Believe it or not, I started this post a week ago. It’s not that I’m a slow writer (I’m not), but I kept thinking “Ooh, that would be interesting to include” and “Ooh, that looks good too”. well, after a lot of “ooh-ing” I thought “Ooh, I’d better stop and hit the Publish button”. Just as well, because one of the conferences I mention is tomorrow – eeek! Anyway, now even this intro has started to take on a life of its own, so I’m going to stop right now. There. See? It’s just a question of self-discipline.
The more students read, the higher their reading scores, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Unfortunately, with iPads, cell phones and computers, it’s harder than ever for them to sit down with a book—so old fashioned, right?—and take a few minutes to read.
What do you think of when you see the words “reading” and “technology” in the same sentence? I tend to think of e-book readers and how easy it is to transfer stuff to, and then read, on my phone. But there is more to it than that. According to Dyslexia Action, around one in ten students struggle to read standard print.
We’ve probably all heard the statistic that 80% of people use only 20% of a program’s features – but that doesn’t mean to say that the unused features are no good. It could be that people haven’t discovered them, or could not find an obvious use for them, or that they have simply forgotten about them.
I’ve gone offline for a week. No internet, no email, no mobile phone, no nothing. Just before I “disappeared”, I made a supreme effort to catch up with responding to comments. So I thought
I need a break. I’ve been working like crazy, weekends too. So, for the next few days I’m having a break. As I’m not able to go away, a “staycation” is called for. I can’t go away partly because of another looming deadline, and even more partly because of the two feline parasites who have recently taken over our household. (I could meet the deadline from anywhere in the world, but it's too soon to leave the cats in somebody else's hands.) As a techno-addict I’ll be using a computer of some description or other to provide some entertainment. Here’s what I have lined up
It must be true, because Sir Tom Stoppard says so. At least The Register, unlike the mainstream news sources I've looked at (The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent), all of whom seem to have merely published a press release, had the decency to (a) strike a cynical tone and (b) do some basic research. It says:
... the latest figures show 10,000+ students enrolling to study English last year, making it the seventh most popular subject - far ahead of maths, sciences or engineering. Another 7,800 enrolled to study combinations of humanities and languages, and 8,510 more for History.
All of which completely contradicts what Sir Tom said.
I've got nothing against Sir Tom -- I really like his Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead -- but I do get "exercised" when celebrities -- actors, authors, chat show hosts -- make these sort of blanket pronouncements which appear to be based on no evidence at all or, being charitable, the speaker's own experience.
Well, everyone is entitled to their point of view I suppose, but it's a great pity that all the newspapers seem to do is publish the press release as is. Thank goodness for mavericks like The Register!
See also "Is plagiarism really a problem?"
If you're worried about how to keep yourself occupied over the summer break, and are not interested in novels and suchlike, why not curl up with a copy of The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book?
With 87 really interesting projects featured, it's a good read. Others think so too: I've received a lot of good feedback, some of which I've included on the Free Stuff page, from where you can download it. As of about 10 minutes ago, this is how the stats are stacking up:
Views in SlideShare: 509
Views in Myebook: 2,742
Views in Scribd: 399
I'd also highly recommend checking out Shelly Terrell's suggestions. She lists 35 professional development resources which will keep you busy for a while! (I have to declare a slight interest here, because she has included two of my own efforts.)
Whether you prefer learning through books, audio books, blogs or live seminars, you're bound to find something of interest in Shelly's list. For me, I'm hoping to check out the discussion with Howard Rheingold on 16th June 2010.
I'm also working on the next issue of Computers in Classrooms, which was delayed because of computer problems. Long story short: it's all sorted now, but in the meantime lots of stuff has piled up and so I'm in catch-up mode. But that hsould be a good read too, plus if you subscribe yu'll have a chance of winning a computer game and a year's subscription to another game. More information on all that soon.
In my opinion, reading is very important for helping you generate ideas and innovation. However, I do believe that to get the most out of a book or article you need to do what I call ‘active reading’.
That means not simply reading an article in the way you might read a sweet wrapper or a billboard, but thinking about what you’re reading – even before you open the first page. There’s a good article on this website about efficient reading by Alison Skymes, and I should highly recommend that.
In this article I’m going to recommend some newsletters , blogs and Twitter accounts which should prove useful to you. Please bear in mind that the official UK ones from Becta (marked with a *) may be discontinued as part of, or a consequence of, the impending spending cuts.
