simply kept as evidence to show that the teacher has covered whatever part of the National Curriculum.

It’s not all doom and gloom for ICT though, absolutely not. There have been some excellent uses for ICT to support the technological development in children’s learning. The most creative example that I can think of is the use of Minecraft (an extremely popular video game) as an educational tool. There are virtually an endless amount of possibilities in the world of Minecraft, because you can create it all yourself. The Idea Channel does a brilliant job of explaining the use of this tool.

Another effective use of ICT in the classroom would be Edublogs. An edublog is a blog created for educational purposes. Edublogs archive and support student and teacher learning by facilitating reflection, questioning by self and others, collaboration and by providing contexts for engaging in higher-order thinking. Ms. Cassidy’s blog is an exceptional example of efficient edublogging. 

Cassidy (2013) exclaims in her article that the days of “reading only books, writing on only paper and becoming literate in an isolated classroom have passed” and that form of learning is “out-dated”. Technology brings new tools, vocabulary, ways to learn and communication forms into the classroom. Something in my opinion, is very welcome.

References

Cassidy, K. (2013) The Early-Literacy Shift: New Words, New Media, New Friends [Available: http://plpnetwork.com/2013/07/28/literacy-shift-longer-papers-books/] Date Accessed: 23/10/2013

Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age [Accessed Online] Available: http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2005_siemens_ALearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf Date Accessed: 24/10/2013

Technology and Communication

Hello and welcome! This is my blog about cybertexts. Here I’ll be looking into all manners of cybertexts and I’ll be documenting some of my personal experiences with them. In this post I’ll be looking at the impact technology has had on communication and my own personal experience with it while growing up.  

Although it doesn’t need to be said, technology has had an enormous impact on modern forms of communication. Being born in the early 90s, I had always grown up along-side new technologies that offered different forms of communication to the then-standard of telephone calls and letters, if you weren’t talking face to face that is. By the time I had learnt to write a letter, text messaging was apparently the thing our youth did to communicate. At which point I was too young to have my own mobile phone and could only marvel at the strange magic my older siblings and parents wielded, hoping one day I could too. Of course we didn’t have a PC at this point either, and we didn’t get one for a long time. Looking back on the experience I feel like I was stuck in an odd point of life, I was too young to appreciate the fun of letter writing, not old enough to wield my own magical text messaging device and didn’t even know any of my friend’s house phone numbers; I’d come to the decision that there wasn’t much point, since I’d see them at school the next day anyway. But by that logic I didn’t need text messaging either, which was right, I didn’t. Writing letters would have held some benefit at least, improving my squiggly wiggly hand writing.

Flash forward to being 14 and as luck would have it, I was in possession of a mobile phone and my house held a family computer. Finally, my adventure in communication technology could commence. The informalities of text messaging felt like a relief, it was a relaxed, private space where I could talk to my friends without restraint. No drawing attention from the public eye, no need to sugar coat words. Not that these things stopped my friends and myself acting goofy like the children we were. But the privacy of text messaging was comforting in itself.

Instant messaging actually pre-dates the internet; it was initially implemented on multi-user operating systems like Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) during the mid-1960s. Despite that fact mind you, when I was first exposed to instant messaging it seemed like a radical new concept. My young and naïve mind could barely wrap itself around the idea of what was essentially real-time texting messaging that didn’t eat up all of the credit on my pay-as-you-go device. It was figuratively having my cake and eating it too, something that is almost always welcome in my books. It wasn’t long after the dive into instant messaging that I found out about video calling, another concept that I struggled to contain my excitement with at the time. The idea of being able to have a real time conversation, coupled with being able to see the face of the person I was talking with on screen was fascinating.

Jump to the present day and after some minor variations and stability fixes (especially video calling), the massive amount of pros to these communication technologies have become very clear. Think about the accessibility aspect, these communication technologies make it incredibly easy to keep in touch with friends, family and loved ones over long distance. Mass communication is something which has been made much easier as well, especially e-mails, with the ability to send out information to a large number of people. It also gives some people social relief, those who struggle in social situations feel more relaxed and find it easier to interact with others through electronic communication.

Of course there are quite a few cons as well, non-verbal communication for example. Facial expressions and body language make up a large part of communication and electronic communication technology (excluding video calls) don’t allow for this, leading to some messages being misinterpreted. A digital divide is also a con, not everybody has the same level of experience and knowledge of communication technology. My grandma, for instance, took a very long time to become competent with a computer compared to some other people I know. Then of course is the concept of laziness being tied to computers and communication technology, this however, is a very broad concept with a lot of study dedicated to it. Simply put, using communication technology to talk to someone in the same room as you is something I would class as lazy (unless the circumstances, whatever they may be, call for it.) I’ve only splashed the surface of a sea of possible pros and cons to electronic communication technologies and I would definitely recommend having a further look into them.

Generally I use electronic communication technologies more than traditional communication technologies; I’ve found it to be extremely convenient for keeping in touch with my family back home and my friends who are widespread across the country. That doesn’t mean we never write letters to each other though, we have done on occasion and it’s been very fun, but receiving a letter and hearing about events that would have taken between a few days to a couple of weeks ago, depending on the postal service, isn’t the most practical form of communication.  

What experience have you had with electronic communication technologies? Have they impacted on the way you communicate with those close to you?