Sunday, April 4, 2010

Challenging Article on Reading in the Recent Phi Delta Kappan Journal

"The reading assigned to students today is almost identical to what students were assigned a generation ago. This is true not only for English classes, which see the same classic titles that earlier students avoided, but also for science, social studies, and other classes. The result? Students are turned off to reading.
When they are outside of school, young people read a wide variety of texts in many different media. But none of these texts are assigned in schools. When schools deny students access to so many kinds of texts, they impose a form of censorship and constrain students’ opportunities to learn. (Emphasis added)
If we want students to become lifelong readers, they must be surrounded with high-quality books they want to read. Schools should assign readings from magazines, graphic novels, newspapers, songs, and other forms of text. When schools broaden the types of reading they assign, they will bring immediacy and spontaneity to  students learning."

This is the summary of an article, which appeared in the April issue of Phi Delta Kappan, the journal of the national education honor society. The article challenges us to find ways to let kids read outside the boxes we tend to put them in.

Recently. Erik Berridge came to me with a great list of books he got from Sharilyn Sharf at Tam High, that she has her students choose and read for their World Cultures and Geography classes. It's a very challenging list and includes not only books about geography and cultures but also the historical background which kids should be encouraged to explore on their own. I've long thought that if we could have the kids choose one book in their 9th grade year and one in the 10th grade to read for social studies it would be beneficial for them in the long run. Both children and adults have gotten too used to just finding answers and not really reading in depth on a topic which they find interesting. The same challenge could be extended into the upper division classes (U.S. history and government and economics). Library circulation would soar, students vocabulary acquisition would be enhanced, and students would have the opportunity to focus on a single topic instead of scattering their mental focus all over the place.
Science is another area where kids could be challenged to read. There's so much good stuff being published and added to our library every year that there's no excuse for assigning the same old same old year after year.
In neither of these areas should we overlook fiction books, graphic novels, and other forms of literature including online literature. According to this article, in 1962 26% of our information came from print. That number is now 9%, with 30% coming from computer sources.

"If we want students who are readers, not just students who can read, we must surround them with high quality books they want to read. And these books should not be just for independent reading. They should be assigned and taught." I know that the Tam District tries harder than most to add contemporary titles to the book lists used in English classes but the process is cumbersome and sometimes leads to great new reads being missed or overlooked.

And another quote: "One of the most disheartening things about the reading students do in school is that it is so predictable. As students enter their classrooms each day, they already know what they’ll be reading: another novel similar to the last novel, another story out of their literature anthology, another chapter in the social studies textbook, another five-paragraph essay. When they leave school at the end of the day, they know the texts they’ll be reading the following day and the following year. How often are students genuinely and happily surprised by a new assigned reading?"

For those interested in pursuing this topic we've recently added the book Readicide to the library's professional collection. Check it out!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cyber Citizenship

PTSA Presentation
This morning Tara Taupier and I with assistance from the Tam District Technology Director, Joel Hames, and Redwood AP, David Sondheim, gave a presentation to the PTSA about cyber citizenship issues. The talk included discussions of student and parental responsibilities, privacy issues, general issues of Internet use and abuse, the development of a curriculum by the District to teach such topics in Social Issues and Computer Literacy courses.
I shared with the group the fact that this blog exists to give them and others in the community up to date on library happenings, and the existence of the Library's Twitter feed (@besschinlibrary)

Cybersafety Issues: How Parents Can Get Involved
Online safety and cyber-citizenship are two very important topics for parents and students. The Library provides the following information for parents from the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use ( Nancy Willard, executive director of CSRIU, is a recognized authority on issues related to the safe and responsible use of the Internet.

Today’s teens are totally connected through the Internet. As long as their time spent using online is balanced with other important activities the Internet can be fun and beneficial. Parenting online is just like parenting in the Real World. When children are younger we keep them in fenced play yards. But as they grow, we have to make sure that they know how to independently make good choices. But they still need parents!

Research has shown that teens whose parents are actively and positively involved in their online activities engage in less risk-taking behavior. Delete the fear! These are steps you can take:

• Appreciate your child’s online activities. Show interest in your child’s online friends. Work in partnership to address any concerns.
• Make sure you have implemented appropriate security against malware, use a spam blocker, block pop-up ads, and use safe search features. Never allow peer-to-peer software.
• Encourage your teen to always use the protective features on social networking sites and instant messaging to control who can view information and communicate in these personal environments.
• Keep the computer in a public area until your child is older and demonstrates good choices. Pay attention to what your child is doing online. But balance your supervision with your child’s legitimate interests in personal privacy. Positive interactions will encourage your child to share.
• Never overreact if your child reports an online concern. Fear of overreaction and loss of access is leading many teens not to report.
• If your child engages in inappropriate or harmful actions online or using a cell phone, impose a consequence that will focus attention on why those actions caused or could cause harmful consequences. Require a remedy for any harm.
• Pay attention to “red flags” -- appearing emotionally upset during or after use, disturbed relationships, too much time online, excessively secretive behavior, and subtle comments about online concerns. Carefully try to engage your child in discussion.
• Encourage your child to help others directly or report to an adult if he or she witnesses someone being harmed or at risk online.
• Help your child learn to make good choices. “What you do online reflects on you.”

Watch out for these harmful online influences:
You Can’t See Me. The perception of invisibility makes detection and punishment less of a concern. --Encourage your child to make choices based on internalized values and understand their online actions can be traced.
I Can’t See You. The lack of tangible feedback interferes with the ability to recognize the harmful consequences to self or others. --Focus your child’s attention on harm to themselves or others.
Didn’t Think. Teen’s brains are not yet full developed, which results in an inability to effectively problem-solve, especially if they are emotionally upset. --Demonstrate and discuss strategies for effective problem-solving.
Who Am I? Exploring personal identity online can lead to inappropriate or unsafe personal disclosure. --Encourage your child to pay attention his or her online “image” and reputation. “What you post tells people who you are.”
Am I Hot? When teens explore sexuality and relationships online this can lead to sexy images, sexual discussions, and the fantasy of finding love. --Honestly discuss issues of maturing sexuality and how to safely and respectfully form, engage in, and end personal relationships.
If I Can Do It, It Must Be Okay. The easy ability to do something appears to create the permission to do so. --Tell your child: “Just because you can, doesn’t make it right.”
Everybody Does It. Teens follow others who make bad choices. --Tell your child: “Just because they do it, doesn’t make it right.”
How Far Can I Go? Teens test boundaries to find out about limits. --Focus on the reasons for limits ~ to avoid harm to self or others.
Doing What They Say. Teens may be manipulation by others. --Teach your child to recognize signs of attempted manipulation including overly friendly messages.
Looking for Love. Teens who face Real World personal challenges are at higher risk online. --If your child is at higher risk, pay close attention to their online activities and “friends.”