Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Literacy Debate

Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?
NY Times: July 27, 2008 by Motoko Rich

BEREA, Ohio — Books are not Nadia Konyk’s thing. Her mother, hoping to entice her, brings them home from the library, but Nadia rarely shows an interest.

Instead, like so many other teenagers, Nadia, 15, is addicted to the Internet. She regularly spends at least six hours a day in front of the computer here in this suburb southwest of Cleveland.

A slender, chatty blonde who wears black-framed plastic glasses, Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses, a social networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on or, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.

Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A’s and B’s at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Ms. Konyk said, “I’m just pleased that she reads something anymore.”

Children like Nadia lie at the heart of a passionate debate about just what it means to read in the digital age. The discussion is playing out among educational policy makers and reading experts around the world, and within groups like the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association. READ MORE

The Future of Reading - Digital Versus Print: first in a series of articles that will look at how the Internet and other technological and social forces are changing the way people read.

2 interesting takes:

Worry about libraries, not the internet
Stephen Krashen's Mailing List - Sent to the New York Times, July 27

In "Literacy debate: On R U Reading?" (July 27, Books), Dana Gioia, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, thinks that there has been a decline in reading ability and it is because of the internet.

There has been no decline. National reading scores for 4th and 8th graders have increased since 1992, and 12th graders have dropped five points since 1992, not much on a test in which the top and bottom 10% differ by 90 points.

So far, studies suggest that internet reading results in more print reading and improved reading ability, as the Times notes.

The real problem is low literacy attainment among children from low-income families, which research shows is related to lack of access to reading material. Let's stop worrying about the internet and start worrying about improving libraries in areas of high poverty.

Jakob Nielsen Alertbox

Yesterday, The New York Times carried an extended article over two full pages about the potential downsides of online reading:

I read this article twice: Saturday on the website, where it was posted early, and then Sunday morning in the printed paper. I got about twice as much out of reading the printed version. This article was too long and involved for online reading.

Among other things, the article includes a graphic about new skills for online reading. This was prominent in the two-page layout in print, but hidden away in a pop-up on the site. I completely overlooked the link to the pop-up which was in an area dominated by less useful into, such as the ability to make various photos bigger.

The hidden pop-up makes some interesting points. Reading online involves additional skills:

* searching: generating keywords, evaluating SERP hits
* judging the credibility of multiple sources
* synthesizing answers from multiple pieces of info

The article debates whether it's worth teaching these skills in schools or whether kids will pick them up on their own. Last year, I came out in favor of teaching the skills:
However, the most important point is not made in the Times article at all:

** The skills to make full use of the Web are beyond the vast majority of the population. **

Only 13% of the population are at literacy level 4, which is defined as the ability to synthesize across multiple pieces of info and to make inferences. An even smaller percentage (about 5%) can make inferences using complex background knowledge, which is often needed to judge websites and to get full benefits from them.

Of course, the intelligentsia who debate these issues are all among the 5% with superior skills - as are their offspring.

For most children, the situation is worse, since they have not yet developed their research skills. When we actually observe average teens trying to make sense of Web information, we mainly see them fail:

All this said, of course it's tilting at windmills to expect students to only read books and to lay off the Internet. Instead, we should recognize that each media form has its strengths:

Linear media (books, seminars, video, theater) is good for deep learning and artistic experience.

Non-linear media (the Web, networking during conference breaks) is good for quick facts, breaking news, solutions-oriented research, and superficial entertainment (from celebrity gossip to provocative arguments).

Action items to improve the situation:

(1) Design websites for young kids
and teens according to the special guidelines for these audiences (very different for each age group).

Read On @ Your Local Library: CalCat or WorldCat

Literacy in the Information Age: Inquiries Into Meaning Making With New Technologies - by Bertram C. Bruce (Editor)
International Reading Association, 2003
~ new literacies and their implications for teachers and students

Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice
by Kylene Beers (Editor) - Heinemann, 2007
~ struggling readers, multimodal literacy, teaching in a "flat world"

New Literacies Sampler - by Michele Knobel (Editor)
Lang, Peter Publishing, 2007
~ samples of new literacies: video gaming, weblogging, fan fiction, memes

Friday, July 18, 2008

Literacy Tribune Newsletter: United Literacy

United Literacy, a non-profit organization, provides resources and support to adult literacy learners in the United States. We aim to make literacy education accessible and worthwhile for adult learners.

