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Have Justin Webb and the man from business school no idea what literature might actually be?

Have Justin Webb and the man from business school no idea what literature might actually be? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
I’m still reeling from an exchange on Radio 4’s Today on Wednesday, when Philip Parker, an American professor of Management Science at the INSEAD business school told Justin Webb about his work in “automatic authoring programs”.





Will your blood boil while reading this article about "automatic authoring programs"?


Would you agree with Philip Parker, the subject of this article that he is an "author" because he has mechanically generated some 200,000 books making him "the most published author in the history of the planet"?

Of course, I suppose, anyone who creates a collection of words and then distributes that collection is technically an author at some level.


However, apparently Mr. Parker believes that it's possible to "'reverse-engineer' a poem and, by using 'cluster analysis', construct a new one..."


It is not surprising that such beliefs might stretch the levels of open-mindedness to "new literary directions" that I've long believed was essential for those entrusted with promoting literary reading as an essential element of a well-rounded education. I do note for the record that being open to considering is not the same as accepting as valid what I do not see as valid after having given the subject some just consideration.


Am I capable of giving just consideration for new ideas regarding what can be considered literature? That is the question.


I've been doing a lot of thinking about the word "literature" lately. In my mind, "literature" references the great global collection of the best articulations of wisdom distributed in the oldest and most persistently utilized format; that of storytelling.


In truth, that distribution system has its roots (and its modern day descendents) in the oral traditions of storytellers sitting around campfires tens of thousands of years before the ingredients for S'mores existed and the PowerPoint-like enhanced versions of oral storytelling that I imagine was behind the cave paintings found in the El Castillo cave in Cantabria, Spain or those found in cave art of Chauvet in France. Remember Socrates' story of Plato's Allegory of the Cave?


Whether one experiences Shakespeare in its purest visual form of a live theatrical performance, or a contemporary cinematic "theatrical performance," or in the text-only version of what is "believed" to be a relatively accurate textual documentation of the story that Shakespeare created or recreated, it is the story's eloquence of an author's ability to synthesize and articulate the universal truths in an engaging story that distinguishes "literature" from ..., from..., from whatever it is when mere words are less engagingly or less insightfully exchanged between people that is not "literature."


"Literature" brings a new breadth of understanding about what is beyond the parts of the world where its audience has been and a new depth of understanding about what is within the parts of the world where its audience has most often existed.


I still cringe when shopping for a new washing machine or a carbon monoxide detector or ... any potential purchase and I'm offered "some literature" about the product. I realized that there are probably some well-paid English majors behind the marketing value of every single word in that "literature" but I'm not so certain that articulating the great truths or even the not so great truths about the subject is at the heart of "product literature" or in the heart of its "author."


I'm looking for informational reading; give me the facts, give me a data sheet, give me a manual, but don't call it "literature" please.


So realizing that there is a level of foolishness on my part in attempting to distinguish "literature" from other text-based reading materials, I've begun using the term "literary reading" to distinguish it from "informational reading."


I do not intend to demean the value of informational reading by any means.


But, if we are to believe that "literary reading" has merit then we must take a long look at what that value might be and whether or not our current strategies for teaching and assessing student achievement in literary reading is really being as effective as we hope for it to be.


It is not adequately measured by measuring student literacy skills. Those assessment measure whether students CAN read well-enough to benefit from reading. They do not measure whether students DO read and thereby benefit from reading whether or not that benefit comes from literary reading or informational reading. Having basic literacy skills is an essential element of any curricular design and deserves the extensive attention that it receives in most educational environments. This is true even if the need is "only" there for a relatively small percentage of total student populations. But, "small percentage" does not mean insignificant percentage. I often wonder where STEM or STEAM or STR2EAM education (depending upon your position on this very hot educational dialogue is) would be without basic literacy being an absolute pre-requisite.


It is a given that literacy is essential before literary reading has any value. I'll drop references to informational reading for the moment and focus specifically upon literary reading.


So, I mentioned the old gadfly Socrates earlier in this post. You may remember that he was forced to drink poison for his "impiety" and for "corrupting the youth." In recalling Socrates' fate, I'm just a bit worried about what I'm about to suggest.


First, I believe that teaching the benefits of literary reading:
• has a value equal to or exceeding that of teaching basic literacy skills.
• is at least as important as STEM education which IS ALSO TREMENDOUSLY important.
• is undervalued outside of English departments in most educational environments.
• is not an obsoleting "information source," but rather among the very best of the relatively few sources of the kind of "wisdom" that is required for using all the information sources at hand responsibly.
• is not achieving adequate levels of success
• (gulp gadfly alert) just may require that we revisit exactly what we do to lead our learners towards discovery of the relevance and benefits of literary reading.


I will purposely shift the rest of my comments to a metaphor, or perhaps and allegory or perhaps a parable... you know a fictionalized articulation of truth.


Imagine when you did not know how to drive. Whether it was or not, most people saw the downside of not knowing how to drive and the upside of knowing how to drive. You probably felt the same way when you didn't know how to read, but you had plenty of experience of hearing stories read to you and the benefit of reading really didn't need to be sold to you.


The question is what was the important a "content" in the process of learning how to drive? Certainly, driver safety and driver responsibility were important. You were even tested on this knowledge before being officially sanctioned to drive. Better keep that in the learning content.


What about the mechanics of the automobile? Certainly you needed to know how to adjust your mirrors, how to buckle seat belts, how the steering and braking mechanisms were controlled in order to parallel park, how to counter-steer in case of a slide-out, when to begin braking in order to be at a complete stop before arriving at the bumper of the car in front of you. All important skills, all fairly easily assessed on a multiple choice test followed by an actual driving test.


