Banned books


I ran across this story the other day and kept the tab open and I continued to revisit it, learning more each time. It originated from the Readers’ Digest site.

These Are the Books That Were Banned the Decade You Were Born

Growing up, books and reading were big around our house. Every Saturday morning, my mother took my brother and me to the town library to get books to last for the upcoming week.

I can remember being fascinated by the reference section but, of course, we couldn’t book those out so we eventually moved to the area that was age-appropriate. I can also remember being hooked on Hardy Boy books and read them all. At the time, these were very popular and it wasn’t uncommon that the next book in the series was not available.

Those were shelved in a particular section of the library and we were given free range of it. There also was an adult section that we were told that we couldn’t go in to. Now, for a child of that age, you can imagine the curiosity that that inspired.

The neat thing about the library was that, as long as we stayed in our area, we could check out any book that we wanted. Seemingly, there were no restrictions at all. I can recall basically trying out books by various authors and there were some I liked and some I didn’t. It never dawned on me that, other than by age, there were other factors at work determining what was available and what wasn’t.

School was a different beast. For me, the difference between school and the public library was big. At school, we were told what we had to read; at the library we were less restricted.

I enjoyed working through the article identifying books that I had read, mostly at school but some for recreation or to meet some English class quota. Later on, the selections were just reading for fun. Titles that come back to mind over the decades from this article include:

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • 1984
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • Catch-22
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Hunger Games

To be honest, the concept of banned or challenged books really was foreign to me. I never appreciated that there were big forces at work ensuring we had access to these books. Speaking of foreign, I recognize that the original article originated from south of the border. So, I went looking for a similar listing of Canadian works and found this.

Challenged Works

I know that, having worked with Teacher-Librarians over the years, all of the research and energy that they put into making sure that their collections serve students in their learning community. I also know that preferences can vary from school to school.

But, for this moment in time, it was just a nice look back and think about the reading done in my past.

I did get a book for this Christmas and it sits just to the right of me. I’m glad that my mother instilled a love of reading in me although I don’t think that she could have foreseen that it has changed over the years to include so much online.

And yet, there’s just something about holding a book.

Riveting reading


Often, you see parents who are trying to entertain children while in waiting rooms hand their smartphones to the child and let them play with it. What if there was something that would engage and, at the same time, educate?

There is with Rivet: Better Reading Practice.

How about access to over 2000 appropriate books? That’s what you get with this application.

I did a quick install to take a look at things and was so impressed.

The graphics in the stories are very well done and clicking on words are helpful for getting through those tough words!

The Google Play store lists these features…

– 2,000+ free, leveled children’s books
– 8 reading levels to grow with your reader
– Engaging, kid-friendly interface
– Tap on tricky words for help
– Rate, review, and save favorite books
– Browse categories or search by keyword
– Read books from your favorite YouTube creators
– Track reading practice
– Listening allows kids to practice reading out loud 
– Earn badges and rewards by achieving milestones
– Choose one of our 8 fun avatars
– Personalized book recommendations

And, teachers, for use in the classroom? Check out the Educators page.

But my students don’t all have smartphones? I installed it here on my Chromebook and it works like a champ. Actually, it uses the entire screen better than many of the Android applications that I have installed.

If you’re in the market for an additional source of reading, check this out. You’re one download away from expanding your library.

And popping those balloons are fun too!

A Convergence of Thought


A couple of things entered my reading today.  The first was an infographic asking “What Does An Educational Technologist Do?”  It’s an interesting graphic and worth the time to follow the link and take a look.

Technologist

The second reading was a blog entry from George Couros titled “What should a networked educational leader tweet about?”  Just as the infographic is worth the time to study, so is Mr. Couros’ blog entry.  In particular, the summary at the bottom of the article about what or what not should be tweeted.

In both cases, I would suggest that these are significant descriptors.  For those of you who have access to the services of an educational technologist, I would think both are good standards for the position and worthwhile discussion with them.

But, I would take it even further.  Not only should these be considered, there is another aspect.

How often does this communication happen?  Is it sufficient when the educational technologist is in attendance at a conference or a presentation and parrotting points made by a speaker?  I would say no.  Doing so is like saying “I’m here and you’re not”.

The message that an educational technologist often gives is one of you needing to be a lifelong learner and get with the program. But what about her/him?

If you believe in lifelong learner for others, how about yourself?  If you believe in visible learning, how about yourself?

Is it not desirable, heck, even a requirement that you show how it’s done?  If it’s important to learn, I would suggest that it’s at least as important to illustrate that.  Only then, do you lead and learn by example.  Are you not learning something new every day as you would expect others to do?

