It’s the end of the year, classes are over, and summer is here! Sort of. I think someone may have forgotten to remind the weather that it’s nearly July. That aside, we’re not quite done. Provincials are just around the corner, as is my English 11 final project, which is what all of this is about.
I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do for my project, or so I thought. It’s supposed to be a synthesis of learning, a representation of everything and anything English. Throughout the year, I had been writing things down. Not a journal or a diary necessarily, I’ve never considered myself a diary person, but just thoughts that I needed to get out somehow, with absolutely no censorship of ideas. I didn’t care about spelling or grammar, I said exactly what I felt or thought. No one would ever read it, I probably wouldn’t ever reread anything I wrote. But it was a reflection of me, and of Talons, and of everything that has changed, or hasn’t changed, since I started Grade 10. I wanted that to be my project. An accumulation of all the words I wrote down when I was at my best, and my worst. The highest peaks, and the lowest, plummeting, never ending chasms. I was going to condense it into one, shorter, personal essay, this time with proper grammar, and using the more tasteful anecdotes.
It was harder than I thought it would be. Everything seemed wrong, not good enough, not interesting enough, or too melodramatic. Especially that one, I think. It all seemed like I was being a spoiled drama queen, complaining that life sucked. It sounded like I was being a teenager. And more than anything, I am not a “normal”, conventional teenager. I don’t fit the stereotypes, most people don’t. But everything I ever say or do is accompanied by the little voice in the back of my head doing its best not to fit the stereotype.
I finished writing soon enough. I wrote three different versions, I chose the one I liked best. Coincidentally, it was the one with the least editing, and the one that took the least time to write. It took effort and thought, but I let the words flow a lot more than I had with the other two. I recorded myself, took out the visuals, and was left with a small, seven-minute mp3. After editing out all of the coughs, doorbells, extremely loud planes overhead, and curious younger brothers, it was about four minutes. And that was it. Just a voice, raw thoughts, four minutes long.
It felt like cheating. It felt too easy. All of the time and energy I had put into making those four minutes as amazing as I could, and as honest as I could, only resulted in a tiny little recording that could have taken twenty minutes to do. I thought about making a picture slideshow, or a video. Maybe making the recording longer? So I blogged about it, tried to get all of my thoughts and ideas out.
Modern technology presents us with incredible opportunities for creativity. Everything can be “improved” with computer software and flashy presentations, so much so that it seems expected. Should it be? Should we change the way we think and learn and communicate altogether? It seems logical to take advantage of the opportunities we have, but it doesn’t need to always be that way. There are many different ways to communicate. Through photography, music, spoken words, theatre, artwork, and yes, email and online communication. Shouldn’t we embrace all of them? Sending someone an email or an IM is often much faster and easier than phoning, or trying to meet in person. It makes business much easier, and allows you to communicate with those too far away to visit. But is it really necessary to text your friend when they’re in the next room, or email your neighbour when you know they’re home? Don’t laugh, it happens. And it seems a little lazy. The same thing happens in school. English is the only course required all the way through to Grade 12. And it’s because communication is one of the most important skills in life. Technology can complement and improve upon communication skills that students bring forth, but it can also detract from them, or even mask them. PowerPoints and Prezis offer beautiful, professional-looking premade templates. You can put words onto your screen, and no matter what it says, it will look more professional than if it was done on a blank piece of paper. So whether you are an accomplished novelist or a kid that can’t do anything without spellcheck, if you put a few words into a PowerPoint, you’ll look great. Doing a speech accompanied by music creates an extremely powerful effect. But when the focus is on the music rather than the words, there’s something wrong. Music can hide what we are saying, give an excuse to step back a little. The same happens with pictures. A speech perfectly lined up with a slideshow of beautifully photographed images looks great. How many of the words said do you actually hear? Or are you more focused on the pictures? Do you remember what they talked about? You don’t? Oh well, it looked pretty so it must have been good.
Some people use other mediums to communicate, and so that is what they emphasize and show off. But if you want them to focus on something specific, don’t hide it with flashy colours and distracting noise. I did put together a brief slideshow to accompany my recording. But this is my final project. I want it to best reflect me and my talents. And my greatest tool is my words. I want all of this to be about my words. Watching bright images of flowers and smiling children on my computer screen, I didn’t listen to a word I said. So I pressed the little red x in the corner. I did finally give in and tried putting in a bit of music (really quiet though!), and I think it did sound good (it also helped make the really poor recording quality sound better, because it got rid of most of the annoying buzzing in the background). But I didn’t care anymore that it seemed “too simple”. It was a reflection of me.
It is amazing that our world is making so many advances. Medicine, history, space travel, super super super fast cars, it’s all really cool. But just because we have shiny new toys doesn’t always mean that the old stuff is invalid. They don’t always teach handwriting anymore in elementary school. People talk as if soon they won’t even be teaching printing. Only typing. So I made a point of writing everyone (and that’s a lot of people) handwritten cards for Christmas. I kind of like my printing. Typing gets really boring after a while. It’s always the same.
PS: I think this may be my last blog. Ever. On this blog anyways. 🙂