Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Finding the Poetic in a Technological World: Integrating Poetry and Computer Technology in a Teacher Education Program

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Finding the Poetic in a Technological World: Integrating Poetry and Computer Technology in a Teacher Education Program

Article excerpt

This article describes a series of projects undertaken with students in a teacher education program. Two courses, one an introduction the role of literature in the teaching of language arts in the elementary school, the other, an introduction to educational technology, provided the context for the exploration of the following questions:

* How can we create interest in, and enthusiasm for poetry in student teachers?

* What real and contemporary examples of the use of poetic forms can be found in the student teachers' world, the world of popular culture?

* How can current technology provide a variety of media for the students to explore poetry or poetic forms of expression?

The collaborative projects revitalized students' interest and confidence in the teaching of poetry, developed their skill in developing poetic expression--both in verbal and graphic forms, and developed students' understanding of the relevance and significance of poetry in a culture which often regards this form of expression as archaic and esoteric.

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We live in an age of rapidly developing electronic communications technology and increased dependence on the visual media for both communication and entertainment (Postman, 1979, 1984). The emergence of new forms of expression in popular culture, and the displacement of reading as a pastime by viewing television and other visual media, has meant that young people may be exposed to less literary writing, and read little or no poetry outside the formal environment of the school classroom. Among the literary genres studied by student teachers in language arts education courses, poetry often exposes the greatest degree of inexperience and unfamiliarity and elicits the least enthusiasm (Wade & Sidaway, 1990). This lack of confidence and facility with poetry in these beginning teachers is of concern because poetry is frequently restricted to the margins of the literature program in elementary school classrooms. Children's experiences are often limited to displays of poems on seasonal themes, readings of "fun" poetr y such as limericks and nonsense poems, or the formulaic writing of cinquain and haiku verse. Such light exposure to poetry may have some value in developing children's appreciation and enjoyment of the playful rhythm or rhyme of verse, but it does not necessarily promote children's understanding of poetry as a literary form, it may not develop their appreciation of its vivid and emotive images, and it may not extend their grasp of the power of metaphor and other figurative forms.

The decline in poetry as a mainstream literary feature in our culture has perhaps called into question the value of teaching poetry in schools at all. Arguments for relevance and currency that have promoted the inclusion of computer technology and media literacy into the language arts curriculum have provided little support for the well-turned verse. However, the argument for the need to develop an appreciation and an awareness of poetry as a literary form goes beyond an understanding of the genre for any aesthetic or scholarly reasons. It has been argued that if we fail to develop the abilities to shape thought into appropriate language, and to understand the power that well-constructed language exerts, we will certainly fall prey to the dictates of those who do (Gioia, 1991). Poetry is language used precisely, imaginatively and persuasively. The choreography of images and deliberately chosen words induces powerful affective and imaginative responses, and poetry is unique in its particular focus on the signi ficance of individual words and the crafted figurative expression. The study of poetry has the potential to develop an understanding of the emotive impact of images and rhythm, and develop an awareness of both the overt and subliminal meanings of words. Technologies have changed, but the need to educate a literate populace skilled in language and critical of its manipulation by politicians, tabloid journalists and others who prey on the gullible and the undiscriminating, remains a central goal of a language arts education. …

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