Did you really need to know how internal combustion worked? Did you really need to understand the mechanics behind what makes that brake pedal do what you need it to do? Did you really need to understand the mystery behind how you were able to somehow be able to be driving anywhere and still have access to news, music, and GPS directions? Did you need to know the history of automobile design or the evolution of the hybrid engine?


Not so quick! It really depends upon the level of involvement you have in driving. Do you want to become a mechanic or a car designer or a civic engineer or an environmentalist or ...? All of these and many others have deeper and more extensive reasons to know more about driving than how to drive and the value that being able to drive can bring to their lives.


Yes we do improve their receptiveness to the benefits of literary reading when we explore the role of metaphor, allusion, meter, genres, even onomatopoeia and all those other mechanics used by the great writers of literature. And, it therefore is important in the scholarly study of literature. It's also important that we reach those students who might pick of the torch and become the next generation of English majors, literary scholars and educators.


However, I would suggest that like those requiring basic literacy education, those destined for a scholarly relationship with literature are in fact, a smail, though not insignificant percentage of our students. The largest percentage perhaps by far, is the vast middle group of those who can read, but who are destined to make other contributions to the world besides tending the flame of literary scholarship.


Then the question becomes does that vast middle group have something to gain from literary reading? Of course they do. But they need to be led to a rewarding (relevant and engaging) realization that literary reading is a practice worth continuing past the end of their mandatory education.


We might keep in mind that the great storytellers we share with our students did not write their stories in order to teach the value of the mechanical devices they used , but rather used those mechanical devices teach valuable lessons about the human condition; about the great questions contemplated by peoples of all ages and cultures regarding what it means to live a good life as humane beings. When that middle group sees themselves, their cares, and their world reflected in the stories they read they get it, they see the gift that literary reading brings to everyone making their way through their own life's journey.

A final consideration: The 2008 National Endowment for the Arts document, "Reading on the Rise: A new Chapter in American Literacy" proudly proclaims a turnaround in the 20 year decline in reading. The document distinguishes "all reading" from "Literary Reading" giving us a more focused view of our "success rate" as teachers of literature.

If we look even more specifically at the data for 18-24 year olds as a representation of literary reading habits among those who have recently completed their mandatory educations, we find that although their literary reading numbers have improved over the preceding 20 years, they have only reached 51.7% among the 18-24-Year-Olds. And, though that might be an impressive percentage when compared to the percentage of hits that even the very best professional baseball player might get, it should be kept in mind that to be a part of the 51.7% of literary readers, one need only to have claimed to have read at least ONE poem, short story, novel or play in the preceding 12 months.


Also when broken down by education level, those with no post high school education only come in at 39.1% when asked whether they had read at least one poem, short story, novel, or play in the preceding 12 months.


If after 12 years of mandatory education we are failing to make literary reading a valued part of those who pass the age of mandatory education, we may want to continue to explore new ways of helping our students "see" the value and to continue to wonder whether our current pedagogies might need revisiting.


As is often the case with these comments and mental meanderings, I'll leave it to you to worry about what this all has to do with the article that triggers this line of pedagogical consideration.


I'm just saying, I'm not sure "automated authoring" can capture the eloquence of the most articulate storytellers of the ages.


 ~ ~


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Writers Guild Awards 2017 "The 69th Writers Guild Awards"

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GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
20 February 2017

An optional homework assignment choice...

Either watch this one hour collection of speeches honoring those who write for TV or movies...

Pick and choose per your own lights at least three individual clips from the Writers Guild Awards show that should appear as links in the right column of the YouTube screen...


When the writers that your students know best via their work speak, whether your students have a clue as to who it might have been who wrote their favorite movie or TV episodes, they may very well come to a greater appreciate for the importance of both fact and fiction in the lives of thinking people.

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The Met Makes Its Public-Domain Artworks Images Freely Available

The Met Makes Its Public-Domain Artworks Images Freely Available | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
7 February 2017

"As of today, all images of public-domain works in The Met collection are available under Creative Commons Zero (CC0). So whether you're an artist or a designer, an educator or a student, a professional or a hobbyist, you now have more than 375,000 images of artworks from our collection to use, share, and remix—without restriction. This policy change to Open Access is an exciting milestone in The Met's digital evolution, and a strong statement about increasing access to the collection and how to best fulfill the Museum's mission in a digital age."

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Teaching In The Post-Truth Era

Teaching In The Post-Truth Era | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Defending truth — and teaching students to seek it — will not be easy, but it’s a worthy fight.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
28 December 2016

An absolutely MUST READ RESEARCH BASED article for any educator tasked with teaching Informational Reading.

Just a few tantalizing quotes to get you interested...

Oxford (Dictionary) describes post-truth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

"One concern is that the process of acquiring knowledge has become faster, more superficial and more social. Indeed, an increasing percentage of Americans get their news through social media. Middle and high school students, so-called digital natives, are even more likely to consume media and integrate new information they find on social media."

"Although they arenʼt naïve enough to believe that if itʼs online, it must be true, they most certainly believe that if itʼs true, it must be online, and itʼs probably been liked by lots of their friends already. Knowledge has become populist."

"A second concern is supported by two new unsurprising but arresting studies, one from Sam Wineburg at Stanford and another from Joseph Kahne of UC Riverside and Benjamin Bowyer of Santa Clara University. Wineburgʼs research shows that todayʼs students are dismayingly unskilled at detecting bias, identifying fake news, and evaluating truth claims."

"...Kahne and Bowyer show that high school students are especially susceptible to “directional motivated reasoning,” which means they prefer “to seek out evidence that aligns with their preexisting views, to work to dismiss or find counter-arguments for perspectives that contradict their beliefs, and to evaluate arguments that align with their views as stronger and more accurate than opposing arguments.”

