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Education

Tablets, books and readers, oh my! Reflections on the first week of school
September 16, 2014 | 12:25 pm

technology in schoolI just finished my first full week of teaching for the new school year, and it's been so interesting to watch my students react to some of the changes I have implemented this year. In no particular order, here are some points of interest from my first teaching week. 1) God Bless the Internet Like many teachers, I use the internet heavily---be it Google Images clipart to illustrate a worksheet or Google Translate to double-check my grammar when I am writing notes or instructions in French. Two websites my school seems to be particularly relying on this year: Reading A-z.com, a scubscription...

Lego Mindstorms: How not to do technology in the classroom
September 4, 2014 | 12:26 pm

lego mindstormsIt pains me to write this, because I love the LEGO people so much. But I've wasted two hours of my life in possibly the worst teacher training I have ever attended, and I feel like all those pundits who wonder why teachers don't use eBooks and apps and iPads better in the classroom might wonder a little less if they went through what I did today. Want to get your new technology into the schools? Take note, and don't do it this way! The first problem was, the trainer had too much stuff with her, and none of it worked...

Why aren’t more teachers using technology in education?
August 15, 2014 | 4:25 pm

technology in educationThe excellent blog Teachers with Apps has a thought-provoking write-up on the timeless and eternal question of why teachers don't use technology in education better. The reasons they list, pulled from an Education Week survey, are varied, and true to my own experience: lack of time, lack of training, lack of access and so on. But when all is aid and done, they boil down to one thing: Technology is not an instant fix. That's it. That is the simple truth right there. People see the new and shiny and they get seduced by the idea that it's the better way which...

The roots of English stupidity
July 28, 2014 | 2:25 pm

dunce.jpgThe roots of English anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance are long, deep, and twisted. The consequences you can see all over, in terms of literacy levels, reading habits, social order, and even prison numbers, and many other metrics that TeleRead tracks, but the causes are buried in the English past. Just every so often, however, it helps to lay them bare to explain just what the hell is going on in England, and what kind of hope, if any, there is for the country. The odd thing is that most Protestant countries outside the Anglo-Saxon sphere are renowned for their high standards...

Cell phone book clubs: A new way for libraries to promote literacy, technology, family and community
July 17, 2014 | 12:25 pm

textgirl2A friend of mine in his 40s is about to start teaching in Houston, Texas, and he recently shared a discovery. Many teenagers in Houston tote cell phones, but don’t know they can read library e-books for free on their phones. This would jibe with a 2012 poll showing similar ignorance among Americans at large. A bigger issue also comes up. Just how much do young people care about books in the first place? Americans 15-19 spend only about four minutes reading for fun on a typical weekend day. Too bad. Students who love books are more likely to excel in school....

Authors add pressure on UK government over school libraries
July 16, 2014 | 12:35 pm

school librariesDozens of British authors and others have written an open letter to the UK Department of Education calling for action in the wake of a report from the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group, entitled The Beating Heart of the School, urging that the Department should supervise proper standards of services in school libraries. “Every secondary school in the UK should have a good library” declared the report. Published in The Guardian, the letter states: We – authors and illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents and others – are keen that this recommendation does not just become another piece of wishful thinking, and call on the Department...

UK rejoices as Gove goes
July 15, 2014 | 4:22 pm

mr-gove-cover Good news for UK teachers, pupils, readers - and incidentally, fans of American literature. Michael Gove, the much-despised UK Education Secretary dismissed by Professor Simon Schama at last year's Hay Festival for his "insulting, offensive" attitudes, and by author Patrick Ness as "appalling, ignorant and damaging" and "massive, arrogant egotist who can’t see anyone else’s opinion,"  has been moved to a new post as Chief Whip, in charge of internal discipline for the UK Conservative Party in the House of Commons, as part of a cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister David Cameron. According to David Cameron's official Twitter feed, "Michael Gove...

Student vs eBooks: Another Question of Terminology
July 12, 2014 | 4:32 pm

ebooksI wrote earlier about how important the proper defining of terms can be when debating the complex issue of publishing today. In my earlier piece, I made a point about the distinction between a 'publisher' and an 'editor,' and how muddied the waters can get when on conflates these two very different terms. Well, another article has been lighting up the blogs this week, and it's about 'students' who prefer paper textbooks over 'ebooks.' Notice the scare quotes there; I am not trying to be dramatic. But I would like to point out that there are very different ways each of...

Reading aloud to children, on screens or from books, is vital
June 30, 2014 | 2:25 pm

reading aloud to childrenRudy Shur, publisher and CEO of Square One in New York, and a respected veteran of the American book industry, told me the other day that he was delighted to read a New York Times article recently about the AAP (American Academy of Pedriatrics) releasing a statement endorsing the practice of reading aloud to babies. Why? Because one of his firm's authors, the late Glenn Doman, published a book 50 years ago that said the same thing when he was director of The Institutes for the Achievement for Human Potential. "It's very rewarding to watch the scientific community catch up to...

The argument against content filters
June 27, 2014 | 3:28 pm

Mom and daughter turning page in children's book on iPad 2An article in today's Morning Links on how internet filters limit children's learning had me nodding in agreement as I read. I have not seen content filters at my own school limit kids per se---when given free reign, they tend to go on the same half-dozen familiar sites and they seldom go exploring. But I have seen them limit teachers who are trying to prep activities. And I think they teach a certain kind of supervisory laziness that does nobody any favours. Let's start with the cludginess aspect. I don't know what my boss has put into the content filters, other...

Education, Back to Basics Style?
June 12, 2014 | 2:28 pm

educationI've posted a lot of articles this year about technology in education---my own school has iPads, MacBooks, SMARTboards and other gadgets, all of which we have a mandate to use as often as possible and integrate into our lessons. I have written at length about the difficulties we have upgrading and maintaining these technologies, training teachers to use them effectively, and deploying them to maximum effect with such a large group of kids. So it's been a little surprising---and bemusing---to me to see a groundswell lately in favour of a more back-to-basics style. It seems that more and more teachers are...

Cory Doctorow fights high school censorship with 200 copies of Little Brother
June 6, 2014 | 1:16 pm

littlebrotherOn BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow writes about a high school in Pensacola, Florida that had been scheduled to have his novel Little Brother in its summer reading program until the principal put his foot down. In an email conversation with Ms Griffith, the principal cited reviews that emphasized the book's positive view of questioning authority, lauding "hacker culture", and discussing sex and sexuality in passing. He mentioned that a parent had complained about profanity (there's no profanity in the book, though there's a reference to a swear word). In short, he made it clear that the...