Friday, June 27, 2008

Mrs. Booth and Desk Top Publishing

Are we on the brink of a new way of communicating our thoughts to one another? Absolutely. I have no doubt that the elementary kids of today will have a different way of presenting information to their students, if they choose the teaching profession. The future will be about inviting into schools the outcast cell phone, and kids having access to their own personal computers at younger and younger ages.

My graduation gift from high school was a typewriter. I was thrilled that I could type my papers and did not have to hand-write them all. I could not have predicted kids today would have to bring their own computer to college. We live in the “Nano” world with everything getting smaller. I am sure my daughter will be taking some kind of communication device with her in six years when she goes to college. I do not think it will even be the laptop. I imagine it will be something much smaller, or that each dorm room will have a built in laptop and all she will need will be a back-up and transfer device, like a key. On the other hand, maybe it will be a way of communicating that only knows about right now.

The question of whether or not a low-tech publishing tool will be used in the future is a good one. I find myself reminiscing about Mrs. Booth’s after school poetry club. I was in fourth grade when Mrs. Booth created a poetry magazine. I still have my bundle of pages stapled together, copied on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine that smudged a little if you weren’t careful. Oh, but how we loved seeing our work in print. It is no different today; our kids love creating brochures and magazines. There is something very touching about not only seeing your written word in a form that others can enjoy, but also, in being able to hold it up high and wave it at somebody else with a shout, “Hey, did you see what I wrote?” This time honored tradition of linking pride and celebration with the publication of our thoughts and ideas will, I predict, keep alive and well the desktop publishing low-tech products that we have used for so long. The delivery mode (tablet, printing press, typewriter, laptop/printer) may change up in years to come, but I am convinced there is something innately human about holding one’s writing in one’s own hand. We are people living in a changing time, but as the world gets smaller, or flatter, we are also people with a longing to connect with one another and to tell our stories. As people in the present, we will continue to use desktop publishing tools in our schools for the near future.

In the book, Critical Connections: Communication for our Future, by the US Office of Technology Assessment, it speaks to the cost efficiency of desk top publishing, and also of the self-esteem and self-confidence levels that arise from dtp. This is a time for cutting costs, and definitely a time to increase the self-esteem and self-confidence of our students. Mrs. Booth was on to something back in the late seventies. I will always be grateful.


Lori said...

Hi LJ,
I agree that we do enjoy holding our own written work in our hands - and that being able to share it with others is key to expression.

What concerns me is that in other countries, students are holding their work in their hands and publishing it for others to read - in different countries - rather than in the next seat. Do you think our students would benefit from feedback from students in different cultures, different continents? I think our education system is too busy worrying about how to protect our students from the potential risks by totally closing the door. We have to teach our students how to be safe and maneuver on the Internet - rather than close the door. We talk about real-world experiences. And then, we refuse to provide them.


BloggieDoggie said...

Hi LC,
Your point is valid. We are limiting our students if we keep their world confined to only the people in the next seat. Last year I signed up for epals, which would allow me and my students to join a network of educators and classrooms worldwide who are in communication. In my opinion, it is a very good outfit with which to link up, and plan to do something about it this year.

That said, I think, developmentally the world of the child is focused inward until about 10. I do not think we need to push the audience envelope until fourth or fifth grade, or Middle School, because the child needs to develop a solid understanding of the immediate world around them. That is why I believe, at the elementary level, students should primarily be focused on an audience in their own little world. Developing an understanding of writing for an audience is developmental;first one must write to those with whom one can identify, and then, at around nine or ten, when the world begins to open up and we try to find where we fit into it all, then our audience can and should be broadened out. Did I mention that in fifth grade, Mrs. Booth's niece became my first penpal? She lived in West Virginia-a place I had never been to. Learning about living on the edge of the Ohio River was an eye opener for me, and gave me the opportunity to practice writing to a new audience.
Thanks for your post!

Kiwanji said...

Hi LJ-

I loved your comments about the human aspect of holding your own writing in your hands and being able to "show it off" to others around you. We have tools, you have been studying their uses this past year, that allow students to connect to others in new and instant ways. I believe, as many others to, that those tools will revolutionize how we do what we do. But, and I think this was at the root of my question to you all, will those tools erase the need or the value of preparing a quality document (on paper!!!!) that people can show off?

The point, and power, of DTP is in the layout and design possibilities. We saw many examples from your colleagues this past week of documents created both with and without formal DTP tools. Which ones do you envision students would be prouder of when they showed other people? The writing, content, everything else might stay the same but the design aspects are what set projects done with DTP tools apart. Word is fine, it can be used, but when trying to create a quality DTP document there is so much to say about using Publisher or some of the other wonderful tools your colleagues have introduced me to this week.

BloggieDoggie said...

Hello Kwanji,
I believe that dtp tools help the user to feel more professional about their writing. I certainly got that feeling when I went from my scratch marks, to trying the pamphlet in Word, to using Pages. Pages made me want to show it to everyone!I do not think these dtp tools are going anywhere for a very long while.
Thanks for the tip about the header. I think I've got it now!