PLAYBACK: Blog/Tweet Against Literacy Budget Cuts


3.18.11 | Kids play with augmented reality; teaching about Japan; YouTube goes to college; text books go digital; and tweetup at the museum.

Congress Decides Literacy is a Bridge to Nowhere: Writing at the Huffington Post, Mills College education professor Joe Kahne (whose work on civic engagement we frequently cover) criticizes House Republican budget cuts that eliminate support for major literacy programs—including Reading is Fundamental (RIF), which provides 4.4 million mostly low-income children with free books and programs at 17,000 locations across the country, and the National Writing Project (NWP), which reaches 130,000 teachers and more than 1.4 million students in over 3,000 districts.

“We all know what a huge difference it makes when a teacher finds powerful ways to motivate and educate,” writes Kahne. “And we all know—or should know—the enormous cost for both individuals and society when children don’t learn to read and write well. How can we say with integrity that we want all students to have the core skills they need to succeed at the same time that we wipe out programs that provide powerful support for millions of children in cost-effective ways?”


Plus: Chad Sansing, who writes for the NWP’s Digital Is program for educators, is calling on those who have benefited from NWP’s programs to show support by blogging and tweeting about their experiences (use the hashtag #blog4NWP).

And if you haven’t yet participated, join in anyway this weekend by calling on the federal government to support NWP. Send Sansing your links so he can aggregate and publish the links on the Coöp.

“Our goal is to persuade elected officials to reintroduce funding for the NWP in the federal budget,” writes Sansing. “Ancillary to that goal is attracting and holding the attention of the Secretary of Education and enlisting his support, as well as the support of the Department of Education, in securing federal funds for the NWP.”

Read Spotlight’s coverage of the NWP and its Digital Is program.

Moving Beyond the Computer: The Wall Street Journal reports on media companies and start-ups that are experimenting with agumented reality games that encourage children’s exploration with real-world objects. PBS, for example, is behind the new “Dinosaur Train” series, aimed at young children. Jennifer Valentino-Devries writes:

Games that combine technology and reality could have several benefits, researchers say. They can help keep children active, and working in the real world may help spark children’s imagination. PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are using part of a $72 million grant from the U.S. Education Department to test whether augmented-reality games can help young children with skills like sorting and measuring.

One difficulty the researchers encountered in their early tests: Much of the existing augmented-reality technology was designed for adults. Some of it requires the user to hold a camera on a smartphone a certain distance from an object on a table, but kids are naturally closer to the object because they’re shorter. Plus, children below age four often don’t understand what they see when they look at augmented reality and try repeatedly to touch objects that aren’t there.

But once those problems are fixed, augmented-reality games have a lot of educational potential, says Blair MacIntyre, a professor at Georgia Tech who has been studying augmented reality for about 20 years. In some ways, Mr. MacIntyre says, technology can improve on real-world activities like playing with blocks to learn about addition.

Read on to learn what else PBS, Mattel and Awkward Hug, a start-up company, and are doing to bridge the gap between real and virtual worlds

Curriculum: Teaching About Disaster:: The Learning Network, an educational extension of The New York Times, has put together “20 Ways to Teach About the Disaster in Japan Across the Curriculum,” which builds off this list of teaching and learning resources, including articles, interactive features, past lessons, photo galleries and videos.

The Times offers resources for mapping the destruction and putting a human face on the disaster. A media literacy exercise includes comparing photojournalists’ work with photographs submitted by readers.

Majoring in YouTube: YouTube is partnering with USC School of Cinematic Arts and Columbia College of Chicago on a series of media programs, with the goal of helping YouTube users hone their digital media skills and “provide aspiring and rising content creators with educational courses and access to some of the best faculty and industry leaders, in an effort to educate selected students in today’s fast-changing media landscape.” According to Columbia College:

The YouTube-Columbia College Chicago Creator Institute, housed in the school’s Television Department, runs from June 1 through July 22 and will accept 10 students. U.S. citizens over 18 interested in attending the summer programs can apply at from now until March 25. Applications include two short answer questions and a maximum 2-minute demonstration of the creator’s craft. The public will help determine the class through a two week online voting period between March 28 and April 8. The leading candidates in terms of votes will move on to the final round, where USC and CCC will determine each inaugural class for their programs, to be announced on April 20.

“Joining forces with YouTube for this one-of-a-kind program represents the leading edge of media trends, exploring emerging forms of television and what’s next in the media landscape,” said Michael Niederman, chairman of the Television Department at Columbia College Chicago. “The training with our experts, of course, embodies the creative aspect of content development but also includes the vital aspect of marketing that content.”

College Text Books Going Digital: Is the higher education e-textbook industry at a tipping point? Xplana says that it is and has published a revised report asserting that digital textbook sales in the United States will exceed 25 percent of new textbook sales for higher education and career education markets.

“[W]e expect digital to be the dominant form factor in Higher Education textbooks inside of 7 years,” writes Xplan’s Rob Reynolds. “This growth in digital textbooks will boost revenues in excess of $1.5 billion within 5 years. This growth will also create avenues for new digital product models, allow new content publishers to enter the textbook market, lead to fundamental shifts in purchasing patterns around learning materials, and expedite the formal adoption of open educational resources to augment premium digital content.”

Audrey Watters at ReadWriteWeb has more analysis—and asks the question, “Do students actually want digital textbooks?”

Plus: HarperCollins Publishers has enforced new on its e-books, limiting library check-outs to only 26 times before they expire, causing some concern, reports The New York Times.

“People just felt gobsmacked,” said Anne Silvers Lee, the chief of the materials management division of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has temporarily stopped buying HarperCollins e-books. “We want e-books in our collections, our customers are telling us they want e-books, so I want to be able to get e-books from all the publishers. I also need to do it in a way that is not going to be exorbitantly expensive.”

But some librarians said the change, however unwelcome, had ignited a public conversation about e-books in libraries that was long overdue. While librarians are pushing for more e-books to satisfy demand from patrons, publishers, with an eye to their bottom lines, are reconsidering how much the access to their e-books should be worth.

Tweetup at the Museum: More museums are encouraging attendance by offering behind-the-scenes tours and other activities for people who who will tweet, film and post photos about their experience, writes Jennifer Preston in The New York Times.


Photo by transatlanticed.

The American Museum of Natural History invited a limited number of people earlier this year to a private after-hours tour of The Brain: The Inside Story, complete with a discussion by the curators over wine and cheese. The event was free but ticket-holders were expected to tweet about the experience. And that’s just the beginning, as everywhere from the Denver Art Museum, which displays visitors’ Flickr photos, to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which held a search contest promoted on YouTube last year for someone willing to live inside the museum for a month, are trying alternative means of engagement.

“At museums, we are so used to talking to visitors, not with visitors,” Nina Simon, author of “The Participatory Museum,” told the NYT. “A lot of institutions are starting to use these tools to learn more about what excites their visitors, find out what they are interested in and look at how visitors can be much more active partners in their institutions.”

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