Focusing on reading in the 21st Century

Off to a great year at ISB. I find myself starting our fourth week of school and still standing…which is a good thing. The elementary school is focusing on two content areas this year. Reading and Science. What does reading look like in the year 2008-2009? As I’ve been training students on the new laptops these first couple of weeks I ask them a set of questions that to most probably seem out of context with a focus on reading. How many of you have your own cell phones? (At least 3 in every class 3-5 grade)How many of you have your own laptop? (At least 3 in every class)How many of you have access to the Internet? (100%)How many of you have a Nintendo Wii? (By far the leader in the gaming console category)Play station 3?Play station 2?Nintendo Cube?XBox 360?PSP?DS?GameBoy? By this time most teachers are looking at me like I’m speaking another language. Then it gets really interesting. How many of you play Club Penguin? (About half of every class 2-5)How many of you play Webkinz? (About 30%) The students then get all fired up and start shouting out different websites and games that they love to visit.What does this have to do with reading? Everything! More to...

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Fourth Graders know

So I still have Shirky’s post running through my head. Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing. When today I head into a 4th grade class to talk about cyber safety (the school counselor talked me into it 😉 ). As we were wrapping up I asked the kids, “How old do you think the Internet is?” “50?”“20?” Counselor: “What!” laughing “No way!” “15?” Me: “Well actually the web as we know it today got started in 1996.” Students:“What! That’s it?”“No Way!” Every student but one has their own cell phoneEvery student raised their hand when I asked if they go on the Internet at least once a week.Every student has an mp3 player To reword Shirky from above: Here’s something fourth graders know: Media is free, content is free, it’s always been that way. Here’s something fourth graders know: Information that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because fourth graders, the students we’re teaching are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that we have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching (Insert favorite sitcom), they just assume that information is consumable, producible and sharable. And that’s just the way it is! What interested me the most is in all six of the classes, as soon as I start talking about technology they all get that look….teachers know the one…..the one of complete attention, of wanting to know and wanting to share what they know. We talk about all their favorite sites, we talk about who has this gaming console and who has that one. We talk about cell phones…and when they are really excited, we talk about staying safe on the web. What do you share,...

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