Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The eReader

I think the trade book audience is the wrong audience for the eReader as reported in a recent New York Times article, "Turning Page, E-Books Start to Take Hold" by Brad Stone and Motoko Rich on December 24, 2008. The Kindle or similar kind of ebook reader should be designed for students of all grades in school and then it will make a major impact. Textbooks, the bread and butter for most publishers if not the sole money maker for some, are way too expensive and updated. Educational publishers are taking advantage of the audience and lots of graft money is used to secure book contracts in schools at the expense of the public. I'd like to see all the school texts made into ebooks and then provided to all students via the kindle type of machine.

I hate the weight of my son's knapsack. I hate picking it up. I hate imagining him carrying that bloody heavy sack around all day long. It is sinful and it makes me very very mad. Why does he have to carry these heavy tomes around all day long everyday? Wouldn't it be more logical to issue an eReader to all students and then let them download what they need to it? Of course it would be.

Trying to make an eReader for the trade publications is a waste of time. Trade books do not represent the volume that educational texts offer. The costs of these educational texts would be brought down if they were made electronic and that would certainly be better for the environment. Textbooks are not books we find on the collector's bookshelves and they do not grow in value over time as good trade books with first editions and other anomalies.

The NYTimes has some great letters today on this article.

One letter from a book collector, like me: "That means that for me, and I suspect for other collectors as well, the Kindle, which I own, and its cousins are perfect for today's disposable literature."

If a school district like NYC, a group of colleges like the Ivy League, CUNY, SUNY, or the University of California decided to provide texts on a eReader then we would begin to see a change to the good.

Ebooks are good for the environment, for our children carrying those weighty book bags, and costs to schools for books that take up space and end up in closets.

I believe and hope that something like the Blackberry of small device will develop the ebook technology and will eventually find its way into the commercial textbook market.

Many years ago I was given an ebook reader and loved it. It was stolen. Now I use my laptop as an ebook reader for what I can access. Another gadget is the downside, so once this ebook idea can be used effectively on existing technology or a new technology that can incorporate existing technology and add new ones then it will fly. However, if ebooks want to make an impact, go after the school textbook market and lighten up those obnoxiously heavy book sacks and high costs while helping the environment and making access more democratic.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Concluding thoughts

In conclusion to 2008....

This morning I read an article about middle school choice in NYC published on December 25, 2008, "All’s Fair in the Middle School Scramble," by Elissa Gootman.

One image caught my eye, "there is a wave of panic among many parents of fifth graders facing the next step." The operative word is "panic." Parents expect chaos from their adolescents. This is an ideal point to embed technology into their academic part of their life. We know they enjoy a game and communications technological life, so why not an educational understanding and building an electronic portfolio. Use that "self" drive hormonal force inherent in our students to instill order through technology in schools. Using Technology has been a logistical nightmare in schools for many reasons. One reason is that the scholars spend too much time in the hallways.

Then I stumbled onto this image: "the pressure is more urgent because of a new retention policy that could hold back many failing eighth-graders, raising the frightening specter of hallways populated by bearded teenagers." The operative word here is "frightening." In school the scholars should go to a study area with a cluster of desks. Each desk has a computer, with a laptop or desktop, at which scholars seat themselves and begin their day by logging in to their account. This account has an accounting of where the scholar is in each part of the projects they are completing. Teachers are there electronically and in the flesh communicating with and helping the scholars create their day's study guide. Instead of the scholars moving from room to room, (a huge waste of time and a "frightening specter") they stay in their study area as teachers move from study group to study group alone and/or in collaboration with other teachers. The scholars will use their time researching, writing, and collaborating with peers to create a presentation for peer review. All of their work is being saved and archived for them to create a portfolio for assessment now and for their future teachers to use to continue their individual study and then for admission to future schools.

I know from my use with technology in schools that technology is a great cure of "panic" and "frightening specters." Where in schools do you see technology used well?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Use it or Lose it

Neologisms have always been a delight of mine. The number of new words added to our dictionaries is stunning. So when I was reading an article in the January 2009 issue of Realm Magazine, I was stunned to see that some English words become extinct by none use. The Collins Dictionary will subtract 24 words if they are not used. The article explains that if the word is used at least six times in the body of readings Collins uses, then the words will remain in the dictionary.

