Posts Tagged 'youth'

YA Lit 2.0

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Classroom 2.0.

This is the last in a series of posts about things we can do in honor of Support Teen Literature Day 2008, which is today, April 17.

In previous entries, I’ve discussed book talks and read-alouds and blog-based literature discussions. These and many other activities are featured at the official teen lit day wiki presented by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA).

The wiki offers more than 30 things to do in celebration of young-adult (YA) fiction. Additionally, the YALSA homepage links to a wealth of YA booklists and professional development opportunities for teachers and librarians.

As I first perused these resources, I was reminded of just how influential YA has been in my own reading life.

And I was also struck by the utter transformation that has occurred within the YA genre since that summer, more than 25 years ago, when I made the profound and life-changing leap from children’s author Beverly Cleary to Judy Blume, the celebrated YA author who wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

For one, the options, in terms of authors and titles, have increased exponentially. The topics and subject matter are also darker and edgier, with more potential for cross-over appeal among adult audiences.

But without a doubt, the most profound change is technology driven. Digital technologies are transforming the very nature of what teens read as well as how they read. From within computer-mediated environments, youth can discuss, nominate, and vote on their favorite new YA titles, participate in surveys, and even chat in real-time with YA authors and readers from around the country.

I remember reading Judy Blume for the first time. I was maybe 10 years old and felt so privileged and so awakened to the fact that books could serve as more than a pleasant diversion from life. Books could also be topical and relevant to my own life and experiences. Wow!

I devoured Blume before moving on to other authors — Betty Miles, Paula Danziger, S.E. Hinton. My favorite, dog-eared books might have been called “feminist fiction for girls,” with female protagonists in various stages of social, emotional, and physical development — all the typical pubescent pangs.

Good stuff. I was engaged, and I stayed engaged until right around the start of high school when I gave up YA almost entirely to take up the “serious reading” of a college-bound student. I did not resume true pleasure reading again until well after college, in my mid-20s.

How much richer my reading life might have been had I had the opportunities that youth have today to connect, communicate, and form communities around favorite titles and authors, to possibly even interact in real-time or asynchronously with the authors themselves.

In the 2006 article YA Lit 2.0: How Technology is Enhancing Pleasure Reading, author Anita Beaman documents the impact of web-based and interactive technologies on how modern teens read for enjoyment.

Citing the work of Eliza Dresang, who in 1999 wrote Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age, Beaman highlights how books for children and young adults have evolved new formats such as novels in verse, screenplays, multiple narrative perspectives, and graphic novels.

Beaman writes, “It was becoming obvious that the mouse-click generation was going to be looking for something new in print.”

She goes on to present evidence that, contrary to conventional wisdom, adolescents are reading, especially when given opportunities to reach out to authors and other teens in media-rich, interactive environments that include email, blogs, iTunes playlists, and MySpace pages.

This is the new playing field — YA 2.0.

Asserting that “YA Lit 2.0 is a sign that books and reading remain relevant to teens in a digital world,” Beaman concludes with advice to librarians who want to develop programs that are relevant to teen readers: download the playlists, read author blogs, create blogs, visit MySpace, and “share the entire reading experience” with teens.

For Beaman, a high school librarian, the implications are clear: if librarians want to be taken seriously, they must revitalize their programs and immerse themselves in these digital environments, right alongside the teens.

Certainly, any literacy educator would do well to heed this advice.

What do you think?


Support Teen Lit Day 2008

YALSA logo

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Fireside Learning.

Support Teen Literature Day, sponsored by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA), is April 17.

From the wiki:

Librarians all across the country are encouraged to participate in Support Teen Literature Day on April 17th, 2008, by hosting events in their library or through their web site on that day. The purpose of this new celebration is to raise awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens.

Although I am not a librarian, I am a lifelong fan of young-adult (YA) fiction, and I was inspired by the more than 30 suggestions for celebrating Teen Lit Day listed at the wiki. So, for the next several days, I will devote space in this blog to thoughts, ideas, and reflections on YA and how it is being repositioned within the realms of multiliteracies and Web 2.0. (See the YALSA site for a variety of booklists, including “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” and “Outstanding Books for the College Bound.”)

One way to celebrate YA — or any book, for that matter — is through a book talk.

A key component of a good book talk is the moment when the presenter reads aloud a passage from the text. In addition to attracting readership in the same way movie trailers attract an audience, read-alouds are a research-based strategy for improving fluency, timing, and expression traditionally used in the primary grades.

In Yellow Brick Roads: Shared and Guided Paths to Reading 4-12, Janet Allen presents an argument for reading aloud to older youth, particularly struggling adolescent readers: “All students, regardless of age, deserve the opportunity to see the story without struggling with the text. . . . For students who struggle with word-by-word reading, experiencing the whole story can finally give them a sense of the wonder and magic of a book.”

