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EdTech Update





When more is less: culturally constructed ignorance

A Range of Sources.
Your students have been researching current diseases and they come into the classroom with information from these sources. Can you help them determine which could be considered the most reliable? Might you as a teacher have a different opinion than some parents about the validity of information from some sources?

  • Center for Disease Control
  • Newsweek
  • The bestseller The Hot Zone
  • Flyers from an insurance company or HMO
  • Personal webpage
  • Chat room conversation
  • Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk show
  • National Public Radio’s “Science Friday”
    (from Survival Skills for the Information Jungle, Creative Classroom, August 2001.)

The quote above comprises the core of one of my favorite activities I do in workshops. I ask educators how they would rate the credibility of information about a dread disease if gleaned from each of the sites above.

Most rank CDC and NPR high and Rush Limbaugh, chat rooms and personal web pages low. It's then that I ask - "Do you have parents who would believe just the opposite?" And many teachers admit they do. (And I am guessing I have quite a few teachers who may themselves trust Rush over NPR.)

One of the things of which I am most hopeful is that the new Obama administration will turn away from agnotology: culturally constructed ignorance. Especially in the sciences. While we ought to debate what scientific facts may mean, that we will stop debating whether scientific facts are actually facts.

I learned this new word, agnotology, in Clive Thompson's Wired short article, "How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge." (Thanks to Colet Bartow in Montana for the recommendation.) It's worth a read.

I am not so naive to think that just because we have a new president, the dialog about evolution, abortion, global warming, conservation, or education will become more respectful and less politicized.

But one may hope it becomes less emotional and more rational.


Little bunny books - reading despite school

As I remember the story, grandson Paul came home one day from first grade and declared that he didn't like to read anymore. Coming from a "reading" family, this wasn't received particularly well. A little investigation by his parents discovered what Paul really didn't like was reading the required materials in the reading series. He called them "little bunny stories." The happy ending is that Paul's parents visited the library and bookstore and found books more suited to his reading interests. Mostly Dave Pilkey Captain Underpants books (that his grandfather enjoys as well).

I'm thinking of this bit of family lore as I read Kelly Gallagher's e-book, Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. [Thanks so much for the head's up about this book from Dr. Joyce at the NeverEnding Search where she includes a lot of other really good information about the book as well.]

Gallagher defines:

Read-i-cide:noun, the systematic killing of the love ofreading, often
exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools

and suggests that

...rather than helping students, many of the reading practices found in today’s classrooms are actually contributing to the death of reading. In an earnest attempt to instill reading, teachers and administrators push practices that kill many students’ last chance to develop into lifelong readers.

Gallagher offers solutions to schools creating alliterate graduates - one of which is reading for fun. I wish the author had a more positive view of libraries - he insists that classroom libraries best serve kids. This is something the profession needs to work on - emphasizing the school library's role in creating classroom-housed collections.

I often wonder just how much I would read if I was permitted to read only a certain number of pages per day (NO READING AHEAD), only could read things that were interesting to female elementary teachers female elementary teachers - who haven't read any new children's literature possibly since they finished their college children's lit class but even more likely, since they were in elementary or middle school themselves -  assigned, and on which I had to complete worksheets. Is it any wonder why video games look good to kids?

Paul's story had a happy ending despite his school, not because of his school. Paul didn't like reading at the time because he was a good reader, not because he was a poor reader. How sad is it that for all those children who don't come from such superior genetic stock that schools are not helping struggling readers and destroying successful ones?

Share this book, along with Krashen's Power of Reading, 2nd edition, with reading specialists, teachers and parents. But only if you care if the next generation reads more than chat boxes.


Reaction to Obama's inauguration


My seven-year-old grandson says it better than I can:

Paul, I felt very happy as well. I also believe it will be a good four years. Or eight. - Grandpa