Dr. Judith M. Newman




[ Journal Entry ]

There is an important piece by Smith/Goodman/Meredith which lays out their view of learning:

  • first there is exploring the ideas/issues/content;
  • next there is the organization of what has been learned, and
  • finally there is the presenting of it.

The learning doesn't come together until there has been some kind of presenting of what you've learned. That's when you have to do the hard intellectual work for yourself! That's why I'm so concerned with getting us to closure—the important learning decisions, the judgements come into play—when you take what you've been learning and organize it to share with others.

There is a perception that perhaps I'm focusing more on the production of web pages at the expense of helping you with your own learning. That one, needs some explanation, I think.

I wish I had the Smith/Goodman/Meredith chapter here with me. It would help explain what I'm trying to help you accomplish. I mentioned in class this morning that in their view, and mine, too, learning involves the collecting of new information, seeing connections and organizing it, and finding some way of presenting it to others.

I say this as a fairly experienced writer—the writing I do is where most of my learning occurs—in the development of a piece of writing I come to understand what I understand—in other words, writing is my way of constructing meaning. I don't know what I'm going to write until I write it and then I can stand back and think about whether that's what I think I mean or not. Understanding, for me, comes together in the act of putting together a presentation.

Since we get only one crack at that, I feel it's rather important for you to experience how "writing" creates its own meaning. I suspect few of you have had that experience, have allowed yourself to be uncensored enough, to allow meaning to be created at the point of utterance as a writer. You all do it as talkers—nobody engages in conversation by doing outlines first. However, I have a hunch (based on years of teaching teachers) that you likely don't have a lot of experience at letting writing make meaning for you. So, a part of my agenda is actually to let you in on some of the secrets of writing.

Once there's a completed draft of a work, then the real grubby aspects of writing kick in—concern for audience. Same with constructing web pages—once you've got the elements of your site worked out, formatting and presentation begin to matter. Once a text is layed out, then comes the real agonizing stuff—proofing it. In the case of web pages that means checking all the links to make sure they work. It takes time, is frustrating, and it's tedious. But it's a necessary aspect of presenting something to an audience.

I don't know how many of you have ever done work in the theatre—but dress rehearsals are like doing the final checking of web pages. The show can't go on if it's not done. And our purpose here is to become aware enough of the complexity of literacy in this rich medium so that we can be of some use to kids.

So while it may look like I'm more concerned with completing web pages than with your learning, you might find it useful to think about the many and various aspects of literacy you're having to use in order to accomplish our task. I am mindful of the clock, I'm keeping an eye on people's frustration levels, the equipment is letting us down a bit with the degree of variability on the hard drives and without a manual I'm still missing one essential piece of information for FrontPage editor although I've found a way that works to link the various pieces of your presentation together. I'll share it tomorrow.

Let me say that my purpose in all of this is to have you just try. We might not complete the task fully, we might not end up with websites we're happy to make public. That's OK as long as we've given the project our best effort. In fact, as Diane and Shaun both said this afternoon, we're quite a bit ahead of last year's class with still two full days to complete the job. I'm confident we'll make it. We're at the point where we have to make production decisions based on time available to us. We may not manage all the bells and whistles, but if you are able to experience how a web site is put together first hand you'll be able to help students do it too.

That's what this enterprise is all about. Right?