Is text-only enough for today's students?

a simulpost with TechLearning

After an amazing trip to CNN this week, I have been thinking about how we tell stories as educators and how we teach students to tell stories. So, I'm going to give you a little quiz.

1. Which tells the story the most clearly?

"This past spring we lost 11,000 pecan trees in a terrible tornado that ripped right through the grove."


2. Which tells the story more clearly?

A little girl was playing a game and a face jumped out at her.


A little girl was playing this game and was very scared. (Warning: If you have a heart condition, don't play this game.)

3. Which tells the story more clearly?

Parodies of Harry Potter Films are cropping up all over the Internet.


4. Which tells the story more clearly?

St. Charles avenue was ready for the parade.


This panorama (click on the photo).

5. Which tells the story more clearly?

The United States is excitedly showing school spirit this fall.


This slideshow.

6. Which tells the story more clearly?

We kicked off the flat classroom project today with an interesting discussion about communications.


7. Which is more effective in a Math class.

Geometric Formulas are used in everyday life.


Any of the photos at (be sure to blow them up and look at the clickable areas.) I particularly like this one from Darren Kuropatwa's Math class.

Dan Pink in his landmark book, A Whole New Mind, lists "Story" as one of the six senses of the Conceptual Age. He says:

"When our lives are brimming with information and data, it's not enough to marshal an effective argument. Someone will inevitably track down a counterpoint to rebut your point. The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative." (Pink 65-66)
And those narratives aren't always using text -- but rather, video, audio, pictures, and other formats.

Do we need more than text to tell the stories?

Here is the point. There are so many new ways to tell stories. Are we as teachers teaching kids ONLY to read and write and is that enough?

Succinct, appropriate, effective communication is the hallmark of the successful. Will the successful CEO of the future record a video to be released to his employees? Will screen captures and chats and backchannels and panoramas and -- NONLINEAR forms of communication take over (like the Flickr pictures-- mouseovers and clicks drive into the presentation rather than following the sequence of a presenter.)

As I listened to an executive producer of, Lila King, this week, she said

"We look at what we're trying to say and then we decide the best medium to tell the story."

Text was only one of 12 choices.

So, I ask, is text enough?

I believe we should encourage students to select the best mode of communicating their topic. And that students should be familiar with as many modes as possible. Sure, someone has to put these in their "toolbox" but once the tools are there, they should be using them in all classes.

I think we're too hung up on the technology and not realizing that we are experiencing an evolution in how humans communicate.

Text is still important and synchronous communication is too -- but asychronous, non-text based communication is increasing in importance in our society without a correlating increase in the classroom.

Their voice, their graphics, their face, and their typed text all play a role in their future as a communicator in this electronic world.

So, what do we do about it?

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