"Millennials are coming of age in a time of deepening polarization, poisonous rhetoric, and increasing partisan rigidity. Democratic norms are being degraded before our eyes and bigotry has gone mainstream. "

"A renewed focus on media literacy is essential to addressing post-truth ennui."

"Indeed, in the concern about downloading as knowledge acquisition, itʼs not hard to hear an echoing of widespread concerns about Americansʼ ripeness for authoritarian propaganda. Our students are learning to know in an environment that privileges superficial, easy explanations, rapid-fire opinion formation, and confirmation bias-driven groupthink. "

"Carol Dweckʼs “growth mindset” concept has been the subject of a wealth of education writing. She suggests that students need to be taught in such a way that they can embrace a vision of themselves as works in progress. In Kahne and Bowyerʼs research on the prevalence of motivated reasoning, they identified studentsʼ deeply held assumptions about the world as an obstacle to expanding their thinking and developing better opinions."

"Iʼd add that studentsʼ concepts of knowledge can operate as a similar impediment. The view that knowledge acquisition should be fast, that it should fit into an already existing worldview, and that all sources are helplessly biased serves as a major obstacle to developing mature critical thinking skills. Teachers need to operate with a theory of knowledge that is open-ended, embraces complexity, and accelerates the developmental progress of their students."

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13 Cognitive Biases That Really Screw Things Up For You | The Huffington Post

13 Cognitive Biases That Really Screw Things Up For You | The Huffington Post | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
11 December 2016

How does one teach informational reading in times when the soon to be most powerful person in the world is waging a full-scale war on trust in information?

Regardless of our personal beliefs, when contemplating the quality of our current public discourse, it is clear that too much of what is believed is not to be believed. 

 Again, refining our informational reading skills in times when mistrust in information itself is alarmingly rampant is more important than ever, while simultaneously also being perceived as being irrelevant by even those who might be expected to be models of respect for rational thinking.

That aside, I found this list of easy to understand explanations for identifying thinking patterns that may be based upon unrecognized and unquestioned default baseline biases fascinating. 

 I am reminded of the quote on the banner above my black, then green, then white board for nearly 30 years.
 "We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there." ~Aaron Siskind

 I think Siskind was accurate whether or not "what we have learned to believe is there" is well founded or not.  

I remember being taught a basic list of logical fallacies. (A downloadable poster can be found at:

Ad hominem? tu quoque?  anecdotal? begging the question? false cause? 

(Wow! seen any of these recently?) 

 Yet, at the time, like many "late bloomers," I was a bit of a know it all. Well, to be more accurate I was convinced that I knew enough about things that I had already determined to be important and had already mastered the art of ignorantly giving no credence to what I eventually came to appreciate was much more important than being a class clown or learning all I could about girls from James Bond. 

 Studying that list written in its scholarly academic language was more boring than engaging. 

 Yet, in reading this scooped article on cognitive biases, written in real world English and in a fashion that is easily personalized rather than easily dismissed, I could not help but wonder if it might be a much more engaging way to invite students to give some serious thought to the impact of their own un recognized personal biases. 

 In class I would have students read this article once as individuals with instructions to see if they could cite examples in the real world where they've seen any examples of each identified  type of the bias. 

Then I'd have them share their examples in small groups for a few minutes minutes discuss for example these examples from the article...  

"5. Confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that supports our pre-existing beliefs. In other words, we form an opinion first and then seek out evidence to back it up, rather than basing our opinions on facts." __________ 

Whether we  are, for example, either conservative or progressive in our political leanings, isn't it true that we are sometimes or generally or most often immediately more receptive to information or news that falls in line with our own pre-existing beliefs and less receptive even immediately skeptical of information or  news that challenges our own pre-existing beliefs? 

How much openness did our recent public discourse appeal to pre-existing biases and how much openness did that public discourse encourage an honest consideration of the importance of reconsideration of our own pre-existing points of view? 

Ever give students an essay assignment that was supposed to encourage them to research the pros and cons of a particular opinion only to have them begin with a pre-existing opinion and then merely spend the rest of their effort cherry picking arguments that supported that opinion? 

Do we emphasize enough the importance of what amounts to a requirement to include a concession paragraph where, students are forced to concede that there actually are opinions that are both contrary to their own yet worth considering nevertheless? 

 A related bias gets a bit close to home for some educators. I recently had the "opportunity" to witness an example of this one...
9. The halo effect. The halo effect occurs when someone creates a strong first impression and that impression sticks. This is extremely noticeable in grading. For example, often teachers grade a student’s first paper, and if it’s good, are prone to continue giving them high marks on future papers even if their performance doesn’t warrant it. The same thing happens at work and in personal relationships."

There are 13 Cognitive Biases in this article. Each provides simple examples that can be bridges to anyone's personal experiences. 

Dunno, might just stick more easily than trying to figure out if I might be guilty of "tu quoque" thinking. And, for the record, if you happened to pay any attention to our recent political campaign, You probably saw, whether you fell for it or not, hundreds of examples of "tu quoque" thinking.

If only I could believe that it wasn't intentional. 

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The joy of lexicography

The joy of lexicography | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways today's print dictionary is poised for transformation.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
27 November 2016

Need some smiles? Lots of laughs here.

Need some brain jogging? Be prepared to have yours jogged.

Who'da thunk a dictionary-centric talk would provide such an intellectually energizing and enjoyable contemplation-reorientation?

Ok. I thought the paper dictionary was already dead. Darned near didn't bother going past the first minute or so. That is, until the speaker Erin McKean began building a case for comparing paper dictionaries with online dictionaries. 

