Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Just "Google" it?

A listserv that I belong to sent me a link referencing a study commissioned by the British Library.

The study is interesting, especially in its conclusions about the "Net Generation." For all the talk about the sophistication of our young people, and their supposed techno-savvy-ness, it seems that, like in many things, they need some instruction! (Go figure.)

Perhaps there is a role for teachers and teacher-librarians after all.
Here's a quote from the article published in "Library Journal".
  • A new study commissioned by the British Library and JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) says that the "Google Generation"—youth born or brought up in the Internet age—is not particularly web-literate, and their research traits—impatience in search and navigation and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs—are becoming the norm for all age-groups.
I must say that this has been my experience working with students at the high school level. While many kids are avid users of IM and Facebook, and some are experienced gamers, when it comes to putting together a good search, they are often at a loss how to begin. (An Elementary level colleague recently reported the same thing!)

Instead of libraries being a thing of the past, maybe our work has just begun!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bio Lit Crit

I just finished reading "Madame Bovary's Ovaries". The authors (Barash and Barash) lead the reader on a delightful journey through many of the classics of literature. The twist is that they approach each fictional character as if they were real people, driven by Darwinian imperatives. Why was Othello so jealous? Genes explain everything!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Open Source Textbooks

I was reading through some of my listserv messages today and I came across this post commenting on the "Open Textbook" movement.

"Imagine textbooks adapted to many learning styles and translated into myriad languages. (Today, language barriers prevent many immigrant parents from helping their children with their homework because the texts are only in English.) Imagine textbooks that are continually updated and corrected by a legion of contributors. (Today, Pluto remains in the list of planets in the nation's science textbooks, and who knows how long it will take for it to be removed.)" (
Bringing open resources to textbooks and teaching.)

This made me think about the changing nature of "print" media in today's world. I was just reading an article by Illich (The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind.) for one of my classes. One of his points is that the permanent nature of print "fixes" ideas, songs, thinking in such a way as to freeze them in a moment in time. Some classical philosophers objected to writing because they saw it as a curse not a blessing. (This is ironic of course because it is thanks to writing that any of their ideas survive to the present day...but I digress.) What is interesting about the Open Textbook model is that "print" is no longer print in the same way. A published work can be adapted, modified, edited, clarified ad infinitum. Pluto is no longer a planet? Make the edit, and move on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Choose? You choose!

I've been reading "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz. (The link will let you read the first few pages of the book.) Right from the first page, I was hooked. Barry develops his thesis that, although we are conditioned to think more choice is better, in fact, it turns out that too much choice is a real impediment.

In particular, his concept of "satisficers" and "maximizers" makes so much sense. Our overwhelming number of choices can actually paralyze us! Fascinating reading.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Transliteracy - Reading 2.0?

For the new year, I suggest checking out "First Monday", a peer-reviewed journal on the Internet, about the Internet.

An article in the December 2007 issue ("Transliteracy: crossing divides.") discusses a new take on literacy which the authors define as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks". There are some interesting implications for teachers, librarians and authors in this article.

I was also intrigued by what the authors refer to as a ‘transliterate lifeworld’. A lifeworld is described the fusion of one's physical environment and subjective experiences that make up an individual's everyday life. A perfect example is the intersection of the two worlds of cat and cat owner (same space, but different ways of using it), or the meaning of "my kitchen" to a chef on the one hand and a mechanic on the other. (Read the article!) It makes me wonder how the physical worlds I share with family, or colleagues, or students might in fact seem very different from my own lifeworld perspective.

For more on transliteracy, you can also check out this site.