Take another look at the two resources.  They really show a great convergence of ideas and should be part of a roadmap for success.  Otherwise, it’s pretty difficult to answer the question “Just what is it that you do?”

 

The Power of Images


We all know of the power of images.  They bring forth human emotions stronger than mere words.  It’s part of the reason why so many use cameras and images so effectively in the classroom.

One of my favourite applications that use the power of images so strongly is PicLits.   Using it is pretty easy – just click on an image from the gallery, and in one mode just drag and drop nouns, verbs,  adjectives, etc. onto the image to tell the story behind the image.  In the freestyle mode, you have the ability to write your story in a little text editor.  The program can be very effective for use in the classroom.

Watching students motivated by the image has convince me that this application is a real “keeper” for primary and some junior classes.

I’ve been looking for a similar way to inspire research and writing in older students.  The game changes there and you can make things more authentic by providing real-world problems and situations for deeper comment and proposals for solution.  This morning, I ran into an absolutely incredible website for setting the stage to some thoughtful writing.

Amusing Planet wrote a book review with some imagery that is absolutely powerful.  The book is entitled “Where Children Sleep“.  It’s a collection of images and short stores from students around the world.  The common denominator in all of this is that a picture of each of the children’s “bedroom” is shown along with a short biography of each child.

When you read the stories behind each of the children, you can’t help but get a sense as to what life must be like in each of their realities.  I can’t help but think that this readings would serve to inspire some insightful research and writing by students old enough to understand things.  Even an activity where you choose two of the children and compare their realities would serve as a starter that would undoubtedly inspire the students to read and try to understand all of students in the article.

Beyond that, I would think that copies of this book should find a welcome home in school libraries everywhere.

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News Junkie


Within the past hour, I have confessed to a friend that I’m a news junkie.  I read and try to understand as much as I can.  Consequently, I’m constantly looking for the best way to read what I want to read.  On my iPad, I have Zite, Flipboard, Pulse News Reader and the LCARS RSS Reader.  (all of which have had previous reviews on this blog!)  On my computer, I’ve experimented with a number of RSS readers and seem to have settled in on Google Reader and Newsquares.  On top of that, I do have the Newseum and a couple of other newspapers all queued up!

I read a number of blogs and some of my favourites, you’ll find on my own blogroll.

 

There’s lots of good reading to be had at all of the above sources.  Still, I search for more efficient ways to stay on top of things.

Normally, anything that I write about on this blog is part of my regular routine and I’ve tried them long enough to have an opinion.  But, given the conversation with @doremigirl tonight, I thought that I’d share a service that I literally signed up for this morning while reading something somewhere else!  It’s called Planetaki.  Their description of their service is:

A planet is a place where you can read all the websites you like in a single page. You decide whether your planet is public or private.

My first reaction was that this service would be a good way to assign reading assignments that involve multiple sources to students.  Just create a “planet” with all of the resources cued up for the students to read.  It probably would serve well in that function.  But then, I started thinking — could I use this to make me a more productive reader for the things that I read every day.

Essentially, when you create a “planet”, you put together websites that you want to read.  Planetaki then assembles the websites into a single reading document.  I would just scroll down the computer reading what I want to read.  It sounds intriguing.  Where to start?

I just happened to be looking at my Blogroll at the time.  Why not start there?  So, I created a “planet”.  I wasn’t alone.  Here are some of the recently created planets…

image

I figured that I better focus on mine.  I already was looking up and down the list eager to check out the other “planets”.  Now, these “planets” can be public or private but it seems to me that the best route would be to go public.  So, you can read my blogroll at http://www.planetaki.com/dougpete.  You can read the list – when I read it, the newest items are highlighted as new since the last reading.

As I’m creating this entry, two of the most recent posts where from Peter Skillen and David Warlick.  Planetaki gives a decent amount of a preview for the post with a link to the original post.  Not bad for a preview.  If an item is newsworthy, then I can click on the keep button where the story is preserved.  Viewing the complete post pulls in all of the artifacts from the original blog so that you can do things like add a comment, digg it, tweet about it, or whatever the author has configured.

image

As I kept checking the resource today, I realized why I have these resources on my blogroll.  They write great content and there were updates during the day.  As I mentioned earlier as well, there are some people with blogrolls that haven’t had a post in three years.    But, I guess it’s important to do some name dropping.

