Presenting with Prezi

One component of ENG 7280 at BGSU is a technology demonstration, where pairs of students teach classmates how to use a new digital tool. I won’t lie, by the time I got around to signing up for my demonstration, most of the “cool” demo options were taken (Second Life, GarageBand, InDesign…). When my instructor suggested Prezi, I hesitantly agreed, dreading actually having to learn how to use it. Prezi and I have a long history that is best summed up by this rage face:

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I tried to learn Prezi during my undergraduate days. I was in a seminar for the twenty or so consultants at Eastern Kentucky University’s new Noel Center for Academic Creativity. As the Studio aims to assist EKU students with a variety of digital/technological tools, consultants were required to learn these tools. I got through the 90-minute seminar, and thought I understood the basics, but later realized I was just mimicking clicks instead of actually learning. Then, I attempted to learn Prezi with my students as I taught FYC at Ohio University. But I watched my student’s presentations, admired them, but was never brave enough to try and make my own Prezi (and let’s face it I was WAY too busy grading papers to let Prezi become a priority). I can say, though, that ENG 7280 successfully forced me to learn Prezi once and for all.

I spent some time watching Prezi instructional videos and tutorials, and found that Prezi now has super awesome templates to use, as well as a new streamlined interface. Why was I so hesitant before? Fear. Simply, fear. For the first time, I realized that while I chide others for being afraid of new technological spaces, I was too afraid to tackle Prezi. Once I took away the mental block, Prezi became fun to explore. My colleague and I attempted to convey this excitement during our demo, and I was thrilled to hear classmates uttering phrases like, “this was easier than I thought!” I’ve included a link to the tutorial presentation below, it is reusable and a fun space to play around in. Feel free to steal it! 

Prezi Demo

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Bolter Part 2- on Digital Writing and Culture

I must say, while the initial chapter of Jay David Bolter’s Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print was a rocky start, subsequent chapters were more impressive and thought-provoking, particularly Chapter 10, entitled “Writing Culture.” In this chapter, Bolter asserts that “E-mail, chat rooms, and the World Wide Web have become sites for highly mediated versions of community” (204). In addition to the double meaning of “sites,” I appreciate that Bolter gives a nod to the mediated quality of digital space. When talking about in-person versus digital community, it is important to realize that means and intensity of mediation is a critical difference. I think that in-person communities could be less mediated, and more transparently. In a digital environment, we often never know how many people (and other machines) have the ability to mediate in one way or another (especially if we consider oversight and surveillance as part of mediation). 

Chapter 10 also references the very temporary nature of digital networks: “What we have come to valorize in electronic communication, however, is largely the capacity to promote multiplicity, heterogeneity, and immediate, if temporary connections” (204). One ubiquitous example that came to my mind is undergraduate classroom community. Students come together for one semester/quarter of work, and become “friends.” They talk to each other in class, work in groups, peer review, and maybe even study together. However, the majority of students in class will not remain friends after the conclusion of the class (exceptions being those who know each other outside of class, preexisting relationships, and Learning Communities). However, these people are much more likely to be acquaintances long after class concludes. In a digital friendship (for example, one on Facebook or Twitter), once the relationship ends and one party unfriends or unfollows the other, the connection is immediately broken and will take effort to rekindle. Granted, clicking the “add” button is also immediate, but significantly more awkward than not saying “hello” passing someone on the sidewalk.

What are your thoughts on mediation and transparency of community (both in-person and digital)?

Handwritten Stories in a Digital Age: PostSecret.com and More

As I consider various digital tools to use in my classroom and for my classes, I’m fascinated by how we choose to represent ourselves online (sometimes referred to as one’s “personal brand”). I found this post just after reading a ThoughtCatalog piece about how personal branding is “killing our individuality” (linked below). My thoughts are muddled with these juxtaposed views, but these two popular pieces, both circulated digitally, really illustrate the kinds of arguments I love to ponder on a daily basis.

“How Self-Branding is Killing Our Individuality”

The WordPress.com Blog

In our digital age, we interact with new technologies each day, yet some of us also pine for the past: we cherish handwritten things and value — even fetishize — physical objects. Posts like “Diaries and Connections to the Past” and “Found Objects and Books” reveal a collective nostalgia.

Consider a diary hidden in a shoebox. Postcards from your best friend, traveling around the world. Or a stack of letters from a secret lover. We view messages crafted by hand as more personal and meaningful — check out Cristina Vanko’s handwritten texts as modern-day snail mail. Words from our pens stand the test of time, and are viewed as more intimate — and meant to be shared and carefully considered by you, the reader.

PostSecret: Now on WordPress.com

We’re happy to announce that PostSecret, founded by Frank Warren, has made its home on WordPress.com as one of our newest

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Writing Space– Jay David Bolter

I have mixed feelings about Jay Bolter’s second edition of Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Then again, I have only read the introduction. My critiques are that the introduction is full of binaries and outdated information. Exhibit A: ImageImage

Outdated information, I can forgive. One can’t update a book fast enough to keep up with the fast-paced world of digital media (which Bolter concedes in his Preface). However, judging hypertext based on destructive binaries demands my attention. The first red flag was when Bolter quoted critic Swen Birkerts: “The printed word is part of a vestigial order that we are moving away from–by choice and by societal compulsion…” (5). Bolter goes on to state that “the inevitable was also lamentable” (5); Bolter seems to adopt this view for his own. I get the feeling he posits the tradition-challenging notion of digital media as a negative. Who is the “we” Birkerts speaks of? (I would ask my own composition students to avoid “we” and define a specific population–see my last post on age bias). Why should a move from primarily print-based text to both print and hypertext be seen as both inevitable and lamentable? Based on my own work and observations in Rhetoric/Composition and Digital Media Studies, print text still occupies an important position for scholars and the general public alike, and printed publications are arguably equal or more prestigious than hypertext publications. Some of the binaries in Bolter’s Introduction compare print text and digital text as old/new, simple/challenging, and justifiably valued/unjustifiably valued. I hope the rest of Bolter’s book positions these two writing spaces through a more accurate lens.

Age-Based Digital Literacy Bias

I learned a very valuable lesson from this week’s reading from Lauren Bowen entitled “Resisting Age Bias in Digital Literacy Research” (2011). This particular quote inspired my epiphany: “But it is a mistake to identify elders who do not use Web 2.0 technologies, or at least not in expected or conventional ways, as somehow failing or digitally illiterate. Even online activity that by now seems mundane, such as writing email or sharing photos, not only counts as digital literacy practice but can also teach us about literate practices that extend beyond youth-centered ideologies” (588). I realized that, as Bowen points out, I had tied digital literacy to a picture of youth in my own mental scope. It was uncomfortable to realize, but then I started thinking about why I would feel this way.

Probably because of commercials like this:

Thinking about my past and my family, I realized that my grandfather was using Facebook before my mother, and that he had the first GPS, weather alert radio, palm pilot, and latest camera of our family. Why, then, would I have tied digital literacy to youth? After he passed, my grandmother refused to have anything to do with technology (except for her landline phone). Apparently, she never had need to learn how to use technology, as she was dependent on my grandfather. Despite my older brother and my mom trying to teach Nana to use a cell phone and a remote control, Nana put up a mental block that we’re not sure resulted from grief or Alzheimer’s. Either way, I lost sight of my grandfather pioneering elderly digital literacy. I needed a reminder that these folks are out there, and they’re under-represented. My own mental scope of digital literacy had narrowed to see only youthful practices in Web 2.0, and thanks to Bowen I have taken a step back and become more humble.

My grandparents and I at my high school graduation

My grandparents and I at my high school graduation