In her demo lesson today, Lacy led us to consider the ways in which technologies affect our writing. Given just that description you might imagine that we had a heated debate about cell phones in the classroom or a how to session on Prezi. Instead, we explored some older technologies….
Lacy distributed different types of writing paper and after exploring it with our senses we wondered about the following questions.
- What is the purpose of the lines on the paper?
- Who decides where the lines go?
- What do the lines do to or for you?
- Where does paper come from?
One of the things I liked best about the demo was the way in which it made a familiar technology (paper) strange by inviting us to consider it in ways we might not usually. Lil noted this decontextualization in her tweet.
Lacy then invited to consider how the words on the pages of children’s books varied in their layout from the lines that we saw on the pieces of paper. Finally, we returned to the question that we were invited to write about at the beginning of the demo: How do technologies enable and constrain writing?
In thinking this evening about the idea of making the familiar strange, I was reminded of the first chapter in Sam Wineberg’s Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. He describes Bob Alston, a historian in one of Wineberg’s studies, as an “expert in cultivating puzzlement” (21). I love that phrase! Wineberg points out that as history teachers and as students of history we, and our students, are often tempted to “view the past through the lens of the present,” assuming that people in the past acted a we would (19). He notes that we should cultivate a humility toward people of the past by “casting doubt on our ability to know them as easily as we know ourselves” (22). History requires an “education of the sensibilities” and “what allows us to know others is our distrust in our capacity to know them, a skepticism about the extraordinary sense-making abilities that allow us to construct the world around us” (23-24).