Before the Internet, there were dioramas. (For all I know, there may still be dioramas.) Dioramas, though, have largely ceded territory to new media as this post by Adam Schoenbart reminded me this morning -- thoughts that triggered a memory from elementary school meriting a slice.
My family had scooped me out of school to visit grandparents and, as I recall, the teacher charged me with creating a diorama to capture my understanding of what we would be reading together in class, which I'd be missing. The text under our teenybopper microscopes would be an illustrated, abridged edition of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.
I recall my grandma setting me up with a shoe box, plush carpet samples, scissors, glue, and a stack of magazines. After reading, I proceeded to recreate a scene, a sort of 3D collage, in the count's opulent lodging as he plotted against those who had betrayed him. (Caveat: I used the Internet just now to refresh my memory of the novel's plot.) However, since elementary me was operating in the pre-Internet era, I actually had to pack the finished project in my suitcase to carry back to school to share with my teacher and classmates.
Through the haze of years, I remember this whole experience fondly. I enjoyed reading; I had a good time making something; I felt proud of my creation. (I cleverly used cut-up straws stuck into the thick carpet to mount the count and one of his benefactors! I was diorama MacGyver!)
My view now as an English teacher is more muddled. Did the diorama project really do much for my understanding or appreciation of Dumas' text? Was it, rather, a teacher's improvised whack at accountability for a student who was about to duck out from the umbrella of her influence? How does the elephantine presence of the Internet change any of these dynamics nowadays? Is sharing about books via online creations just a diorama analog (one even easier to game thanks to sites like SparkNotes, Schmoop, or YouTube), or does the ability to create, publish, and share on a potentially global scale have a demonstrably different impact?
I wonder what the community of slicers thinks about these questions... I hope you'll share in the comments -- or via diorama, or any other medium you choose.