Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity."

Washington Irving

I lost my job today.  Budget cuts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Social Learning Summit

I'm really excited about virtually attending this Social Learning Summit which is coming up soon on Saturday, April 21st!  Check it out at the Classroom 2.0 Web site.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Net Smart : How to Thrive Online" by Howard Rheingold

I AM GOING TO READ THIS ASAP!!! So this is not yet a review of Rheingold's book but is a collection of what I took away from his online talk that was hosted by Library 2.0 and Future of Education. Embedded above is the free first chapters from Amazon.  It just came out last week.  I chose to watch his session because his ideas really match my concerns for my students and the teachers that I help to teach.  This is the second online session that I've been a part of with Rheingold.

There are five fundamental literacies that Rheingold highlights as necessary to be fluent user of social media and the network.  They are:
  • attention
  • crap detection
  • participation
  • collaboraton
  • network smarts
The fact that the first one is ATTENTION is HUGE!  This idea of mindfulness and teaching kids how to fully focus their attention on anything (perhaps their teachers) is going to be very important as our schools begin to implement more use of student personal devices.  I appreciated the fact that he believes that teachers need to be reflective about their own use of communication devices and our own divided brains.

(And as I'm saying this, I'm trying to take care of my 4 and 1/2 year old son who just woke up unhappily from an unplanned nap and I'm trying to sneak in this bit of my own online learning before I leave the session early to take him to T-ball practice.  And then had to make him dinner and navigate his dissatisfaction with that dinner all the while walking around with my laptop) 

I really appreciated how much he's reflected upon how to get students to manage and train their own attention.  He coined a term "infotention" to talk about the quick decisions that we are starting to make online.  I also liked the fact that he's talking about helping students create a "tool set" that will help them to navigate information.

Crap detection is is next literacy, although he calls this "critical consumption."  I feel like schools are doing a better job of helping students develop this skill.  Teachers are definitely on board with this but are often not as fluent with their own crap detector to assist the kids by modeling it. 

Participation is the third literacy and highlights the fact that so many people now have the capability of creating their own content. He refers to Russ Mayfield's Power Law of Participation. 

Cooperation and Network Smarts will have to be saved until I actually read the book.  I've got to go cooperate with the other parents at my T-ball practice right now.

11:01 pm. Upon greater reflection, I think that we also need to be focusing on how to help students create their own internal motivation as well as teach them how to be mindful of their experiences.

Monday, April 2, 2012


This week is my spring break and I'm using the time to launch my new initiative to help readers to better enjoy this year's "IT" genre -- dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction!   Fueled by the wild success of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, lots of readers are getting into speculating about what the future will hold. Take a look at my list of activities that I have available for teachers to use with students. 

The above image is from my new literature unit that gets kids talking about books while having them be accountable for independent reading. It also does not force them to all read the same exact book. By using these universal questions as discussion starters, you can have a productive mixed book discussion group with several titles in it.  It is called FUTURISTIC FICTION: Independent Reading and Book Club Support
There are also resources for several futuristic fiction titles. For each title, there is a 10 to 20 question multiple choice comprehension quiz so that a teacher can ensure that students have read and understood the details of their book. There are also 8 to 11 discussion questions that are specific to one title. And then there is a core collection of universal questions to use.

Additionally, there is some background information on the genre of science fiction and the sub genres of post-apocalyptic fiction and dystopian fiction as well as some discussion of the themes that are often contained in these books.

Lately, I've been having a few conversations with parents who are concerned about the themes of these books.  Parents have been reporting that their students are having nightmares.  They are tracing back the nightmares to the dystopian fiction that they are reading and are requesting that the son or daughter be given gentler suggestions of books to read.  I am always willing to do this but I watched students gravitate right back to futuristic fiction.  

When I think back to my own young adult and tweenhood, I remember being scared out of my MIND by the idea that the USSR was going to bomb us to bits.  I was a YA at the time when the made-for-tv movie "Threads" came out.  That movie stuck with me for some time.  I also remember being frightened of "Special Reports" that would cut into regular programming.  I always thought that they would contain reports of imminent doom. 

I remember reading John Hersey's Hiroshima as well as a non-fiction book that told the story of the Hiroshima "maidens" who came to the United States for plastic surgery in the 1950s.   I remembering loving the The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson when I read it.  (Really excited about the fact that a manga version of it is coming out!!!) 

I think that it is more likely that my fear was created not by the books I chose to read when I was a YA but more from the media and the world at-large. 

What I want to do for my students is give them a chance to read what they want but in a more supportive, "you are not alone with your thoughts and fears" way.  I'm hoping to use what I'm creating to provide this support for my students.