Will the Kindle Change Education?



From Scholastic Administr@tor:

Some educators say they are already convinced that e-book readers are what schools need. “For the longest time, distribution of reading materials has been highly inefficient in getting the right material to the right student at the right moment,” says Daniel Witz, a language arts teacher at Lake Bluff Middle School, near Chicago. “You have maybe four books of a fiction title; if a fifth kid wants to be part of that circle, you don’t have that copy,” he says.

Students provided with Kindles, which can hold some 1,500 digital books, can simply download the copies they need, without burdening a school’s media center, Witz says.

With access to the vast bookshelf of titles, teachers could tempt reluctant readers with high-interest magazines and nonfiction, or they could feed their voracious readers with popular series.

Kindles stocked with well-chosen e-books would also allow teachers to flex new teaching strategies, according to Cornelia Brunner, the deputy  director at the Center for Children and Technology in New York City. “You could have a very nicely selected group of readings. . . . Kids could read, annotate, and actually clip and be asked to make connections among those clippings,” says Brunner.

Other possible benefits include providing students with more books electronically than is practical in print, reducing photocopying, relieving the unhealthy weight of student backpacks, and—though this case is far from proven—saving school districts money on textbooks.

Read the entire article here.


If you’ve been following the Philly budget crisis and fate of the Free Library, this just in:

Just minutes ago, the Pennsylvania State senate passed bill 1828 by a vote of 32 to 17. For all of you who have been following the saga over the city’s budget crisis, this is indeed the legislation that was needed for the City of Philadelphia to avoid the “Doomsday” Plan C budget scenario, which would have resulted in the layoff of 3,000 city employees and forced the closing of all libraries.

We are enormously grateful to everyone who advocated on our behalf. More than 2,000 letters to state legislators were collected from our libraries, and countless others made calls and sent emails underscoring how important public libraries are to the economic, educational and social life of our city. We also thank our incredible library staff, who despite the threat of imminent layoffs continued to provide excellent service to the thousands of people who use one of the 54 libraries in our system.

Stay informed by reading the Free Library Blog.

New Literacy … writing is alive and well

Clive Thompson writes about the Stanford Study of Writing – one of the first research-based arguments that student writing is in actual fact, alive, well, and thriving in the digital age:

… young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.

Read the rest of the Wired article here.

Mixed Ink

Really interesting idea – takes collaborative writing a bit further than the tools we’ve become familiar with (like google docs or wikispaces).

With Mixed Ink, writers can participate in a group with the goal of producing a single, final document. Writers can draft their ideas individually or on smaller teams. Individuals and teams write and read each others’ work, borrowing when they find strong ideas (always giving the originator credit) and re-drafting at will. Group members continuously rate the submissions until one final document emerges.

According to the folks at Mixed Ink, the tool has been used by the White HouseCongressional offices, and news publishers. It looks to have great potential for classroom use, giving a whole new meaning to peer review and the concept of editing and revision. Mixed Ink suggests applications such as:

  • persuasive writing
  • vision statements
  • word problems
  • letters to editor / public officials
  • how-to writing
  • film/literature analysis

I’m sure teachers could think of many more uses. Here’s a descriptive video:

MixedInk Demo from MixedInk on Vimeo.

Encyclopedic Death

Interesting … an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Microsoft’s Encarta, Rendered Obsolete by Wikipedia, Will Shut Down

Microsoft has announced that it will soon euthanize Encarta, the onetime encyclopedia-of-the-future that has lost much of its luster in the last decade. But the company really didn’t have much choice in the matter: For all intents and purposes, Wikipedia had fatally shivved Encarta some time ago.

And Microsoft admits that. In recent years, “the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed,” the company said in a statement on the shutdown. “People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.” So there’s really only one question left to be answered: Should Encarta be mourned?

Should it?

Steal this blog.

Must read article by Ron Charles in the Washington Post … discussing college students’ reading habits (On Campus, Vampires Are Besting the Beats):

“… according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the best-selling titles on college campuses are mostly about hunky vampires or Barack Obama. Recently, Meyer and the president held six of the 10 top spots. In January, the most subversive book on the college bestseller list was “Our Dumb World,” a collection of gags from the Onion. The top title that month was “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” by J.K. Rowling. College kids’ favorite nonfiction book was Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” about what makes successful individuals. And the only title that stakes a claim as a real novel for adults was Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” the choice of a million splendid book clubs.

Here we have a generation of young adults away from home for the first time, free to enjoy the most experimental period of their lives, yet they’re choosing books like 13-year-old girls — or their parents. The only specter haunting the groves of American academe seems to be suburban contentment …”

Is inspiring literature doomed? What will happen to progressive thinking if college campuses become mere extensions of high school, and no longer the place where kids are exposed to new and radical ideas?

Writing in the 21st Century

Superb report released by NCTE. In it, Kathleen Blake Yancy provides historical context for the teaching of writing. My favorite quote:

“Writing has never been accorded the cultural respect or the support that reading has enjoyed, in part because through reading, society could control its citizens, whereas through writing, citizens might exercise their own control.”

Yancy makes some significant observations about the nature of composition in the 21st century:

“…we have moved beyond a pyramid-like, sequential model of literacy development in which print literacy comes first and digital literacy comes second and networked literacy practices, if they come at all, come third and last … we have multiple models of composing operating simultaneously, each informed by new publication practices, new materials, and new vocabulary.”

Yancy concludes by charging educators to acknowledge the new types of composing afforded by the Read/Write Web and to:

  1. Articulate the new models of composing developing right in front of our eyes.
  2. Design a new model of a writing curriculum K–graduate school.
  3. Create new models for teaching.

This is a must-read for all educators … and policy-makers (hint, hint).

Survival of the fittest …


Charles Darwin’s works are online … free, courtesy of University of Cambridge:

This site contains Darwin’s complete publications, thousands of his private papers, the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue and hundreds of supplementary works: biographies, obituaries, reviews, reference works and much more.

Almost all is online only here: such as 1st editions of Voyage of the Beagle, Zoology, Descent of Man, all editions of Origin of Species (1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th & 6th); manuscripts & papers: Beagle Diary & field notebooks, Journal, transmutation notebooks and Autobiography.

Forthcoming: editions, translations, introductions & manuscripts.

New! Audio book of Darwin’s Beagle diary here.