Creating the Exaflood

haulin netOne thing that our Laptop Learning initiative confirmed is that audio and video files shared over the web are future waves of literacy. Projects 1-12 are rich with videocasts, audiocasts, and enhanced audiocasts.

On-demand web AV files like the latest Al Queda propoganda, presidential candidates on YouTube, and the winning shot proliferate on the web and captivate audiences. Videos like Remember Me and Did You Know go viral and are downloaded millions of times. While the exaflood of data rages on the web, we in schools are dutifully focused on the written word of composition and literature as the cornerstone of literacy.

To be sure, text-based literacy is basic—and we must master it—but we must move beyond it if we are truly to prepare our students for today and tomorrow.

The cover story of the March-April 2007 issue of The Futurist is The New Media Age: End of the Written Word?. The eight brief articles on the topic are as follows:

  • The Postliterate Future ( John Nasbitt)
  • Digitial Storytelling (Joe Lambert)
  • Is Reading Obsolete (Michael Rogers)
  • Voice-In, Voice-Out Computers and the Postliterate Age (William Crossman)
  • The Fall of the Word, and Civilization (Edward N. Luttwak)
  • Illiterates with Doctorates, Revisited (Peter Wagschal)
  • The Dangers of Visual Culture (Christine Rosen)

As to the evolution of literacy, the articles offer point…

By 2050, there will be no reason to require young people to learn to read and write because writing—as we know it today—will have become an obsolete technology. Instead of the “three R’s”, K-12 education will be based on the four C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, computer skills, and calculators. (Crossman)

And counter-point…

Television is an information black hole…For all our strategizing, for all our technical superiority over our predecessors, the ultimate mechanism of doom for our civilization will be the rise of the image and the death of the written word. (Luttwak)

But all the authors see the inevitable ascendance of a visual and oral culture somewhere between 2015 and 2050:

It is not that the word is going away. It is not either / or. It is that in the mix of word and visual, visual is increasing dramatically and the use of the word is receding, and that this change in the mix will accelerate. (Nasbitt)

Modern technologies allow us very easily to create multimedia and share it on the web. Our new literacy habits are creating the exaflood.

As a culture, how often do we read books, articles and news? Or do we consume our media by watching it, listening to it, and interacting with it? Do we write on paper or write on screens? Do we use Standard Written Language or IMLingo? How often do we play board games vs. video games?

Do our literacy habits break along the demographic lines of age, income level, and education level?

The reasons we are creating an exaflood of data are as much societal as they are technological. Our challenge in education is to embrace the exaflood, build quality into it, and innovate with it. . . rather than confine it and curtail it.

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One Response to Creating the Exaflood

  1. Frances Bradburn says:

    A somewhat heretical thought: In the beginning we communicated only orally and visually. Society–some would say civilization–rode in on the back of the written word. Where might we be riding today?

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