Also, I haven’t recommended any books here. That’s not because I don’t read books – I do! But books come and go, and I tend to review them on their own, usually in Computers in Classrooms first. To find book reviews, go to the tag ‘book review ’. You can also see a list of books I’d recommend on the books page. And, of course, there are my own books, which you can find listed here .
OK. With no further ado, here is my list of recommended reading.
Why subscribe to an independent newsletter?
- They have an independent voice, ie independent of organisation’s interests, or commercial interests – but you need to check just to make sure this is the case.
- They tend to contain a wide range of expertise, viewpoints and topics.
- There’s a sense of community (sometimes).
- They can be good for local news.
- They can be good for national news.
- They can be good for international news.
Subscribe to an independent newsletter!
- Computers in Classrooms This is my own newsletter, so I would recommend it, wouldn’t I ? But several thousand other people like it too, and they all have an interest in educational ICT. Although Computers in Classrooms contains news items, it is mainly a forum for exploring the possible implications of recent developments rather than simply the news of the developments. It also contains magazine-type articles, reviews, prize draws (sometimes) and other good stuff.
- Information Technology in Developing Countries I have to declare a bit of an interest here because I occasionally have articles published in this newsletter. I like it because it has articles about educational ICT issues in countries such as India and Africa, which tend not to be reported on very much by the main magazines, blogs and newsletters.
- From Now On This has some interesting discursive articles, and provides plenty of food for thought. I don’t like the website much because in my opinion it takes too long to drill down to the list of articles, but it’s worth the effort.
- Stephen Downes' Online Daily newsletter. Useful and eclectic round-up of half a dozen or so ed tech news items every weekday and sometimes at weekends as well. Downes can be acerbic or hilarious -- I find my point of view varies according to whether it's my turn to be at the receiving end of one of his withering comments! Downes scans hundreds of ed tech blogs and is good at seeing through the persiflage.
- Ed Tech Talk Newsletter This short newsletter gives out information about forthcoming online talks and discussions in, especially, Classroom 2.0 Live (which I mentioned in the article for Day 18, on joining a group).
- Technology & Learning News Useful for keeping up with an eclectic range of educational technology-related news.
- Technology & Learning Blogs Again, I must declare an interest, being one of the bloggers featured on this site. You’ll find a great variety of bloggers and blogs here, each blogger posting every two weeks on average. Much food for thought.
- Local newsletters can be very useful indeed, so if your Local Authority or School District published one, subscribe!
Subscribe to a blog or follow a Twitter account (or two)!
- Becta’s Emerging Technology News * I have to declare an interest, as I proofread this before it goes live. It’s a great source of technical news with suggestions about the impact on education of technical developments. Neil Adam does a sterling job of finding and summarising complex technical issues, and often writes about advances months before they appear in the mainstream press.
- Next Generation Learning * This will be useful to you if you’re looking for articles suitable for parents, ie without technical jargon and implicitly assumed knowledge.
- National blogs/updates, eg Department of Education and Learning & Teaching Scotland: these are useful, but cover all aspects of education, not just ICT.
- Local blogs, eg Havering ICT Blog, or even a local school’s blog
- Corporate blogs, eg Microsoft’s Schools blog
- Independent blogs, eg The ICT in Education blog , Andy Black, Doug Woods and Shelly Terrell. Note that these are just a few of the blogs I subscribe to.
- Tech News blogs, eg TechCrunch and Gizmodo -- although I’d recommend Becta’s Technnology News over these (see above).
- Collections of useful information, eg Shelly Terrell’s Teachers Reboot Camp (again), Chris Smith’s Shambles and Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day.
- Leadership-oriented blogs, eg Miguel Guhlin’s Around the Corner, Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant and Stephanie Sandifer’s Change Agency .
- Twitter in general
- Twitter lists, eg Danny Nicholson’s Techie Teachers list. (Uk-centric, mainly). You’ll find more ed tech lists listed here.
I hope that’s enough reading for you! Remember, you don’t necessarily have to do it all yourself. If you lead or are part of a team, perhaps your colleagues could monitor particular newsletters or blogs, and report back briefly at the start of a team meeting. In a nutshell, the suggestions in Delegate a Unit of Work applies to other aspects of leading ICT as well.