In McKean's words,..

" They {computers] don't change the end result. Because what a dictionary is, is it's Victorian design merged with a little bit of modern propulsion. It's steampunk. What we have is an electric velocipede. You know, we have Victorian design with an engine on it. That's all! The design has not changed."

AH! Her intent is not so much to make an argument regarding the difference between paper and digitized dictionaries as it is to reframe the argument as being about the long established Victorian design of dictionaries, off or online, that perpetuates  worn-out idea, that needs some very serious revisioning. 

Before, insisting that accelerating access speed  to definitions gives online dictionaries the trump card that ought to be enough to smuggly declare them victorious, we ought to consider McKean's thoughtful provocation...

"And in fact, online dictionaries replicate almost all the problems of print, except for searchability. And when you improve searchability, you actually take away the one advantage of print, which is serendipity. Serendipity is when you find things you weren't looking for, because finding what you are looking for is so damned difficult."

Though compelling to an intriguing degree, I"m not entirely certain that hyperlinks aren't a fairly solid counterargument. Anyone who has found him or herself exploring a trail of hyperlinked cookie crumbs knows that it's easy to get lost in the multi-layered digressions of hyperlinks' curiously fascinating side trips. Though I must admit that although I have discovered significant treasures serendipitously, at the same time, I've often meandered so far away and for so long from my original intentions that those intentions often have fallen out of my memory by the time I snap out of the cornucopic trance I've spent an indeterminate amount of time exploring. 

Nevertheless, all this is to say, that the humor and the intellectual kick in the side of the head provided by this talk provided serendipitous treasures well worth consideration and the time it took me away from cleaning the garage, which as is often the case, always something I can do tomorrow.

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Post-Election College Paper Grading Rubric

Post-Election College Paper Grading Rubric | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Dear Students,
Because I can no longer claim with any credibility that reading, writing, and critical thinking are essential skills fo
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
20 November 2016

Saw this site flash by in SNL last night. If you teach critical thinking, persuasive essay writing, irony or sarcasm, you may not think this is funny.

But then again...

 ~ www. ~
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A Field Guide To Identifying A White Nationalist

A Field Guide To Identifying A White Nationalist | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
“It becomes one of those ‘if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck’ kind of things."
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
18 November 2016

A bit concerned about posting this article as I do not want to be mistaken as promoting any political view; not only because I do not believe that it would be appropriate, but also because this is considered definitely inappropriate for nonprofits.

Rather, I've decided that it might be an article of interest to those tasked with teaching informational reading skills. The article focuses upon what might be compared to "rebranding" efforts made to counter negative impressions triggered by previous branding practices. For example, today's extremists are more likely to present themselves as "normies." wearing suits than wearing sheets, or obvious tattoos that carry negative reactions. 

There is a recognition that reducing or pre-empting  the instant negative reactions and repackaging themselves as appearing more towards the look of the mainstream is more effective than the previous branding that hoped to be effective via fear and intimidation.

It is my hope that many charged with raising awareness while reading for information include the term "cherry picking" as an important and intentional side-stepping tactic used to mislead.

Another distinction that I hope is made in every informational reading curriculum is the difference between being  "well-informed" and being "ill-informed,"  "misinformed," or "disinformed."

The article uses the term "obfuscate" which ought to be part of every thinking person's critical thinking detection skill set.

The article suggests that the intentional rebranding of what are considered radical and negative ideologies "...becomes one of those 'if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck' kind of things.'" 

I might begin a lesson on this intentional misdirection common in public discourse, commercial promotion, and much social interaction with the reading of Aesop's "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing." 

The wolves learned early on that  hunting sheep while looking like wolves was less effective than pretending to look like sheep..

(A shout out to the truth to be found in LITERARY READING!)

I might end the lesson by having students search for the pattern in their email spam folders.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Don't believe everything you think."

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Rap Theatre for Lit Lovers! | Filmed live at the Public Theater, NY

Filmed LIVE at the PUBLIC THEATER, NY on September 5th, 2016 BARS Created by Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs MEDLEY Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrad
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
15 November 2016

Wow! Wow! Wow!!!

I remember the buzz when Baz Luhrmann's 1996 radical interpretation of Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio rocked English department meetings like a Tsunami. Blasphemy or Genius? My department nearly came to blows. 

Okay, I made that part up. But there were those who were aghast and those who were ecstatic.

Let's start here. Have you "Gone Ga Ga" over Hamilton?

Do you by chance teach any of the title listed below? If so you might want to take a look at this video.

BIG TIP FOR WATCHING if you're not particularly receptive to rap. Below the video and below the photograph of Rafael Casal, click the "•••More" link then the transcript link. Don't click the CC (closed caption) link. Rap is apparently way to fast for the Closed Caption to work. 

My preference is to watch the video and occasionally scroll down the the transcript. This is not just a rap album; it's an incredible theatre experience.

The House on Mango Street
 • 1984
 • Pride and Prejudice
• Things Fall Apart
• Frankenstein
• Death of a Salesman
• Beloved
• Lord of the Flies
• Native Son
• The Catcher in the Rye
• Autobiography of Malcolm X
• The Alchemist 
• The Great Gatsby

Like rap or not. or like me, I don't really have an opinion about rap because getting up to speed on rap as good or bad as it might be, just hasn't (or should I say "hadn't") risen high enough on my bucket list yet to form a thoughtful opinion..

But, this video, has certainly sent rap racing towards the upper levels of my bucket list. This video is beyond remarkable. The first thoughts I had were a recollection of my core vision when teaching literature. I wanted my students to think about how I felt the first time Shakespeare was "taught at me."