The following paragraph contains a dozen of these words on the list of extinction. See if you can identify those dozen words and can provide a definition for each of them. Next, you will want to use them in hopes of saving them from extinction.

When he walked out onto the stage to begin the evening's entertainment, I was searching for the word, when it came to me. He was such a fusby. Calling him anything else would have been an insult. He wasn't a munchkin or a leprechaun. He was a short, stout, squat man, he was a fusby. As I was reconciling this, my nostrils were olidly assaulted. The foul smelling recrement was a vaticinate of what was to come. The assaulting aroma was waste matter that leaked onto the stage when a sewage pipe burst. The niddering fusby slunk away and hid, cowered in the corner of the stage. He was a scoundrel. The fusby's griseous hair was well groomed. The grey streaks didn't reveal his true age. There was no way we could embrangle the nidderly griseous fusby with a brave man. He was a malison apparently. I was told that whenever this fusby appeared on stage something bad always happened. It was compossible to see why the audience villapended the fusby as we heard a skirring sound as he fled the stage. When we found him he was trying to wash the recrement from himself with an astergent soap and not a gentle one causing a tearing of skin from his arms. When we turned to go, we were on the street and the theater had collapsed behind us. Then just as suddenly I woke and realized that these words would soon be gone and only a memory, not real.

There are a few words on this list of extinction, I surprised to see there. As far as I'm concerned some of these will not be extinct as I plan on using them in spite of what Collins does.

Friday, December 19, 2008

When Graduates Return

It is that time of the year when recent graduates return to visit their old high school. It may be the first time they return home from college and one of the first places they visit is their former high school. I have always loved this ritual. The joy they have wearing the visitor's badge. It helps us to know they are only visiting when we see them walk into our class once again. This time with much more viv and vigor, cause they know they are just visiting, like landing on "Just Visiting" in Monopoly. There is a whole new attitude and aire about these former students of mine. What is always so refreshing is how they speak of how the class and school has prepared them for college. They speak about some of their new friends at college from other schools and how their friends seem unprepared. This always stuns me. On many occasions, which is always so cool, they actually interupt my class by saying hi to some friends and even telling my current scholars how importnat it is to do the work now and to listen to their teachers as they prepare for college. They reinforce what we say about what college will be like. Now we have former students returning to verify what we have said to disbelieving ears.

This is a major turning point in the year, as these former scholars speak to our current scholars and let them know that what we have said is true. Thet always begin by letting the scholars know that they too once sat in these seats and pooh poohed what was being told to them about college by us. Then when they got to college, they always say, "Wow, Mr?Ms/Mrs/Dr So and So was right." Now what adds credibility to their tales is they were once here and my scholars remember the returning scholars and remember them and their ways when they were students here. Their is a new aura about the returning scholars that gives them authority, credibity, and a glimpse at the future from their point of view and not the adults.

Returning graduates are the best source of inspiration for our current scholars. I love it when they return, especially when I hear about how they are doing and what they have to impart on my current scholars. Alumni/ae are so important.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Using the Cell Phone as a Learning Tool in Schools

By Elise Degrass, Guest Writer

Unwanted ringtones are an increasingly common occurrence in classrooms, from the elementary to the University level. Rather than viewing cell phones as a distraction to the learning environment, however, a growing number of educators are harnessing the power of smart phones to improve both in-classroom and home learning experiences.

With advanced new features in smart phones, cell phones are becoming an extension of traditional computers; their portability provides advantages in decentralized learning environments. While teachers have to be mindful that these privileges are not abused for distractive, social purposes, a number of smart phone features provide a means to enhance the learning curriculum.

One of the most useful features of cell phones is their ability to provide instantaneous feedback to teachers in large classrooms. Rather than trying to be impartial by calling upon students in turn, teachers can poll the entire class with services such as Notify You. For example, if a teacher wants to inquire whether students enjoyed reading a particular novel, he or she can poll that entire class at once; this can improve both the frequency and reliability of feedback, as many students would otherwise be reticent to give feedback that is seen by their peers. Additionally, teachers could provide instant, short pop-quizzes on covered material to keep students on their toes, and can get feedback on future scheduling ideas without taking up valuable classroom time.