YA literature, a genre often credited with capturing the attention of at-risk readers, when coupled with book talks and read-alouds, is a promising avenue by which we might convince youth that print-based texts are as relevant, enjoyable, and interactive as their favorite digital texts and electronic media.

Mr. Swanson, my 4th grade teacher, read to us every day as we ate lunch in the classroom (our school did not have a cafeteria). He read mostly longer selections that would fill the lunch period, and he often read chapter books (a chapter a day). He took student recommendations, too. One kid recommended Harriet the Spy. I ended up checking out that book and The Incredible Journey and reading them on my own after the fact. These experiences fed into a lifelong habit of pleasure reading.

And that’s what I think. What do you think about YA literature, book talks, and read-alouds?

Techno wars: Boomers vs. X’ers

Hello, friends.

I am conducting another little study for a statistics class I’m taking this semester. This project is about testing the statistical versus practical significance of two sample means.

Don’t ask.

Just please help out a poor, mathematically challenged grad student and follow the link below to a quick, anonymous online survey. Thanks!

Click here to take the online survey!
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By the way, AFTER taking the survey you may enjoy reading the New York Times column that inspired the survey topic. (I’m withholding comment for fear of influencing the survey results.)

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“Smart mobs” are great, except in school?

Cross-posted at Classroom 2.0

Today’s top story from eSchool News Online is “Smart mob” tech spurs student activism by Nora Carr. The article begins with the student protests in Jena, LA, and explores how blogs, RSS, text messaging, cell phones, and wireless technology are leveling the playing field and having a democratizing effect at all levels in educational institutions.

Carr cites the work of Howard Rheingold, who coined the term “smart mobs” in a 2001 2002 book by the same title. Rheingold envisioned both the disruptive and democratizing effects of global, pervasive, wireless computing.

I was really enjoying Carr’s balanced presentation of the issue. She even discusses how teachers in various academic areas might use recent events such as the Jena protests and the current presidential campaign to engage young people in a critique of these powerful technologies.

Then, oddly, she writes:

While most school leaders undoubtedly applaud anything that gets young people involved in civic affairs, most also would agree there’s an appropriate time and place for such actions–and that’s typically after school or on the weekends, and not on school grounds.

I am not sure how to interpret the above statement. Is it an endorsement, or is it simply a statement about the status quo? As a columnist, it’s certainly Carr’s prerogative to impose her viewpoint where appropriate, but in this case it just seems contradictory. How can she in one instance encourage teachers to capitalize on the “powerful learning opportunity” represented in cases like Jena and the democratic rebellion in Myanmar, and then suggest that the technologies that mobilize citizens for the greater good still have no place on school grounds or during school hours?

That just doesn’t compute (sorry for the stupid pun).

It would be nice to engage in a dialogue with Carr about her story. But eSchool News Online doesn’t provide any contact information for her, and the site doesn’t provide a means for users to comment on stories either. Apparently the site does host discussions on certain stories for users who register for TypeKey accounts. I registered for an account but couldn’t locate any threads or forums related to Carr’s article.


So, what do you think?

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"Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground"

MTV, Nickelodeon, and Microsoft commissioned an international study of youth and technology, and with 18,000 surveyed, it is being heralded as the largest study of its kind. The report is titled “Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground.”

I haven’t seen or read the actual study. I learned about it through a United Business Media wire story posted at and elsewhere. Judging by the companies involved with the study and the general tenor of the wire article (big emphasis on data’s marketing value), I am surprised more folks in the edtech arena haven’t picked it up.

The statistics and cultural insights generated by the study are really interesting, but it’s a little discomforting when big business and media giants are the ones generating the data for their own use.

There is one quote by an MTV veep that I keep turning over and over in my head: “For kids and young people, ‘tech’ isn’t a separate entity now, it’s organic to their lives,” said Fahey Rush. “They are completely focused on functionality.”

Is this just a carefully crafted way of commercializing “web 2.0”? Does that diminish the value of the study’s findings?

Introducing Publish Me! Beta

I am officially announcing the beta release of Publish Me!, my project site developed for IT 578. (I think I just coined a new oxymoron: “officially beta.”)

In this post, I want to document some questions, doubts, and struggles associated with the development of Publish Me!

First of all, a little background about my schizophrenic semester. I enrolled in two challenging courses this spring: IT 521 and IT 578. In IT 521 (computer applications in education) I learned about blogs, open source software, web-based applications, and the concept of “web 2.0,” a term that refers to the Internet’s growing capacity for participation, collaboration, and networking. In this class I developed a nascent appreciation for what some educators are calling “classroom 2.0.” Check out this succinct description of classroom 2.o with helpful visuals.