That thought, "What's this old story got to do with anything I care about?" Though now embarrassed to confess it. This wasn't an expression of curiosity. In this late bloomer's pre-bloomer days, it was more of a rational for not caring; for dismissing any further interest in finding out if it actually might have something to do with anything I cared about. 

Whether you become aghast or ecstatic, what if it reaches right to the center of what your students, or some of your students, care much about? Wouldn't that be cool?

 ~ ~
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Take A Look At The Most Epic Map Blunders Throughout The Ages

Take A Look At The Most Epic Map Blunders Throughout The Ages | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"An atlas of the world not as it ever existed, but as it was thought to be."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
11 November 2016

I love having very mixed feelings about an article I anticipate either liking or disliking. I anticipated liking this article and found much to like. However, I also found myself wondering whether there was a negative bias that bumped against my own biases leaning in different directions.

The author leans towards an understandable assumption that inaccuracy is proof of blunder or lying or mythology as a sort of triumvirate of foolish or vicious falsehood.

In an ironic twist I am attracted to the video's conclusion that, "There's always more to the story."

I probably read that conclusion quite differently from the author's intention. I believe that at the Venn crossover of fact and fiction that fiction often adds an element of a greater Truth than fact alone. Not believing so would leave me thinking that his logic would dismiss the value of not only mythology, but all fiction because by definition fiction is not true.

When the author says, “Maps have an unquestionable authority, ... We’ve always thought of them as infallible, and so it’s startling and intriguing to see how wrongly they’ve sometimes shown the world to be.”

I can not read this without hearing a contemporary self-righteous condemnation of how incredibly foolish people USED TO BE when they believed "wrongly" what they were inaccurately "shown the world to be." 

Perhaps my own bias is affected by this week's headlines where there is quite disturbing evidence regarding the extent to which people today STILL  "believe wrongly" what they have been inaccurately "shown the world to be."

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Awful Titles Famous Authors Almost Gave Their Novels

Awful Titles Famous Authors Almost Gave Their Novels | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Even the greatest writers fall prey to "I don't know what to call this" syndrome.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
27 October 2016

Just a quick scoop of an interesting look at author's early thoughts about titles for books eventually were published under different names.

Might be of interest when discussing titles for essays or the power of rough drafts in general.

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Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize, Redefining Boundaries of Literature

Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize, Redefining Boundaries of Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The singer and songwriter was recognized for “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
14 October 2016

Fifty years ago, December 5, 1965 to be exact, Bob Dylan changed my life forever. Actually, the credit should go to Mr. Ferdie Kay, my senior English teacher at James Logan High School in Union City, CA. It was Mr. Kay who decided to begin his poetry unit by taking the class on a field trip to Berkeley California to see Bob Dylan in concert. 

Dylan was a bit of an odd duck in the current music scene. He wasn't rock 'n roll, wasn't exactly folk, had what was considered a terrible singing voice, and sang songs with nearly unintelligible lyrics. At least they seemed unintelligible to this late bloomer who never surfed, but was more attracted to the Beach Boys nevertheless. 

Yet, I had a peripheral interest in Peter Paul and Mary as well as Joan Baez. Mostly because of their "pleasant" voices and accessible and meaningful lyrics.

Dylan on the other hand seemed to pander to no one. His audience needed to ponder his words and forgive his voice. 

The concert was on a Sunday night, the next day in class Mr. Kay had a life changing lesson plan. We dissected one of Dylan's songs and it was the first time I remember ever feeling as though I actually began to see the "writing between the lines" that so many previous English teachers had expected me to see. He didn't tell us what to see, but rather guided us to discover what was there to consider and to begin to see the bridge between Dylan's lyrics and our own life experiences. It was exhilarating. 

By the end of the week Mr. Kay challenged us to find that exhilaration while exploring T. S. Eliot. And, we did. Mr. Kay had brought Dylan to us instead of the traditional approach of attempting to bring us to the authors who often lived in different times, different cultures, and who wrote in a version of English that just didn't quite generate a sense that their work was worth the effort. But, again, I was a "late bloomer." I was still in the cocoon of self centered "me-ness." But, Mr. Kay and Bob Dylan mark the moment when I began the long process of escaping that cocoon.

By June 1966 I'd made up my mind to become an English teacher just like Mr. Kay. I even grew a beard just like Mr. Kay's that I've worn ever since. My own career as an English teacher spanned 4 decades; a career dedicated to being the kind of teacher for my students that Mr. Kay had been for his.

Congratulations Bob Dylan. You've made millions differences to millions of people.
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Here’s How Long It Took To Write Your Favorite Book

Here’s How Long It Took To Write Your Favorite Book | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Who's the speediest novelist of them all?
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
2 October 2016

The title says it all. Interesting graphic. Several titles are popular in classroom curricula. Any surprises?

By the way, titles are listed by not only "time to write" but also number of pages.

Try this, find the book with the longest writing time AND the least number of pages and calculate the time per page rate.

And of course the reverse math with the title with the shortest writing time AND the most number of pages.

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Powerful Drawings Show What It Feels Like To Be Lost In A Book

Powerful Drawings Show What It Feels Like To Be Lost In A Book | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Korean artist Jungho Lee reminds us that reading a book is the best adventure.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
20 September 2016

How cool are these? Like all great books these images reward those who take a second or third look.

There's more there there.

 ~ www.GoogleLit ~
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One Judge’s Order For Hate Crime Committers: Read More Books

One Judge’s Order For Hate Crime Committers: Read More Books | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
A judge's "unusual sentence" included assigning books like “The Handmaid’s Tale."
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
8 February 2017

And not just these books. From the article...

They will also have to do a research paper on swastikas and attend a Holocaust Museum with their parents. 

