The Rithmatist: Book Trailer

Whoever said you would never use geometry after high school was wrong, dead wrong! Rithmatists use a combination of geometry, art, history, and good old fashion gumption to thwart their enemies in every battle.

Author, Brandon Sanderson, brings alive an engaging tale of intrigue and battle hardened heroes in this first book of this new series, The Rithmatist. Students are trained in the war art of infusing life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalkings to fight off Wild Chalkings in the dangerous territory of Nebrask, yet not all are chosen by the Master to do his bidding as a Rithmatist in this age. Some like our protagonist, Joel, must sit idly by while others solve the mysteries of new threats seeping through the school’s campus. Or does he? Check out this Book Trailer for yourself. A world which combines the power of ART and MATH to create something truly sinister…

Censorship Causes Blindness: READ!

There are many celebrated weeks of recognition throughout the year. Teacher appreciation week is acknowledged in May. Breast cancer awareness is remembered throughout October. National fishing week captivates us in June. Yet, there is one that is often overlooked; the last week in September is set aside to evaluate the merit of banned books.

The general public may not be aware of the book censorship plaguing our libraries and classrooms, but “book burning” is very much alive in America today. Censorship of literature is born out of basic fear. Citizens recognize the use of certain buzz words or uncomfortable themes, and they throw the baby out with the bath water by condemning literature based on out of context issues. Controversy stems from the fact that we as a nation are comprised of individuals with very diverse in experiences, ethics, and cultural standards. Together our goal is to educate children and encourage them to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become industrious, autonomous citizens.

When we start telling people what they are not allowed to read, personal learning opportunities are impeded. Renowned author Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” This horrific phenomenon is bread out of the best of intentions in sheltering our children. Many of our most loved authors find their works on the 100 Most Banned Books List due to fear and control issues.

My challenge to you, as a now informed citizen, is to do your own research concerning the validity of these claims and start an honest dialogue with the youth in your life. Let’s retain the enthusiasm for reading that kindergarteners exhibit, upon the realization that they have the ability to read, by cultivating a fertile soil in which all books are given equal opportunity to nourish future readers. Celebrate the freedom to read as granted by the wisdom of our forefathers in the constitution. Stand up for intellectual freedom and partner with me in developing lifelong leaders in our community.

Technology and Secondary Language Arts Education

My summer has been filled with exceptional research opportunities. Many of these were due to the Introduction to Graduate Studies, a requirement for my Community Counseling Master’s Degree course work. In this research based class, I looked at the effects of 1:1 computing and language arts achievement in high school students. Ubiquitous or 1:1 computing was defined as technology that was everywhere and was used at all times usually in the form of one computer to one student (Meyer, 2007); these technological devices were wirelessly networked together to ensure instantaneous internet access (Gateway, 2005). Open content was defined by Ramaswami (2010) as “material published under a license that allows any user to edit, adapt, remix, and distribute it.” Teacher “withitness” was defined by Levinson (2010) as a teacher’s communicating to students by actual behavior rather than verbal announcement.

The goal of high school is to prepare students for postsecondary education or the workforce. Many schools struggle with exactly how to accomplish this goal especially in the language arts field. One thing that educators and researchers can agree on is that technology in various forms will be a part of accomplishing future education goals (Levinson, 2010; Goodwin, 2011; Weston & Bain, 2010). One-to-one (1:1) computing is a way of preparing students for their future.

Internet driven technology based research is a readily available tool that can be accessed via a 1:1 computing classroom (Kelleher, 2006). Having school-wide or district-wide implementation provides consistency for students in need of technological twenty-first century skills (Towndrow & Vaish, 2009). Teachers with proper professional development who innovatively use 1:1 computing increasingly motivate students toward higher achievement through amplified class energy and participation (Ramaswami, 2010). Students actively participate in not only their own learning, but also the learning of fellow students (Liu, Don, Chung, Lin, Lin & Liu, 2010; Project Tomorrow, 2011) which drives language arts achievement in the secondary level school.

After reviewing current literature relating to 1:1 computing, I found that ubiquitous computing has many cross school opportunities with prospective learning profits in which the environment where each student has a personal machine, and teachers have the vision, fortitude, and expertise to put into operation learning activities that utilize those opportunities which will make 1:1 computing worth the trouble, cost, and frustration presented by techno-critiques (Raymond, 2009). The three main components of my literature review were critiques to the validity of pervious ubiquitous computing initiatives, 1:1 computing as tools for change, and achievement assessments in need of alterations.  Language arts achievement puts into words and actions the ability to think and communicate effectively which was vital to working, learning, and being a global citizen in the twenty-first century. The global community revolves around technology and an individual’s command of it (Wagner, 2010).

 

Upon completion of my research, I decided to look into even more sources concerning language arts education and increasing reading achievement. For most of my life, I have been of the philosophy that children who are avid readers will also score higher on reading achievement standardized tests, and score higher on writing tests due to the fact that students will mimic what they read in their writing. One of the books that I chose for further research is, “The Book Whisperer,” by Donalyn Miller. It has been eye opening. The concepts discussed in Miller’s practical book kept me repeating the sentiment of, “really?!?!” I knew that everything she was saying was true and proven in my own life and the lives around me, but I thought it was not politically correct to say so as a language arts educator. I was under the impression that teaching this style of self selected books was cheating.

Needless to say, I am revamping my entire view of pleasure reading in my classroom. We are going to start off the year by examining what students are interested and then how to identify books from those interests. They will be required to read 40 books by the end of the school year, and any book over 350 pages automatically counts as two books. The only assessment will be a reading response record, which I have lovingly dubbed R3 or Triple R, and consist of the students writing me weekly letters on their response to their reading. I will then respond to their response letters with my own insights and encouragement. We will still follow the current curriculum of reading, writing, researching, and presenting requirements. Monday through Thursday, we will start each class period off with 10 minutes of self-directed reading. On Fridays, they will use the first ten minutes to write in their R3. Over the weekend, I will then respond to each student’s responses and return the R3 to the classroom on Monday. So, there will be no more idiom tests for this school year.

By modeling reading in my classroom, I will be taking teacher “withitness” to a whole new personal level.