Thursday, November 01, 2007

An Aesthetic Feast

What do multiple literacies look like, feel like, and sound like? What happens when you layer aesthetic, conceptual, discursive, emotional, intellectual, rhetorical, and visual elements using mixed media? Take a look at Dave Werner's Portfolio to find out.

The design of the site and the thinking that it reveals are intriguing to me—especially as you explore pages like the reflect/respect page (be sure to watch the video and click on the process images). Note the multiple paths to navigation, the mix of non-linearity and linearity on every page, and the convergence of inquiry with social activism, community engagement, and arts-based education. I also liked the way the site invites you to interact with it, and in the process, helps you to establish a relationship with its author, its content, and its form. You can see and hear Dave's mind at work (and come to understand more about HOW and WHY it works as it does) as you explore it.

The portfolio is a good example of many of the values of the iGeneration—inter-tainment, identity, individuality, information, innovation, interactivity. It engaged me in considering how our representation of content gets tangled up with our values, and how that influences the ways we choose to represent ourselves personally and professionally. I also couldn’t help but think of the research on cognitive flexibility, complexity, design, engagement, perception, multiple representations, and visual thinking as I was exploring this.

It would be interesting to show this to educators and teacher candidates and ask questions such as:

  • What do these ‘products’ reveal about what the person who created them understands? What do they reveal about what he may not have considered? What do they reveal about him professionally? What do they reveal about him personally?

  • What kind of experiences could prepare someone to create such products? What kinds of experiences would preclude the development of the skills required to create such products?

  • What kind of technological pedagogical content knowledge would be required in order for a teacher to facilitate the development of such products or skills?

  • What implications might this have for the kinds of things we do in our classrooms and for the kinds of assignments we give to students (PreK-12, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral)?

  • What might this mean for the future of education, as well as for cultural, economic, political, and social contexts?

  • What questions should we, as educators, be asking that we currently are not?

Of course, there are many counterarguments. (Incidentally, it would be interesting to see a visual representation of some of them.) There will be many who will find the site overwhelming and who will argue vociferously that it has nothing to do with education, literacy, the future, or the challenges inherent in those endeavors . . . .

For me, however, it is the happiest site I've encountered in a very long while--an aesthetically, conceptually, emotionally, and intellectually pleasurable experience.

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