I Spent An Hour Yesterday doing a UStream chat with Kevin Jarrett
www.ncs-tech.org/ Kevin is very active in the world of K-8 educational technology — in all of its aspects from virtual worlds, to gaming, to how-to-teach-kids-to-type. Through him I learned about a teacher in Long Island who has six private islands in Teen Second Life that she is using with the students, but I also learned about the frustrations the Ed Tech people face. Students, often enough, are interested in computers and using the web. Teachers, in too many cases, are either nervous about it, or say they have no time to add new tools and topics, or are under the gun of testing. All of those teacher reasons are half true. They are not invented — teachers face real pressures from running a classroom, "covering" a huge list of topics, and mandated tests do loom large in the minds of the people who run schools. And yet when you talk with someone like Kevin, you feel this ferment, this excitment, this great horizon of possibility that we all — we authors, editors, publishers, librarians, reviewers, teachers, parents — must explore.
I told him about my experience last February in Normal, Illinois — where I worked with 9th graders through Blackboard, then we met for a week at their school. It seems so obvious to me that we need to build models like that — instead of the one shot, fly in fly out, author visit, schools and authors need to build a relationship — using technology to overcome barriers of distance. Then an actual visit becomes the culmination of an ongoing exchange between a professional and his audience.
I’ve said it here again and again — the tragedy for those of us who write trade non-fiction is that the one place in America where every young person is introduced to nonfiction is the classroom. Yet the classroom is the one place in America guaranteed not to use our hardcover books. The school library (I do realize this is the SLJ site) is of course the midground. But, as you all know better than I do, the library is not just a repository of books — it is a media and information hub that, often, has many tools students and teachers could use to go beyond the individual book on the shelf. Many of you surely know www.teachingbooks.net/
As we saw in the TXTing discussion, many of you are alert, savvy, current users of technology; as the WIPs show, authors work very hard to craft books for young people. Now we have to bring those worlds together — the labors of the authors working with old fashioned documents, and books, and images, the connections technology makes possible, and the students who should be getting nonfiction in as many streams and forms as possible.