One of the greatest areas of potential for technology in the classroom is by providing rich, multimedia sources that can enhance visual presentation of learning material. Rather than displaying videos or images for passive viewing by a classroom, teachers can point students to a given website where they can interact with the material in more meaningful ways. For example, a learning module about World War 2 might have the students do a small research project by reviewing the resources on a site such as Wikipedia – linking web-based learning to classroom assignments will ensure that students remain on task and constantly improving their research skills, as well as their specific knowledge on a given topic. Chances are that most students won't use their knowledge about the Asian-Pacific War Theater during their careers, but they will, most certainly, benefit from the research techniques they master; the ability to improve learning outside of the classroom is among the most prominent benefits of using cell phones in the classroom.

Just as cell phones can bring history to life, they can also connect students to on-going news stories. Services such as Rocketron provide real-time news feeds in a variety of areas, which can help teachers link curriculum to developing events. For science teachers, connecting curriculum to everyday life can be a challenge; allowing students to hear technology headlines and challenging them to connect the latest updates to chemistry, mathematics and biology can truly help bring the classroom to life. Cell phones can open learning environments to rich sources of real-time knowledge that can bridge the gap between the classroom and the larger outside world.

Elise Degrass is freelance writer, who is currently writing about cell phones. She can be reached via email as

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Going Green

Visiting Strawberry Fields every Dec 8 is so very bittersweet. It reminds me of a tragic and useless death. It reminds me of our brotherhood. I always get to sing my music with like minded people. I leave renewed. Again thank you John.

I am thinking of having my scholars work on a research project that draws in an old Eldridge Cleaver quote: "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem" and joins the new change voice of Obama, sparked by coaxing from Thomas Friedman in a missive to Generation X. I will then have them reside on DOT Earth of the NYTimes. I am concerned about this generation. The candidacy of Obama woke them up. Now that we have their attention, I hope we can actually realize a dream. The dream right now is the environment and what we must do to preserve it so we can survive as a species. I'm not concerned with saving the Earth, the Earth will do just fine with or without us. It is about our survival and we seem to be pretty callous and ignorant of what we must do. This is why I have been doing more and more "green" assignments and will be doing more.

I have been reflecting on my own "greenness." I remember visiting my grandparents as a boy and how thier lives were so environmentally sound. My grandma reused paper towels. She recycled food scraps into her compost, feed the birds and other critters. She separated her garbage. She had wet stuff, paper which my grandfather burned every night while enjoying one of his rare Luckies. She had a bin for cans, which she flattened and one for glass. It made little sense to me at that point in my young life. Then we hit the 70's and we got a global reaction to the cost of petro fuels. I was then living in the far north of NY with a young family. I remembered my grandparents and found myself imitating much of what I learned. We recycled the food stuffs. I carted crates of cans and bottles to the dump. I bought a machine to roll my junk mail into logs. I heated our house by wood burned in three wood stoves strategically placed around the house. I used a large wood furnace in the greenhouse to grow all year long. In the ninties, I made another stab at the environment with a paper I wrote in graduate school on the Green History of the World. So here we are once agin in 2008 with Al Gore leading the way. "Green" Consciousness is starting to stick with colleges and communities being more serious and actually doing things to be more "green." Now I want to take another run at this generation and their "green" consciousness. Over the summer I had some luck. One student bought a book bag that had solar cells on it for recharging cell phones and the like. He has since shown me more gadgets he owns and has even recruited another student who subscribes to the greenier life. It is after all more for them than it is for me. Those are always the toughest lessons to teach and to learn.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Busy Week

As we move into December, life has gotten very hectic. The weekend before Thanksgiving and a few hours into the next, I laid a hardwood floor in our main living area, 300 square feet.

After dining with my daughter and her beau on Monday, we carried a 10 foot plus tree home. I set that up the next day in our backyard with 5 strands of colored lights. It preceded and outdoes the tree three blocks away at a center called Rockefeller.

All week I have been helping a colleague begin her class on Blogs: Wellness Works Best. I'm blown away by what she and the class have accomplished. Take a look and write to her and her scholars.

After school I will be visiting Strawberry Fields in Central Park to lay onto the star as a tribute to John Lennon, my traditional white rose wrapped in a paper holding list of names of people who want me to add their names to this tribute. I was outside the Dakota the night Lennon was felled. I have revisited the site every Dec 8 since. It is Monday and about as cold as it was that fateful night.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Today is World Aids Day. I am one of those victims who lost both of his parents to this plague. My dad passed in 1993 and my mom in 1996. I miss them both.

Don't be a victim of AIDS.