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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...

LeVar Burton discusses Reading Rainbow TV show cancelation, plans for Kickstarter
June 5, 2014 | 12:49 pm

The Reading Rainbow Kickstarter has reached about $3.5 million, and the velocity of increase has slowed considerably. I still think it has the potential to make 10 if it does well over the course of the month, especially when it gets the end-of-Kickstarter boost. But even if it makes its $5 million stretch goal, that will be something. LeVar Burton has been interviewed by Think Progress, and he took the opportunity to dispel a few rumors about why the show was canceled, and discuss how the show originally got started and how the money from the Kickstarter will be...

LeVar Burton launches Reading Rainbow Kickstarter, fully funds in less than twelve hours
May 28, 2014 | 8:55 pm

LeVar_RR_bio.largeTake a look, it’s in a book. The Verge ran a story today that LeVar Burton has launched a $1 million Kickstarter with the goal of bringing Reading Rainbow to the web, to reach kids across the globe. It’s already available for Android and iPad, but not all kids or schools have access to those devices, or the $60 per year the subscription costs. In addition to putting it on the web, Burton wants to create a version for teachers to use in the classroom, and to set up a not-for-profit organization to make it available for free to low-income schools. The...

Did Michael Gove really veto U.S. literature for UK GCSEs?
May 28, 2014 | 10:25 am

mockingbirdUK Education Secretary Michael Gove is not the most popular man, or even minister, in Britain. Indeed, some openly revile him. But there is still some doubt as to whether he really is guilty of trying to remove some U.S. literary classics from the GCSE English literature syllabus, as the Sunday Times claimed, declaring that: "classic works such as To Kill A Mockingbird are being dropped from English GCSEs because Michael Gove, the education secretary, wants teenagers to focus on works by British writers, it emerged yesterday. As well as the Harper Lee novel, American texts including Of Mice And...

Changing how people learn with digital textbooks
May 16, 2014 | 10:34 am

digital textbooksEBooks are changing education, starting from the teachers on down. Two recent stories have showed how developers are using digital textbooks to change the way teachers and students engage. The first story comes out of Pennsylvania where teachers at Mercersburg Academy have created textbooks they want using iBooks. According to a release, teachers have created a suite 22 e-textbooks on a number of topics such as Latin, robotics, history and math. “The eBook revolutionized my class,” said Academic Dean Julia Maurer, the driving force behind the eBooks initiative, in a release. “I had been teaching Robotics for four years but developing my own...

Storium enters last day of Kickstarter with educational version fully funded
May 8, 2014 | 4:14 am

storiumfinalIt’s the last day of Storium’s Kickstarter, and at the moment it’s raised over $212,000. This puts it well past the $200,000 goal to create a version specifically tailored for educational uses. At the rate Storium had been picking up new users until the last couple of days, I hadn’t expected it to make it. But it has, and I’m really happy about it. This is a product I’m already using, and that I firmly believe in. A lot of big names have stepped up to offer up worlds to play in. Those include official adaptations of Steve Jackson...

Storium Kickstarter turns writing into a game, seeks to fund educational version
May 2, 2014 | 3:17 am

With under a week left on the Kickstarter, I wanted to go into more detail about Storium, a slick, well-constructed web-based system for moderated play-by-post storytelling gaming that I first mentioned a few days ago. With $129,000 kicked in so far out of a $25,000 goal, it's definitely getting funded. But unlike most Kickstarters, you can actually start using it right now—pledging at least $10 gets you access to the beta, even if you later decide to cancel the pledge. The way it works is that you've got a narrator and several players, and a system of...

Why aren’t eBooks disrupting the college textbook market?
April 11, 2014 | 12:25 pm

college textbook marketThanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for sending this article my way. The write-up, from a blog called Fast Company has some interesting insights into why the college textbook market has not been taken over by ebooks yet. I have long held my own ideas on this matter. I have taken one course which had an online textbook option, and the functionality was so limited that it wasn't even worth bothering. Cut and paste was completely disabled, the books could not be read offline, they were scanned PDF and not OCR-searchable, and they expired the day after the course ended....

Review: Reading A-Z.com
April 3, 2014 | 4:40 pm

reading a-z.comMy school recently purchased, at my request, a one-year subscription to the website Reading A-Z.com. The website offers hundreds of printable leveled reader books in a variety of languages (English, British English, French, Spanish), and I found it when I was looking for French resources I could use to enhance my program for a child who speaks French at home. I think this resource will be useful for other teachers in my school, and I am looking forward to seeing what people do with it. I had thought initially that I could save the PDF files for use on my iPad....

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