Friday, December 19, 2014

A Few Thoughts about Language and the Serial Podcast

For a few years now, I have counted podcasts among my key resources of information related to technology integration. If you are not sure what they are, podcasts are basically radio shows distributed online; the term podcast dates back to the iPod being a revolutionary method of accessing audio as iTunes opened the door to many people sharing ideas through independent podcast creation. Time was, podcasts needed to be accessed by downloading on a computer and then syncing your device, but this can be done easily (and for free) now with the Podcasts app. 

This fall brought the release of the most popular podcast ever. Serial, from the producers of the also-great This American Life, followed one story over the course of a season of 12 episodes released weekly. Journalist Sarah Koenig attempted to unravel the 15-year-old murder of Hae Min Lee, a teenage girl- her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted of the crime, but as we learned, the details are far from straightforward. The podcast became somewhat of a sensation, with media outlets and people all over social media weighing in as each episode brought new twists in the case. So what does Serial have to do with language?

Serial reminded me first of all of the value of listening. Our world has become inundated with tech-mediated visual experiences, and it's rare that we slow down to experience the purity of listening to language. Though this practice is something I have tried to revisit as much as possible, I was so thrilled to have company in the audio realm as many friends became immersed in and were eager to discuss a story that is riveting, emotional and quite tragic, possibly on several levels. Koenig herself became somewhat of a celebrity for her intimate narration of her investigation, which at times felt like being a listener inside her head. Most of all for me the listening experience awakens meditative and metacognitive processes- you don't think about your thoughts when watching TV quite the way you do when listening. I often noted the way I was visualizing the narrated events as they unfolded and thanked Lindamood-Bell for giving me a structure within Visualizing and Verbalizing® to make this imagery even more "sharp," at times painfully so.

Serial also is ultimately about narrative language, hence the title. What you think at the end of the series depends on whose version of the story you believe. Throughout the series, Koenig continually reframes episodes of this story in ways that make you reconsider the characters, key settings, initiating events and responses. Key to the story in particular is perspective taking: could Adnan have been that angry after the break-up to commit this crime? What do the people who surrounded Adnan at that time think about his state of mind and possible responses? Timelines also play an essential role, as each episode forces us to consider disparate sequences of events leading up to and surrounding Hae's murder. For me, Serial underscored the importance of narrative language as part of the experience of being human--which is one of the reasons I am so clinically engaged in building discourse skills. It was interesting that as the series drew to a close, there was much concern that Koenig wouldn't present us with a satisfying conclusion, as if this were a carefully plotted piece of episodic television. I found the "ending" satisfying, though also unsurprisingly a reinforcement of the truth that life is messy and often evasive of clear narrative conclusions.

If you haven't listened to Serial, I strongly recommend it. Start at episode 1, avoid "spoilers," and think about language.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Edublog Awards and Year in Review

I have had the honor of being nominated for Best Individual Blog in this year's Edublogs awards. Each year this event serves as a reminder of the importance of social media in education, as well as a great place to find new blogs and other resources for ideas in your work. As has been the trend, SLPs have made a good showing this year, including:
If you get a moment to stop by the Best Individual Blog category and give me a vote, I'd appreciate it! This requires signing in Twitter, Facebook or Google. In the case of Facebook, you need to allow access but not to allow Listly to post.

It totally slipped my mind to do nominations this year, with ASHA Convention and all, so I want to give a shout-out to Chris Bugaj and family at A.T.TIPSCAST, who continue to provide entertaining and extremely helpful podcasts. Check them out on your free Podcasts app. Chris should be at least as popular as Serial. Though I am obsessed with Serial.

2014 was a good year. I got to quite a few places to make presentations- Atlanta, Las Vegas, Michigan, Ottawa, Nova Scotia, Nashville, Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. I wrote a bunch of columns for the ASHA Leader and nearly 50 posts here on the blog. Whew! Looking forward to a productive 2015, but I need to take a rest for a few weeks!

To close out the year (though I probably will sneak one or two in), here are the most popular posts of 2014:

Calming, Part 2

TED Talks of Interest to SLPs and Language Folks

Re-Usable Images

Stick Around: The Spectrum of Repurposing

iPad Essentials: Window Shopping in the App Store

Phrasal Verbs Machine (don't quite know why this one got so many hits, but OK)

DirecTV's "Don't" Commercials

Social Fortune and Fate/Comics Head


Write About This

Hope these are of use to review or if you missed them! Have a great Holiday Season...