One of the planned special editions of the Computers in Classrooms newsletter is about books, so I was pleased to come across this video by Science Girl Em. Em is a 2nd grader, which I guess means 7 to 8 years old, and she is taking part in the Student Blogging Challenge, run by Sue Walters.I discovered it through Stephen Downes.
This is a delightful response to another video about reading, which I hadn't come across. If you like it, please leave comments on Em's blog; I'm sure she'd appreciate it.
Also on her blog is a wonderful description of a trip to Kansas University. Em writes:
We saw a big giant classroom. I thought it was a theater.
Here is the video. Enjoy!
This article has been replaced by Update of 7 reasons to have an educational technology library.
In my many visits to schools I have rarely seen a book library which has been built up and maintained by the teachers responsible for ICT, or educational technology as it is known in the USA.
There are several compelling reasons for starting such an enterprise. Indeed, not to do so is to implicitly agree with the utilitarian view of ICT being nothing more than a set of skills. Whenever you read an educationalist 's blog or a committee report espousing the view that ICT should be taught across the curriculum and has no place in the school timetable in its own right, you are ingesting the views of people who have little or no concept of the intellectual underpinnings of the subject, or of the importance of theories of learning in relation to it.
Having a library dedicated to ICT, even if only in the corner of a classroom orcomputer room to begin with, is a way of starting to address these and other concerns.
A library is?
But first, what exactly do I mean by 'library' in this context? Perhaps perversely, I do not necessarily advocate maintaining a library comprising multimedia resources -- at least, not to begin with. Whatever we may wish to beieve, books still carry an air of authority often eluded bhy other media. Besides, it's actually much easier to pick up a book and point something out than trying to locate the relevant section in a podcast, say. So, I am firmly in favour of a library comprising mainly, or even solely, printed material.
What should the library contain?
There are several types of printed material, and I would suggest building up a stock of the following:
- newspaper clippings;
- official publications such as curriculum guidance, exam specifications, and government policies;
Reasons to have a library
Here are seven suggestions of how to make your library an integral part of the work you, your colleagues and, of course, your pupils or students do. In other words, these are the reasons to have a library.
- To inform other teachers. There are lots of books around which detail the educational benefits of using technology, and which delve into what young people do with technology. There are also books which may not be about technology per se, but which discuss the ways in which learning takes place. It's often useful to be able to lend others a book to help them understand the subject, and your approach to teaching it, a little better.
- To impress others. This may seem rather facile, but I don't think it is. If you want others to understand that ICT has intellectual value, you must have a visible indication of that fact. In short, a library tells or reminds everyone that there is more to ICT than being able to knock up a database or carry out a search on the internet.
- For reference, for you and your staff. It's almost impossible to keep up with all the policies and other documentation that comes out these days, and even harder to remember what each one stipulates. Although all of it is available electronically, I think it's easier to go straight to the relevant document on a bookshelf and find the bit you need than trying to remember where you stored it or bookmarked it.
- For reference, for everyone. I doubt that anyone has memorised every Excel formula or OpenOffice shortcut. Having a few books that go into such matters can be a godsend, espeically if they go into more depth than the on-screen or online help.
- For research. One of our wider goals should be to encourage (traditional) reading, and one way of doing so is to set work that requires book and newspaper research. Having a collection of newspaper clipping smay seem rather quaint, but I often find that unless you bookmark a newspaper story straight away it is virtually impossible to find it later. That is assuming, of course, that it was even published onine on the first place. That is not always the case, especially if the newspaper covers only a relatively small geographical area.
- For technical research. This is where having one or two computer magazines comes in handy. If you set a piece of work which entails 'speccing out' a computer system for someone, being able to pore over a comparative review article in a magazine can be a great help.
- Finally, for pleasure. What can be more enjoyable than sitting down for coffee or lunch with an interesting book? Yes, yes, I know you don't have the time. I never had the time either, when I was a teacher or, indeed, in any of my other jobs, including my current one. But it's important to make the time, even if it's only 10 minutes. Time to think, and time to relax, is never wasted.
So, before throwing out that computer magazine when you've read it, bring it into school. Encourage your students and colleagues to do the same. Use some of your allowance to buy a book or two, or recommend that such purchases be made.
It won't take long to build up a small library. Then your main challenge will be getting people to use it.