The assigned films include “Twelve Years a Slave” and “Lincoln”; the books include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Bluest Eye, To Kill a Mockingbird and Native Son. 

Newer classics including Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, the latter of which won last year’s National Book Award, were featured on the list, too."

We all hope that that classics reach them. But, I'm happy to hear that visiting a Holocaust museum, watching relatively contemporary films and modern novels were included.

We must make every effort to battle the virus of "alternative fact."

Ironically FICTION may be a weapon in that battle.

What's the difference?
Alternative facts aren't facts
Fiction amplifies truth.

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Transcript: President Obama on What Books Mean to Him

Transcript: President Obama on What Books Mean to Him | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Michiko Kakutani, our chief book critic, met with Mr. Obama to discuss the books and writers that have influenced his life and presidency.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
16 January 2017

For many years the Google Lit Trips project has used the tagline, "BECAUSE LITERARY READING BRINGS WISDOM TO THE INFORMATION AGE."

In this scooped article President Obama, shares his appreciation for what Literary Reading has meant to him. It is thoughtful, contemplative, and displays the depth of wisdom to which he has been indebted throughout his life. And a depth of thoughtfulness contemplation, and wisdom that may be becoming dangerously absent as President Obama transitions the power of the presidency to his successor.

We are now entering what has been labeled the Post Truth Era. One need not look far to find the "liberties" that are being taken with too many, even at the highest levels, are disregarding the value of truth. 

In recent years, literary reading has had to constantly defend its value in too many curricula. Now, we find ourselves in times where Informational Reading has edged into an area where truth and information may be becoming irrelevant in the minds of far too many adults. 

Many of us who have cherished information and wisdom are wondering what we can do given the apparent pending trajectories at the highest levels of government. 

One thing we can do, and must do is ratchet up our efforts to bring facts, information and wisdom back into the prominence they deserve. 

It's time we Double Down.

 ~ ~
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8 Offbeat Literary Genres to Get Lost In by

8 Offbeat Literary Genres to Get Lost In by | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
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GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
19 December 2016 
Serendipity. While working on a Google Lit Trip for Gogol's short story "The Nose" I wanted to create a link to a definition for the word "thither." While looking for a link on I wandered around and discovered that scrolling down past all of the information relating to the word "thither" under a heading called "Discover our greatest slideshows" there were several links to other interesting content.

 "8 Offbeat Literary Genres to Get..." caught my eye and like I frequently do, I went on a serendipity digression. And,I'll be darned. Having majored in English, earned a teaching credential in teaching English and taught high school English for nearly four decades I discovered that I had never heard of three of these offbeat literary genres, and not given a second thought about another 2-3 of them beyond the last test on naming genres that I probably had to pass 40 or more years ago. When was the last time you had a chance to drop "Bildungsroman" into a conversation? or "Wuxia," or "Penny Dreadful"? 

Though not a sterling student, I might well have found these words interesting, if not useful for anything other than as content matter for my bent sense of curiosity. For some reason, I was early on attracted to cool words whether they appeared to be useful or not. I remember learning the word "omphaloskeptic." Don't know it? Don't look it up before looking at the photo of a statue in the Louvre of four ompaloskeptics. What a cool word! 

Yeah, but how much time should we spend upon elements of language arts that 95% of our students and English majors, and even English teachers never really find a use for? Yet contrary to what one might expect, my answer is NOT none. None is fine I suppose. But, building bridges between language arts and curiosity or just plain fun can play a part in building an attentive interest in the importance of language arts and learning just for the serendipitous heck of it. 

I used to spend 10 minutes a week on Fridays playing word games via slide presentations. The already motivated students enjoyed the competition and the learning and the less engaged enjoyed the novelty of language and poetry, and writing. It was just a passing subversive encouragement by not letting it become boring or something to worry about being on the test but still "something new." 

One of my greatest early sources was The Play of Words: Fun & Games for Language Lovers Paperback – September 1, 1991 by Richard Lederer

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Classic Books Yanked From Virginia County Schools After Parent Complaint

Classic Books Yanked From Virginia County Schools After Parent Complaint | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
In a divided time, can we afford to read books like "Huck Finn" -- or can we afford not to?
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
2 December 2018

Yes, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird  are among the most banned books in schools and have been for decades. 

Well, here's an A+ book report any student capable of critical thinking could write about each of these stories.


Both authors bravely confronted and attempted to expose the facts that LIKE IN OUR OWN TIMES, Blacks have suffered too much sh-- , racism, and inequality from too many in the dominant culture. 

Both authors created stories that put the sins of racism front and center and truthfully in our faces. And, each chose children as the witnesses and recorders of those horrific sins. 

Some somehow believe that our children should hate the book when the point of each story is to expose hatred.

Both Huck Finn and Scout Finch and all of our children must sooner, rather than later, come to understand the harsh realities of racism's indefensible victimization of innocents. 

Both books are generally taught in high school. By that age, aren't students old enough to begin learning such lessons? If not, when will they be?

If we believe that high school students are not old enough to begin facing the harsh reality of life and believe banning these books somehow protects them from facing those harsh realities of racism, when will they be ready to accept their adult responsibility of  confronting our unfinished business of pursuing Liberty and Justice FOR ALL?

Each novel has only one primary black character; Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird are victims and powerless to do anything about their victimization because they lived in times when there was still work to be done to ensure that all citizens have the right to expect life, liberty, and JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Final Exam Question:
After reading The Adventures in Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird, explain your level of empathy for Jim, Huck, and how that empathy might be expressed best given today's news.

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Is “Screen Time” Dangerous for Children?

Is “Screen Time” Dangerous for Children? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
A child psychologist—and grandmother—says such fears are overblown.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
25 November 2016

Am I the only Literary Reading educator who has become a cheerleader for the importance of Informational Reading? Of course not. For this reason I found this article fascinating on multiple fronts. 

I remember one of the best lessons I learned about effective interviewing questions while teaching journalism.. "Avoid phrasing questions that can be answers "Yes" or "No." Instead, attempt to phrase questions that require an informed explanation. The same general rule also applies to the kinds of questions we ask when attempting to stimulate a contemplative, higher level class discussion. 

The phrasing of the headline for this article, which by the way, may not have been written by the article's author, runs the danger of reducing contemplation to a simplistic "either / or" in spite of the quite apparent complexity of the issue in question. "Yes" or "No" is a conclusion to be drawn ONLY after "Pros" or "Cons" have been considered. 

Okay. I know. There are forms of debate that begin with a statement to which debating teams take either an affirmative or or negative position and then argue their respective points of view. This is not unlike the Thesis Statement first then defense via Topic Sentences supported by evidence structure commonly taught in high school. It works when actual consideration of the pros and cons have been given due diligence. But, we all know the extent to which existing personal opinion can, and often does, short-circuit the due diligence ending up with attempts that choose a thesis prior to the due diligence and then defending the thesis via cherry picking supporting evidence and avoiding opposing evidence more than building an informed thesis after completing a balanced consideration.

The headline aside, this article nailed some of the best arguments to consider rather than merely turning up the volume on existing inadequately considered canned cherry picking and avoidance of sufficient depth of consideration of all the evidence.

Just a few of my favorite lines...

"My own childhood was dominated by a powerful device that used an optical interface to transport the user to an alternate reality. I spent most of my waking hours in its grip, oblivious of the world around me. The device was, of course, the book."

I love the intentional misdirection. From the beginning of the quote until the kicker last sentence, I was thinking TV.  I smiled at having been caught off guard. Happy to see the article turning in favor of books over screens. This is true even though personally, I lean toward book text viewed on a screen for the most part. 

Yeah accurate representations of books in any delivery system are fine with me. And, I believe literary books are a direct route to the wisdom of the ages that seem to get short-circuited in the simplistic tug-of-war between Literary Reading and Informational Reading.

And then the author threw me another curve ball, speaking the author's affection for books...

"As far as I can tell, this early immersion didn’t hamper my development, but it did leave me with some illusions—my idea of romantic love surely came from novels."

Ooh. ouch! 

So, where's she going with this? Is she really trashing books so that she can declare screen time the victor? 

Consider this quote from the article...

"The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend strict restrictions on screen exposure. Last year, the organization examined the relevant science more thoroughly, and, as a result, changed its recommendations."

Actually a quite clever set for killing the question favor of real question...

"The new guidelines emphasize that what matters is content and context, what children watch and with whom. Each child, after all, will have some hundred thousand hours of conscious experience before turning sixteen. Those hours can be like the marvellous ones that Augie and I spent together bee-watching [videos], or they can be violent or mindless—and that’s true whether those hours are occupied by apps or TV or books or just by talk."

Hoping to tease readers into reading the actual article, I'm choosing to purposely not address the author's last two paragraphs. I'll just say that the conclusion tosses the simplistic "Yes" or "No" in favor of the much more important consideration of "premature speculation."

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A River Of 10,000 Books Flood The Streets Of Toronto

A River Of 10,000 Books Flood The Streets Of Toronto | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Literature Vs Traffic is an ongoing project by Luzinterruptus, an anonymous group that carries out urban interventions in public spaces. For their latest
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
19 November 2016

Could not help but think that in times when optimism is facing a "Tsunamic" challenge, that remembering that there are good people dedicating some part of their lives to believing in the power of doing good.

I am imagining a portion of a class period beginning something like this...

TEACHER: I'd like each of you to read this article. When you finish, just relax quietly for a few moments until the rest of the class has had time to finish.

When everyone is finished there will be a quiz. But, I don't want you to stress so I'll tell you the quiz question before you begin reading. Don't worry, I won't collect the quiz because their won't be any quiz to collect.

So here it is...
KNOWING YOURSELF BETTER THAN ANYONE, Being honest with yourself how would you answer this question??

If this was going to happen in our community, truthfully I would probably:
A. Help make it happen
B. Probably wouldn't help, but I'd go see it and probably look for some books to take.
C. Do nothing other than criticize it as being __________ .
D. Not even become aware that it had been planned or even happened.
E. ______________

Just wondering. 

You'd never know the results because the "rules" are that you promised the students not to collect the results.

And, here's a quiz for you.

KNOWING YOURSELF BETTER THAN ANYONE, Being honest with yourself how would you answer this question??

If I really decided to try this experiment, truthfully my guess would be that the results would probably look something like this ________________ .

The big challenge...
Really. Don't check their answers and don't check your answers. Just let yourself wonder about the unknown results for as short or as long a time as you do.

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25 More Outstanding Podcasts for Readers

25 More Outstanding Podcasts for Readers | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Last year I highlighted 25 of the best podcasts for readers. Here are 25 more outstanding podcasts for book lovers!
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
17 November 2016

This is a followup article to the first 25 Outstanding Podcasts for Readers that can be found here:

Try this...

Have Tinitus? Listen to a literary podcast as you go to sleep.

Too many commercials on your morning drive to school? Listen to a literary podcast and arrive at school smiling.

Build listening to literary podcasts into your students' options as individuals or small group activity. There are so many similar podcasts promoting a love of literature that students can personalize their listening AND get credit for it.

Several focus upon author interviews. Why not have students do Author Reports consisting of reporting on the experience of choosing an author focused podcast and then having read a story of their own choice by that author.

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Finland Will Become the First Country in the World to Get Rid of All School Subjects

Finland Will Become the First Country in the World to Get Rid of All School Subjects | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
This is a real revolution in education.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
11 November 2016

And then I came across this hopeful article about the news of one of the world's most respected educational systems taking real action towards changing education so that it much more clearly reflects the way the world really is.

The headline is a bit misleading. According to the article "This system will be introduced for senior students, beginning at the age of 16." 

The concept of cross-curricular education is not new. It has been at the core of much of the 21st century educational reform movement; at least the brand of 21st century educational reform that I've put at the center of the Google Lit Trips vision. 

Global Awareness, cross-curricular, and multi-cultural studies share a common connecting vision especially when actually connected.  We are better able to see that disaggregated separate "curricular puzzle pieces" are better understood when the way they are in the real world actually inseparably interconnected provides us a means of more clearly seeing the big picture. 

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Medusa, the Original 'Nasty Woman'

Medusa, the Original 'Nasty Woman' | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
For centuries, Medusa has been used to criticize powerful women. So it’s no surprise the mythological Gorgon has re-emerged this election cycle.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
6 November 2016

Teach mythology? Want your students to do some informational reading about literary reading?

Want to provide an eye-opening experience that brings literary reading to the real world?

'nuff said. Read this.

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A Long Walk to Water Google Lit Trip Now Available

A Long Walk to Water Google Lit Trip Now Available | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Google Lit Trips, educational nonprofit, award winning, educational technology, place based storytelling, reading about reading
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
18 October 2016

GLT Global ED | Google Lit Trips is happy to announce  the publication of our 83rd Google Lit Trip. 

"The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours' walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya's in an astonishing and moving way."
– Goodreads

This Lit Trip was developed as a collaboration between Maryan Ryan and Google Lit Trips founder Jerome Burg.

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File:Cognitive Bias Codex - 180+ biases, designed by John Manoogian III (jm3).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

File:Cognitive Bias Codex - 180+ biases, designed by John Manoogian III (jm3).jpg - Wikimedia Commons | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
3 October 2016

Well, I've never scooped a graphic from Wikipedia before. But, this chart is INCREDIBLE. 

Continuing with my concerns for polishing our students' skill sets for effective processing and analysis of informational reading  and listening, I came across this incredible chart that breaks down the complex nature of the sources of our biases into recognizable influences upon our thought processes each with concise descriptions of the fallacious thinking pattern associated with those biases.

I'd suggest starting from the outer ring where four essential categories where biases can be developed are identified. Moving towards the center, each section on the next ring offers a subset of possible reasons why we might have a potential bias within that category. Moving deeper into the graphic toward the graphic of a brain, specific causes of biases associated with each bias subset are listed.

For example:

(Outer Ring) Too Much Information > (Subset) We notice flaws in others more easily than we notice flaws in ourselves > (offers three possible bias causes) Bias blindspots OR Naive cynicism OR Naive realism.

Some of the inner most ring offers possible challenges to existing vocabulary for students (i.e., confabulation, functional fixedness, etc.). Therefore, it would be a good idea to not expect students to be able to connect to each and every item at the inner most ring. However, there are certainly plenty of concepts at that inner most ring that are within grasp or reach of most students.   

However, students can go to the actual original Wikipedia page ( for an extended explanation of those more challenging terms. For example, the term "Band Wagon Effect" is explained as "The tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same."

BIG TIP FOR VIEWING CHART: Click the chart to enlarge image. Then click it again to "magnify" the chart to the most readable size.

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A Linguistic Analysis Of Donald Trump Shows Why People Like Him So Much

A Linguistic Analysis Of Donald Trump Shows Why People Like Him So Much | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Sometimes when he speaks he seems erratic and unfocused, but this careful dissection of the Donald’s speech patterns shows the unusual way he talks is actually very deliberate.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:
1 October 2016

This is NOT an attempt to influence my readers' political views. It really isn't even about the validity or lack of validity of Donald Trump's or any other candidate's political views. It's about the importance of a common core focus relating to Informational Reading; or as is the case in this particular video, about the importance of helping our students polish their skills in informational LISTENING. That is our Information Intake skills.

Oh! and it's not about Common Core either!

It's about what we often do not hear when we have only limited listening skills.

I would not be surprised if many who are tasked with promoting skills in informational reading/listening fear even using today's level of public discourse as examples in class, as in doing so, they might then be subject to a sort of negative Pavlovian response by those in a community jumping to the conclusion that this or that candidate is being promoted over that or this candidate.

I suppose if I were to have the nerve to bring this video into class as a "linguistic analysis" exercise, I would start with a couple of rules:
1. We will not be discussing the merits of one candidate over the other. 
2. We want to focus strictly upon the linguistic analysis of how speakers can use words so that their audience "hears" what the speaker wants them to hear. 
3. That is, after watching the video, Mr. Trump's opinions will be considered a DIGRESSION in this discussion. 

Our goal is to see what we can learn about HOW to listen.

As a follow up class discussion I might first remind students that we are not going to argue the political position of any candidate. Then discuss one of the following:

1 How might what we can learn from this video be helpful in getting others to hear our ideas as honest attempts to communicate. For example, short sentences are easier to listen to than more complex sentences.

2 What examples might you point to in your own experience with people trying to convince you (or others) to change your mind? 

3. How might this video help you distinguish between an argument using these skills to help inform and an argument using these same skills to disinform?

I don't know. But, I do know that regardless of one's political views, the depth of our skill sets for informed analysis via reading as well as listening to opposing views has become critical for every aspect of being a 21st century citizen.

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