OK, so all of this makes IT 578 (intro to web design for educators) seem pretty conventional. Our assignment for the semester, by no means small, was straightforward enough: develop and create a web-based instructional module (an educational web site) using Dreamweaver software. My idea for a site was based on a desire to improve publishing opportunities for budding student journalists and creative writers at the high school level. Thus, Publish Me! was born.

I have always said from the get-go that my primary objective in starting the master’s program in instructional technology was NOT to become an instructional technologist (an end in itself) but to find out how to use the technology to support my classroom practice. How do I integrate technology into instruction in ways that are motivating and relevant for students and, at the same time, teach them to engage more critically and responsibly with all forms of new and electronic media? (That last part is a plug for media literacy, near and dear to my heart.)

I think classroom 2.0 is the answer to my original question. But now I have new questions.

For starters, can Publish Me! stand up to the classroom 2.o standard?

If classroom 2.0 is based on a radical restructuring of information transfer, in which top-down models give way to collaborative and creative exchanges, then Publish Me! leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, even the name connotes passivity. It suggests the “old way” of doing things: the publisher as the authoritative middleman, connecting the writer to the audience. Should I have named the site “I Publish”? Am I overthinking this?

Then, by way of Judy Breck’s Golden Swamp blog, I stumbled upon an excellent article about the future of journalism written by Bruno Giussani for the Knight Forum. Following Breck’s advice, I read the article looking for implications for educators. It’s an enlightening exercise; read the last two paragraphs, as she suggests, and replace all instances of “journalism” with “educator/education.” Here is a portion of the article that may resonate with teachers:

The new power of editors and journalists will depend on their ability to take on new tasks: to animate a group of people; to develop ways to organize how information is gathered and used, with the participation of what used to be called “the audience;” and to help people navigate an information landscape that’s increasingly crowded and constantly shifting. If it sounds confusing — and scary to some in the media — that’s because it is. Nobody really knows how this emerging immediate, unmediated world will develop.

Throughout the article Giussani emphasizes the transformative nature of web 2.0; those in traditional gatekeeping roles will become nurturers and facilitators instead. I really like this! He uses the term “soft structure,” a perfect description of the teacher’s contribution to the classroom 2.0 model.

So, Publish Me! will keep its name. For the moment, the site doesn’t promote or employ any of the really powerful and empowering applications – social networking tools like blogs, wikis and so on — but some day it can! It has the potential for lots of development in these areas.

In the interim, Publish Me! is what it is: a portal, a collection of external links connecting teens to traditional print and electronic publications. Aside from a word processor and Internet connection, the only application you need is email, which hardly ranks as a social networking tool, and if it does, then it has got to be the “granddaddy” of them all.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a teacher told me a few weeks ago (just days before Publish Me! was due to be evaluated) that the county school system prohibits student email use on campus. I am still trying to confirm this claim through the proper channels, but the person I spoke to was adamant and had a story about student trafficking in pornography via email to back up his vehement protest.

Of course, when I spoke to other teachers, I heard plenty of positive examples of instructionally sound email use — everything from “my students use email to turn in assignments” to “I just helped one of my students register for a Gmail account so she would have an email address to put on her resume.” Yet, I can’t put a web site out there and ask my fellow teachers to use it if I suspect that it violates school policy. Can I?

When I shared my dilemma with an English teacher who uses technology regularly, she suggested that a student could submit writing to her on disk and she could send it to an online publication using her school-sanctioned email account. In other words, the teacher becomes the conduit of information between the student and the publication. This is certainly an option, but it is decidedly un-2.0.

I never resolved the email question. With the assignment due date looming, I scoured every page of Publish Me!, looking for references to email. The site is now laden with notices to “always ask an adult’s permission first,” and I come across as a strident prude who doesn’t trust teenagers.

I also created a resource section titled “Think before You Post” with links to PSAs produced by the Ad Council in collaboration with the U.S. Justice Department. A few days later, I read a scathing review of these ads at the VirtualPolitik blog. I like the VirtualPolitik blog; it contains numerous, thought-provoking critiques of government-produced media. Now, I felt like a big dope. I thought the PSAs would be a good hook for engaging young people in a conversation about appropriate use. I had not considered the inherent “voyeuristic sexism” of the ads.

Whew! For me, this process represents a perfect example of the chasm between educational theory and practice. I may be working outside the classroom, but I am still seeing the tightrope, if not walking it.

If you have managed to read through all of the above and not be completely turned off, please consider working with me! I need classroom-connected people to help refine Publish Me! and take it for a test drive with students. Any takers?


Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy