Jeong’s Scouting Report: TED

I want to introduce TED community to teachers of composition or literature.  Utilizing TEDTalks would be highly constructive in those classes.  The rapid development of the new media has been difficult to equate the process of its actual practice into the existing definition of literacy in academia. I believe that using TED will enhance the progression of values in multiliteracies as it attributes to the new structure of communication that is noticeable online.

What is TED? It is an acronym for Technology Entertainment Design conference. The website, TED.com launched to present the talks from the conference with the same three focuses, but it is now broadened to topics of education, technology development, science, global issues, business, arts, politics, culture, etc. I believe that it is indeed tied to the practices with people who had broadened their understanding of the literacies.  Then, what is literacy? To As the American Library Association’s (ALA) states, literacy as “To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (1989). With that said, the talks presented in TED Talks are full of implications of the definition. Why? As its statement indicates, TED believes the power of ideas to alter attitudes, people and, the world, and most of the principles are linked to technology one way or another. Also, its belief connects to my principle that having a broad understanding of literacies would expand the teachers’ not only the lexicons and disciplines but also their teaching curricula.

So, what is a traditional definition of literacy and what is a new one? Why is it important to distinguish the two? The traditional existing literacy is defined as “the ability to read and write to a competent level” by MSN Encarta Online dictionary (MSN Encarta, 2009). However, the second definition of literacy from MSN Encarta (2009) indicates that literacy is not only ability to read and write, but also any in depth knowledge of competence in a subject or area of activity, such as, computer literacy or emotional literacy. The United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also define literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy also involves a continued learning to enable individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society” (2004).

Especially since the 1980s, literacy is considered to be ideological, varying the meaning in a context it (Street, 1984). Recently, the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association have added “visually representing” to the traditional list of competencies (2008). Also, since 1990s, when the Internet was boomed, the definition of literacy was called for inclusion of the ability to use tools such as web browsers and typing skills. Some argue that multimedia literacy, computer literacy, information literacy, and technacy should be included as necessary skills to be included as literacy (Kress, 2003). Sage Publishing Company (2009) categorized it into: adult literacy; emergent literacy; family literacy; functional literacy; scientific literacy; workplace literacy; emotional literacy. Other genres under study by academia also include critical literacy, media literacy, ecological literacy and health literacy (Zarcadoolas, Pleasant, & Greer, 2006). In addition, statistical literacy is becoming an important aspect of literacy in general (Wallman, 1993).  An underlying implication for this definition is that literacy should include the cultural, political, and historical contexts of the community in which communication takes place (Knobel, 1999).

If teachers’ job is to prepare students to communicate effectively in workforce or society with the implication of literacies, then it certainly requires the ability to use computers, other digital technologies, and other aspects of literacy skills as parallel to reading and writing.  Therefore, I would argue that we need to deliberately broaden our understanding of literacies to a higher level. If not, we can limit the topics of discussions or study, thus our application and practices.

Since it is crucial to validate our understanding of literacies with global aspects, tying connections with people who share high quality information from all over the world is critical. The emergence of Internet, blogs, and other networking sites in a recent phenomena have been support this needs. As a matter of fact, people agree unanimously that it is the first time in the history that we have such massive yet high quality information available to general people. However, how can we filter high quality information from wasteful one? For example, anybody can easily be overwhelmed by the enormous amount of information on-line where one can easily get lost without realizing it what we were looking for, or get distracted by attractive ads, images, and/or video. Where should teachers get information for multiliteracies? Should we research endlessly about it based on one area of traditional and functional literacy definition? Where can we find good resource to use for educating future generation? Is there any other comprehensive website that covers valuable topics worthwhile to discuss about with the contents enlightening, inspiring, attractive, and academic? How do teachers, who are deeply interested in changing the lives of future generation, rekindle their resolution to instill humanity in the students’ heart? Where is to might help find the answers? When educated adults who have mature morals and reasoning skills feel that way, how could children or growing teens balance between their pure interests and educational values on-line? Due to this fact, locating a credible source to provide a structure and guidance is mandatory. When I found TED, the answer was quite approximate.

I truly believe that literacy should be considered as high-level of meaning-generating contexts while involved in social spaces other than its limited value as a traditional set of functions to read and write. The emerging aspects of new media literacies inevitably include online social networking, and TED has all the elements of them. Since one of the focused areas is technology, many talks are involved with the cutting edge technology applications into the practices of the global community. It also attempts to answer questions about its distribution and its effects on humans. That’s where I discovered the immense value of TED, having a well of rich knowledge, supported theories, and discussion of utilizations in multiliteracies.

Any educators can rely on getting high quality educational topics which can be integrated into subject matters, such as Language Arts, Math, Technology, Art, Business, etc. Teachers could also edify themselves simply by watching the talks.  In so doing, I believe that teachers can absorb the inspiration, information, and ideas from this network to help improve teachers’ perception of expanded meaning of literacy which in turn will be instilled into the students’ minds.  Of course, there are millions of websites, blog sites, Facebook and twitter to exchange ideas and voices with networked educators too. In addition to the fact that TED is utilizing all sub applications mentioned above, it also tops with idealistic views of how our society should be; it begets rich conversations, discussions, and learning moments. I argue that it is the organization not only to absorb inspirations through amazing talks with ideas that are worthwhile, but also to disseminate them to students.

If literacy should include the cultural, political, and historical contexts of the community in which communication takes place (Knobel, 1999), then current curriculum should attempt to educate students to solve problems that are related to immediate needs of human beings.  For example, an environmental issue has seriously affected our ecological system. “With the breakneck expansion of China’s economy and its reliance on coal, the country grapples with the far-reaching environmental, security, and social implications of its growth” (Martinot & Junfeng, 2009).  Every year, tons of glaciers being melt, rising up the sea level threatening the atmosphere of the earth.  Corrupted politics, poverty, global financial crisis, racism, food consumption, health Issues, and discrepancies in religions have also weakened our earth.  They are all related topics to expand our understanding in literacy; they are fundamentally social, political, economic and environmental issues that affect us all. With TED Talks, teachers can bring up those issues into their Language Arts, science, social studies, or art lessons. English teachers can bring up those global issues into their writing curriculum.  Teachers can take a chunk of a thematic unit to explore different subjects, themes, and ideas.

It is my belief that it is time to implement our methodologies and strategies to expand our definition of literacies in our teaching. The plan for literacies should be balanced with a variety of educational subtopics: linguistic literacy, numeracy, technology (informational), emotional, social, and interpersonal into combined literacy as a whole. Thus, using TED tools, such as a visual (video), aural (audio), and textual (subtitles) to understand elements of literacies can be a vehicle to channel from the technology based information to educational contexts.

My own personal experience as a user of TED with the new media tools and platforms has been tremendously rewarding. For example, I often express my opinions on the comment section on TEDTalks, became a fan of TED on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs, TED on YouTube, etc. However, the most rewarding experience I enjoy as a member of the TED community is that I am a TED translator who completed several talks in Korean. Indeed, the TED Open Translation Project attracts international audiences to TEDTalks by offering to participate in subtitling, interactive transcripting and the translating. To be more specific for translation, anybody can be a translator for any talk into volunteer’s desired language worldwide. There are more than 250 translations with over 50 languages, and there are more than 100 translators. It enhances the accessibility of the talks, for those who have hearing difficulty, for those who are English as a second language learners, for those who want to read the transcript of a talk.

TED is a global community embracing people from every line of work and culture who share two things: they search for a meaningful perception of the world, and they look for implementing it to make an enhanced future for the human kind (2009). Isn’t it then imperative for a teacher to employ these inspiring tools for the students?  As Martian Write Edelman said, “You cannot teach what you do not know” (1999).  It is my belief that as educators, we have responsibility to help students expand meaning of literacies and be literate order for them to reach to a full potential as a human being. Only then, not only will they have a better understanding of how to function successfully in the society, but also how to contribute generously to the society.

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