United Literacy publishes The Literacy Tribune, a bi-monthly newsletter, provides information to readers on every day issues such as health, finance, education, and technology. In addition, it features a learner’s story that will encourage and inform learners on their journey to improving their literacy skills.

In the July issue:
Summer Skin Safety by Alison Werner
~ A Learner’s Poem: Three Ladies
~ A History Lesson: The Fourth of July
~ Technology Watch: Anti-Virus Software

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nelson Mandela - Leadership

Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership
Time: July 09, 2008 by Richard Stengel

" Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. "

Uncomfortable with abstract philosophical concepts, he would often say to me that an issue "was not a question of principle; it was a question of tactics." He is a master tactician. . . .

. . . . the world has never needed Mandela's gifts — as a tactician, as an activist and, yes, as a politician — more. . . .

. . . . I've always thought of what you are about to read as Madiba's Rules (Madiba, his clan name, is what everyone close to him calls him), and they are cobbled together from our conversations old and new and from observing him up close and from afar. They are mostly practical. Many of them stem directly from his personal experience. All of them are calibrated to cause the best kind of trouble: the trouble that forces us to ask how we can make the world a better place.

1 -Courage is not the absence of fear — it's inspiring others to move beyond it.

2 -Lead from the front — but don't leave your base behind.

3 -Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.

4 -Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport.

5 -Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer.

6 -Appearances matter — and remember to smile.

7 -Nothing is black or white.

8 -Quitting is leading too.


Read On @ Your Local Library: CalCat or WorldCat

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
by Nelson Mandela - Little Brown & Co., 1995

The Meaning of Mandela: A Literary and Intellectual Celebration
by Xolela Mangcu (Editor), Desmond Tutu (Foreword by)
Human Sciences Research Council, 2007

Prisoner in the Garden
by Nelson Mandela Foundation, 2006

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales
by Nelson Mandela (Editor) - Norton, 2007

Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made A Nation
by John Carlin - Penguin, August 2008

" Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mine-worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president. "

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

National Literacy Day

July 2: National Literacy Day

July 2nd, has special significance, it is the actual date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and it is also the date the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed.

People who can't read can't practice their freedoms or rights, due to their lack of education. July 2nd is also the anniversary of Focus On Literacy, Inc. Box 1504, Laurel Springs NJ 08021 - 856.629.7989

. . . came across this @ First Book by guest blogger: Rachael Walker, Reading Rockets

Every Fourth of July I think about Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and his often quoted words, “I cannot live without books.” That our own democracy has grown and flourished owes much to Mr. Jefferson and his Declaration, but also to the rise of the printed word.

Independence Day is a great time to share books with children. Reading Rockets has a Celebrate America list of recommended reading for children ages 0-9. Use this list to throw together a book-nic to go along with your Fourth of July barbeque and read about real and legendary American heroes and heroines, revisit classic American songs, and follow the adventures of travelers across the United States while you wait for the fireworks.

You can also read aloud the
Declaration of Independence together. The concepts outlined in this famous document may be difficult for young children to understand so you may want to consider some strategies for pre-teaching concepts and vocabulary before you get started.

I picked up some great new Fourth of July reading at the American Library Association (ALA) convention last weekend in Anaheim, California, including a proof of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out which is due out in September. Using the White House as the unifying theme, more than one hundred authors and illustrators help share more than 200 years of American history in this inspiring read-aloud anthology, sales of which will benefit the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, a Reading Rockets and partner.

And at the ALA convention, I was also reminded about why libraries are so very important to our country and how they serve to improve our democracy. Check out these 12 Ways Libraries Are Good for the Country.

What else would you add to this list?