I took a look at it and really like it.  It definitely is sequential but when you bring up the “planet” on the iPad where scrolling is so important, it really performed nicely.  Ditto for the iPod Touch.  It does reaffirm to me that this would be the perfect tool for assigned student reading.  The only real problem that I’ve run into is adding Alfred Thompson’s blog http://blogs.msdn.com/b/alfredth/.  I get him plus a whole bunch of other Microsoft blogs.  They’re actually pretty good reading but not what I had in mind.

For me, I’m going to give it a shot.  I’ve made it a bookmark on my Tizmos page which is my default.  I’m going to give it a shakedown and see if it can’t change my reading lifestyle for the better and make me more productive.

A Tale of Two Newspapers


A few months ago, paper.li hit the internet by storm.  Paper.li is a free service that creates an online newspaper packed with content that is provided by your followers or a list that you created, all based on your unique Twitter account.  The resulting unique “newpaper” features some of the interesting posts that people have sent to their part of the Twitter stream.  What it does for the end user is highlight stories and also provides a summary of what’s happening when, for some reason, you’re not connected to these accounts 24/7.

The concept intrigued me and I created my own paper.li based upon the users that I follow.  Nicely divided into sections that the service determines, it provides a nicely rounded summary of those I follow.  I only follow people that have some interest to me and the resulting newspaper is of great interest.  While my primary interest in using Twitter is connecting with other educators, I do have what I consider to be a nice bit of entrepreneurs, news and sports sources, a few celebrities, and just plain folks that I find interesting.

The “Doug Peterson Community News” is just an interesting collection of the thoughts of the over 2500 interesting sources from my online community that I read.

It’s automatically published early in the morning and I pour over the contents with a coffee much like I would with its paper cousin.  Like a traditional newspaper, its content is wide ranging.  The title page supposedly posts the best of the best and then the generated sections lets me dig deeper into the content.

I also have a second newspaper that’s created and published about 3 hours later.

From the Twitter list that I’ve created and called “Ontario Educators”, a summary of what Ontario educators are posting appears in this edition.  What I’m constantly amazed by is the rich content that educators from the province are writing and reading and sharing.

I think that, in the back of my mind, I had expected the content from both of these to be quite similar.  While there are some overlapping articles, the entirety of each is completely different.  I skim the headlines in both papers and regularly do followup to the linked articles because of the content that’s shared.

The downside?  If you recall, there was a furor because some people were offended since paper.li does a shout out of 2 or three of the sources when it makes your paper.  While some people get a hoot from being recognized, others considered the acknowledgement as a form of Twitter spam.  To the developer’s credit, they wrote some code that would allow those folks to opt out of being acknowledged for their sharing.  I still struggle with the concept but such is life.

The editions are archived so that you can return to previous issues if you need to for some reason.  I’ve tried it a couple of times and it works nicely but I don’t use it often.  I think that’s testament to the fact that Twitter is all about now and the present and less about what happened in the past.

I really enjoy both of these publications and I’d like to thank those who create the content for me just by sharing whatever it is that they’re reading.  It’s a powerful wealth of resources.  I can think of all kinds of ways to create customized newspapers for reading in virtually any kind of classroom environment.  A Computer Science daily.  A Digital Storytelling daily.  A Science daily….

The only downfall?  Well, it’s embarrassing when I spend all the time to create a blog post expressing my thoughts of the day and the editors at paper.li elect not to run with my story.  How sad is that?

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Doug Never Says Anything


and with this utility, you can get to the point quicker!

The web resource Summarity is “Software that Summarizes”.  The premise is pretty simple.  Select some text, paste it to Summarity and let it do its thing.

Its thing is to analyse your content and summarize it to save you reading the entire content.  So, I decided to put it to the test.  I went back to my blog post about my first look at the Apple iOS 4.2, copied all of the text, pasted it into the entry box and asked Summarity to summarize it for me.  The result?

That’s kind of cool.  Plus, once you do get a summary, you can adjust the shrinkage factor to give more verbose or shorter results.  Ever looking for the educational angle, I turn to literacy and one of the important concepts is having students learn to summarize a piece of reading.  Using Summarity might well be an engaging hook to compare a computer generated summary with one that’s done manually.

But, there’s another component to this resource that I find even more helpful.  It’s called Skim Mode.  With Skim Mode, it’s like a computer generated highlighter where the Summarity highlights by making the phrases that it deems important become bold.

This feature, I find really interesting.  Just like the process of reading text and identifying the salient points, you can focus on the highlights, but also still read about it to put the reading in context.

So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and want me to get to the point — just summarize my entry and get to it!