Archive for July, 2014

Wide Reading

July 14, 2014

Exploring C21 Literacy

It’s a common complaint in English departments acorss the country and probably the world – they’re just not reading.  We all know that there are plenty of reasons why young people are opting out of reading and we all try our best to encourage reading inside and outside school.

This year, in addition to library visits where my junior classes take part in book waterfalls, book speed dating and other activities designed to turn them back onto reading, I’ve launched another blog. Initially this was to share my own reading experiences with my students and point them to sites to inspire their reading. what I found was, they just weren’t using it and if they were, I certainly didn’t know about it.

I’ve now sent invites to 58 students with a view to them being able to post about their reading as well as comment on posts.  It seemed…

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Kindle or kindling

July 12, 2014

A column in The DominionPost (Plastic not as fantastic as real books 20 December 2013) by Rosemary McLeod argues against the e-reader and for the tactile experience of reading a physical book.
While she asserted she was not being a luddite, I couldn’t help comparing her to Socrates in Phaedrus: “if men learn this [writing] it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves but by means of external marks.” Then there was Johannes Trithemius who wrote in opposition to the invention of printing, yet had De Laude Scriptorium Manualium printed so it would reach a wider audience
Socrates, a master of irony, would have appreciated that the only way we know today of his distrust of writing is because Plato wrote down his argument. In the same vein, Rosemary McLeod asserts that e-readers are not the way to read the classics yet over ninety percent of the classics can only be read on an e-reader since they are out of print. These works, have been preserved on sites like Project Gutenberg so can be downloaded and read on e –readers. McLeod mentions Jane Austen specifically. While Pride and Prejudice is always in print and other novels are widely available in second hand book dealers and libraries, I doubt the apocryphal works such as Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon are available to most readers in book form.
Dale Spender in her book, Mothers of the novel, makes the point that Jane Austen was part of a greater tradition of women writers. There will be many who would like to follow up on her claims and perhaps appreciate where Jane Austen fitted in to her contemporary literary scene. These writers are also unavailable to modern readers, yet you can download Fanny Burney’s novels from Project Gutenberg and The Digital Library, – provided that you read them on an e-reader.
There may be many compelling reasons for not using an e-reader, but arguing they are unsuitable for reading the “classics” is not one of them.

Barraco Barmer

July 9, 2014

Karl du Fresne in a column in the DominionPost, alerts us to the Twitter feed of Gemma Worrall, a hairdresser from Blackpool, who wrote that it was scary “our President Barraco Barmer” was tangling with Russia.
Du Fresne sees this error as a fault of he new social media that Worrall and her ilk can express these ill informed opinions instantly, easily and have these opinions widely disseminated.
My first observation is that by writing about Gemma Worrall’s tweet, Karl du Fresne is contributing to the process he claims to dislike – disseminating her opinions to a still wider audience than her followers on Twitter. I’m sure the circulation of the DominionPost is much larger.
Du Fresne is a professional journalist and journalists have a love hate relationship with Twitter. Many have Twitter accounts and tweet regularly. They then publish their Twitter user name to garner more followers, yet they will write negatively about what appears on Twitter. They trawl Twitter looking for tip offs and suitable people to interview. Both my son and niece have appeared in the DominionPost following tweets which were followed up by journalists.
Yet journalists regard citizen journalism with suspicion for fear that the public will go to amateur journalists for their news, what du Fresne calls “Instant opinion, zero knowledge”. Would that professional journalists and their editors were free of this charge themselves.
He goes further, treading the line about Twitter and narcissism. First I note the DominionPost prints three or four tweets of the utmost banality every day. The biggest surprise is that I read them. He goes on to say “Add to that Worrall’s obvious belief that the world needed to hear her considered views on Barraco Barmer and Russia and you have a lethal concoction of foolishness and conceit.” In my view du Fresne’s combination of sarcasm and exaggeration is not pleasant either. A lethal concoction indeed! Who could have been harmed by this? “Considered views..” How could we be sure Worrall saw her comments in this light? “Conceit..” I’m not sure Gemma Worrall thought the world was hanging on her every word ready to take away some gem of brilliance. Twitter would have told her how many followers she had. That her comments have had such currency is due to the re tweeting process and columns like Karl du Fresne’s.
Should we dismiss Twitter as a platform for narcissists? Certainly, many seem to think their words carry a lot of weight but is tweeting much different from the small talk of the past, the phone calls, the post card craze of the 1900s… the talk in the pub, the coffee house or the salon? While narcissists, do find Twitter a useful platform to display their plumage, for many others it is just another way of engaging with their circle of friends just as writers, politicians and musicians use their Twitter accounts to connect to their audience.
Nor can we discount whether Gemma Worrall is what Karl du Fresne considers her to be, a hairdresser or a hoax or a clever piece of ingenue satire. Even if she is the genuine article, this type of error is in the nature of what used to be called School boy howlers until we became more gender inclusive and much more understanding of human frailty.