Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Potpourri of Thoughts....

"Potpourri" is an interesting word that I always misspell on my first time around wherever I tend to use it.  It generally means a "collection" and most frequently it means a collection of dried flowers used for a nice smell.  Found in many ladies'  drawers.  But it can also mean a collection of songs, as in, "a potpourri of melodies."   In my use today it means a collection of thoughts about the use of iPads in the schools, as in iPads being used by students to learn....even old students like myself.  

I suppose I could have used the word, "Smorgasbord" in place of "Potpourri", both have about the same meaning...collection, and I have trouble spelling both of them.  Hmmm.

Many years ago (Once upon a time?) i took an initial course in "research" which included a very good section on how to write about research.   One of the assignments in the class was to understand how to use citations and footnotes.  I haven't heard the term, footnotes, in years.  I'm beginning to understand why.  We also learned a fair amount of Latin, as in:  opus sit. (as often as necessary) and et al. (and others or and elsewhere) and op cit. (already cited).  There are a lot more latin citations that I have totally forgotten.  Even the style of citations has changed from the bottom of the page to the end of the chapter to the end of the report or book.

And hence to another changing.  But for the moment put this aside.  We'll come back to citations in a bit.

Another thought....   I have been reading the three books of the Hunger Games by Susan Collins.  You know which book it having been all over the news about the new movie of the same name.  I think I wrote on this blog several years ago after reading the first book that I would not read the rest as I dislike violence and this book had been very violent.  Why it was a young adult book I had no idea but I did have an idea of why it was popular.  Teenagers like things that we adults dislike.  And I think many adults who were raised during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were just plan tired of war.  So when we, as teachers, pursued this book we opted to say it wasn't for kids.  Somehow the kids picked up on this and all have read it.  It is one of the most popular books on the market for young adults.

But given the fact that I write about education of children and young adults and I am as well concerned about what they read, I had to finish the trilogy.  I did finish the books with a black heart and a more ugly disposition.  My wife wanted to know what was wrong with me.  Humph!   But as a researcher I still would like to interview a number of young adults and see what they saw in the books.

In an effort to cleanse my mind, I have been also reading another trilogy of books by E.L. James...."Fifty Shades of Gray."   It has been cleansing all right.  From killing and war (The Hunter Games) to Sex and BDSM in the bedroom (Fifty Shades of Gray).  My inner being is saying "no, no," to the former and "yes, yes, to the latter.  My brain is reeling.  "Good Morning, America" described the "Fifty Shades of Gray" as pornography for the American women.  Huffington Post suggests that the book is a new level for Women's Literature.  They didn't say whether it was up or down.  However, it is one of the hottest properties at the moment for the e-readers.

Permit me if you will to say that I have enjoyed all three books by E. L. James as she is a very talented writer.  I have smiled, laughed, groaned and worried as the characters in her book developed within the story.  Well done, Ms James.  The only biography I could find on her was that she lived in West London and has two children.   I seriously suspect that she is a Seattle native as she is very cognizant with this city and the surrounding area of Bellevue, Kirkland and the rest of the Pacific Northwest ( i.e. (more of that Latin) Portland).

While I haven't finished the third book in this series, I am closing in on the final excitement but before I get to it something happened to make me put this book down and write this blog.  As you know this blog about "Teachers and Teaching" is a way for me to organize my thoughts, an autobiography of my inner brain on teaching.  

This book is considered by most a women's literature genre.  Now stick with me...this is going to be some wild leaps of courage in my thinking.  Let's go back to Jane Austen, one of my favorite authors who wrote of the landed gentry in the early 1800s.  Her novels were widely popular and furthered women in that society.  [an aside:  for further reading, see books about Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman doctor in the United States, near the end of the 1800s and early 1900s.]

From Jane, lets make a magnum leap to a present day author, Lisa Kleypas, who writes historical romance novels in England at about the late 1800s, again on the status of women in society.  She's done her research.  Women still do not have equal rights even those who are of the privilege class (watch Downton Abby on PBS as an example).  

Now lets jump to the early fifties.  The World War (II) has been won and the men have returned to their jobs pushing out the women who have built the tools of war for the past four years.  Interesting time.  Rona Jaffe wrote, in 1959,  "The Best of Everything" which is considered by some to be the beginning of Women's Literature (note I didn't include the word, romance).  The movie, Mona Lisa's Smile, depicts that era.

Before we make the final leap, a research book that I have mentioned on this blog was released in 1986 called "Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind", by Mary Field Belenky, et al.  I think this is a landmark book on at least half of our society.  This book and the "Dyslexia Advantage" should have an impact on our educational system.  

So.... the final leap of my dreaming (thinking?).  As I mentioned I'm reading E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Gray" in which the trilogy agonizes the beginnings of a relationship and marriage.  But for the moment forget that this book is very popular and remember my comments on footnoting earlier in this blog.  

On the last page (because I'm reading this on my iPad I can't give you a page number) before chapter nine, there is a FOOTNOTE!  Yes!  In a romance novel!  A honest to god footnote.  I was delighted.  But here is an important point.  The footnote is about a quote in the story by William Shakespeare's King Lear. Ms. James quotes the original source as digitally reprinted by Project Gutenburg.  This project is replicating everything that does not still have a copyright note.  So James has this footnote about King Lear and because I am reading it on my iPad, I can touch the footnote and it takes me to the work by Shakespeare as he intended it.  I don't have to go to the library and get works by Shakespeare and I don't even have to google it.  It pops right up for me after I touch it.  I can even hold my finger on Shakespeare's name and get a full biographical report on him should I for some reason not know who he was.  Amazing.

Finally, my point to all this drivel I believe that the use of iPads (forget brands for the moment) will revolutionize education as we know it.  It is already teaching me new things, primarily words, and I'm an old dog.  What a total delight to go from a novel to the dictionary to a web site and back to my novel or to other materials in a matter of a "finger pointing."  New educational word, "finger point."  

"All right, boys and girls, put your finger on the word, "Blood" on your pads and find out how "blood works."  "What does it do?"  "When you get an idea, tweet me."

Oh my how the world is changing. Science education.

How about this one for the high school?  "Using your pads found out who was the first Time Man of the Year that was not a Man?"  History come alive.  No, I'm not going to tell you the answer.  Find you pad (Kindle Fire, Nook or iPad) and find the answer.  It has to do with a woman.  That's your clue. 

To be truthful with you I ought to be able to include links (the new footnote) to all that I'm reading and let you get the answer for yourself.  You get the ownership of the learning.  I should only be a guide...a coach...a reference in finger pointing.  Links in this blog ought be ones that you can touch and get to other places in the new iCloud of learning.  But i don't know how to do it yet.  But if you are patient, I will continue to try to get this blog up to standards of the young.  

And thanks to John Dewey who gave me the framework of thinking to hang my ideas on for this blog.  Have you thanked a teacher today?  Do so, they will appreciate it.

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