Monday, October 8, 2012

Smelling the Book


     I still have my old library card from when I was in 4th grade. I remember the excitement of going to the library and being surrounded by so many stories, so much knowledge. I love to read. I can easily get lost in a book, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction, nonfiction or even the yellow pages (which fascinate me endlessly but that’s another whole blog). I love the smell of old books, the feel of the thicker paper, such a pleasure to turn. I love buying used books and discovering small notes in the margin. Will my children continue to know this pleasure? Will their children even have public libraries?

     All this thinking about books has generated lots of thoughts about digital literacy and digital fluency. How has technology, especially ereaders, iPads, and audiobooks changed the art of reading? The art of making meaning? Will we have libraries in ten years? Will borrowing a book mean something else entirely?

     My thoughts and consequent searching brought me to an article about how schools in Calgary are adopting electronic textbooks. It's an interesting article and several quotes from Jean Ludlam, the Manager for Children, Teens and Families at the Calgary Public Library hit home for me. She was referring earlier in the article to the digital divide but then said there is another divide too:

     "The other divide is with children and the difficulty they have deciphering and discriminating between information." 

     In this age of cut and paste and searchable texts, it is all too easy to not truly read the material, to not make the meaning. I do love the ease of downloading and reading books on my iPad. I love how easy it is to highlight, to make notes, to share those notes, and to find a particular quote quickly and easily but when it become that easy, do our students lose the ability to truly locate information, to sift through it all for the value? 

    I remember this great scene in Desk Set when Katherine Hepburn and her librarian crew outsmarted the brand new computer research system installed by Spencer Tracy because they used their brains to problem solve and not technology. Yet toward the end of the movie, when a particularly perplexing question is posed to Hepburn and her crew, it's the technology that finds the answer. The moral of course is to find the balance, but if someday we no longer have those reference books, if they go the way of encyclopedias, will our students be capable of locating the right information? Or will it be all too easy to take the information at face value because it is in electronic form?
     Better language needs to be developed around what it means to simply Google things and what it means use a credible resource that is available online, she said. And kids browse Google differently than when they once perused a textbook, she believes.
     “It isn’t that tactile experience,” Ludlam said. “I wonder how that works in our brains if you can’t see it and hold it and touch it.”
     Will we forget what reading a book means? Will we forget the way books feel and smell?

     Will it matter? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ISTE Envy and Sir Ken Robinson

ISTE Crowd Waiting Impatiently to Get Into Keynote

I admit it. I am pea green with envy. ISTE envy is tough to bear but as I read through the multiple Twitter posts, blogs, Edmodo group work, Google+ postings and various backchannel conversations, I really do feel like I'm getting the best compilation of the sessions possible. What I cannot do is listen in and partake in all the face-to-face conversations brewing. The excitement is palpable. I cheered for the @edubros when Robinson gave them a shout out. The #iste12 feed was feverish (and trending). Imagine if just a small portion of this excitement is what our students felt all day at school?

I was amused by the complaints that poured into the Twitter feed when it became obvious that Sir Ken Robinson's presentation was only a small portion of the keynote as a multitude of speakers came out to push their message--sometimes thought provoking and sometimes a straight out commercial--and I thought to myself that this is probably what many of our students feel like during the day. The want the good stuff, they want to be challenged, to be excited about possibilities, to feel a connection, to feel an a-ha, in short, they want to learn

How can we capture that excitement, create that buzz, push the stream of learning? I think Sir Ken hit it on the head when he spoke about the huge error we created with NCLB and that education has become a morass of mass standardization. What we really need he said is to personalize learning.

"The problem is the whole process of education is being based on an impersonal approach and a suffocating culture of standardization." 

How do we personalize learning? We get to know our students. Robinson described great teaching as an art form, an intuitive approach based on the happy marriage of a teacher knowing the material, and knowing the students, and understanding the necessary chemistry that must occur for learning to take place. I agree. Great teachers are great artists. They hear a rhythm in their heads, they know when to step in and when to stand back, how to paint a picture with words, diagrams, and other tools so that students can see, they know how to encourage risk and foster resiliency, they know how to instill pride, and they know how to bring out the best in their students because they are learners too. 

ISTE attendees were ready to break down the doors to get into the keynote because they could not wait to learn from Sir Ken Robinson. They knew that this keynote would provide inspiration and the anticipation was high. Just the tweets in the hour before the keynote ran to over 26 pages! Can you imagine having that level of anticipation among your students?

We need to have our students that eager to get into our classrooms . . . to want to share what they learned with their friends and family, to count the minutes until the next class not out of dread, but out of sheer anticipation for the fun and challenge that awaits them.

Let's not suffocate them. Let's get engaged ourselves so that we may engage our students. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stich It

Tired of trying to figure out how to easily share more than one website with your students? Try stitching them together! Stitching - yes! With you can accomplish the task easily!

So here is the 411 on Stitch-----suppose that you have 4 or 5 web sites that you would like your students to visit. Instead of having to post all the links—just enter them into Stitch and it will “stitch” them together for you and give you one link. So easy!    See below for more information!

Let me know if you have questions!