Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Notes from the AASL Fall Forum

Henry Jenkins, Kristin Fontichiaro and Barbara Jansen helped school librarians develop a better understanding of transliteracy and reading in a participatory culture in a warm collegial atmosphere at the AASL Fall Forum this past Friday and Saturday. David Lankes had an emergency that forced him to cancel. He was missed.

Here is a list of general big ideas, quotes and resources that I came away with and you might find useful too.

*Henry Jenkins’ definition of Participatory Culture – “1. Relatively low barriers for engagement. 2. Strong support for sharing creations with others. 3. Informal mentorship. 4. Members believe their contributions matter. 5. Care about others’ opinions of self and work. Not every member must contribute, but all must believe that they are free to contribute when ready and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued.”

*Transliteracy Definition - I latched on to one of the definitions  that Kristin Fontichiaro had in one of her slides: “Transliteracy describes a set of skills to “read”, create, negotiate, interact with, and understand content in many genres or formats and the ability to move between them.”  Visit her blog to view her slides. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what transliteracy is!

*The Chicago Public Library’s You Media does an excellent job of facilitating learning experiences and mixing books and technology. School librarians can get plenty of ideas and inspiration from the YouMedia programs and physical space.

*School librarians are in the perfect position to “bridge the gap of participation” in reading and online communities. Participating is creating.

*Check out the You Tube Video of the Professor and Participatory culture and the  Project New Media Literacies website –Lots to get here!

*Jenkins’ Four C’s of Participatory Culture = Collaborate, Circulate, Connect, Create

*Fontichiaro re-mixed the Four C’s above into six, adding cogitate and comprehend

*Check out the Harry Potter Alliance at

*We can learn a great deal from remaking, mashing up and rewriting. An excellent example of this is Ricardo Pitts-Wiley’s work with incarcerated and at risk youth re-writing Moby Dick. Read Henry Jenkins’ blog post to learn more about this and check out MC Lars’s Moby Dick Rap,  “Ahab.”  

*An idea for active novel reading: give each student a photocopy of a page of a book and let them annotate and illustrate it.

* Teach students that Wikipedia is a process not a product.

*If a student’s only audience is his/her teacher, authenticity and learning potential becomes limited.

* Charles Friedman’s definition of Informantics is person plus computer is greater than person.In this same spirit, student plus computer plus school should be greater than student plus computer. Are we using technology in a way that makes this true? Is technology use in education enhancing our students’ content knowledge? Fontichiaro asked:  “How far have we come in using computers to promote cognitive growth in the past 35ish years?” 

*My understanding of the culminating point that  Fontichiaro made in her presentation is that Vigorous learning with technology should: focus on content and curriculum, move students toward synthesis, be authentic and meaningful to the student, require a strong understanding of the genre or format being used to demonstrate learning, be as student-centered as possible, be greater than or enhance what a student could do without the technology.

*We looked at an entertaining YouTube video of a student’sHamlet report and discussed whether there was evidence of any of the elements above.  Can you spot the learning?

*What does a good technology project look like? Attendees worked collaboratively in three different states to explore this question. See the documents here :

Barbara Jansen and Henry Jenkins wrapped up the forum together. I appreciated their uplifting and thoughtful messages.  My head was spinning with all the learning! I know my students and faculty are going to benefit from everything I learned from this experience. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We should all be #Wonder Schools

I have blogged about my experiences with our school-wide read aloud of Wonder twice before in this blog. We began on August 23rd. Here are some of the most memorable parts of my experience with this school-wide read aloud:

Farting and the Superintendent
It was day two of our read-aloud.Our school district's superintendent was in our building to meet with the principal. Of course, this is when we are reading the story of Auggie's birth, over the intercom. Those of you who have read this book will probably remember the farting nurse. Did I tell you we were reading over the intercom and the Superintendent was there?

It was so funny, but I was so afraid! Were we going to get in trouble? How could I have forgotten about this part?  I thought about it some more. That's when I remembered how important it is for our students to see reading as something that can be hysterically funny and entertaining one minute and serious or sad the next. Reading is not boring! We used that part and the part about Mr. Butt and Mr. Tushman to discuss comic relief with our students. How heavy would this story be if there weren't some really good funny parts mixed in?

Going Long
We had 20 minutes each morning for reading Wonder. This is our school's SSR time. We decided to read for as close to 15 minutes as possible to allow time for discussion. One day, one of our two awesome readers, who are now known as "The Wonder Girls", said she wanted to read up to a certain point in the book, the part where Auggie and Jack end up getting in a fight while they are at camp. She said we might end up going over our time. I knew this might be trouble. But, how could I say no? How could we stop at such a pivotal point? Big mistake. Never mess with teacher's planning time. At least give advanced notice if you are going to eat into someone's planning period. Everyone knows that! When our time was up, even though we were still reading, one or two teachers released their classes. I was so mad. How could they?  I composed an angry email, Before I sent it, I asked my teacher-friend Ruth to read it.

Ruth read it and turned to me. She said two words, "Choose Kind." Then she giggled.

I said, "Yeah, they should have!" I put my hands on my hips and turned to look at her, nodding. Righteous.

She said, "No, you should."

What could I say to that? This middle-aged Jedi still has a lot to learn. Wonder has been great for me. I deleted the email and felt better immediately. Yes, I am the owner of several Wayne Dyer books and CDs. I guess it's time to re-visit them!

The End
We finished the book this past Friday, September 27th. We had outstanding teacher and student participation. The book got rave reviews. The readers got rave reviews. Students and teachers are blogging about the book on our Wonder Blog. Reading those last few chapters was not easy for the Wonder girls. Such an awesome, moving ending. We played snips of the songs that Auggie mentions, like "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" and "Light and Day" it was beautiful. Will we ever do anything that awesome again?

Now, our teachers are returning their copies of Wonder and students are clamoring to check them out.
To read the book again. To bring it home to their family. To share it. They are still talking about this book. They want a sequel. They are asking me for "books like Wonder." Is that a Nerdy Blog post yet?

They are still writing about this book. Many teachers had their students journaling in reader's response journals. Now, we are having a writing contest called "The Daisy Chapter". Students are writing a chapter from Daisy the dog's point of view.  This was a student's idea! How awesome is that?

The goodness of Wonder lives on, even after we are finished reading it. We are all better for having read it.
Having read it together, like a family, makes us even better still. The world would be a better place if we were all #Wonder Schools.