Castle Librarian

Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

Almost Helpful

In Educational Technology on July 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I spent today looking for websites, images, and videos related to the Apollo 11 Moon mission. As always happens, searching for something on the Internet results in finding something else you weren’t looking for. I stumbled upon Discovery News Videos, specifically this one:

New Star Proves Einstein is a Badass

I applaud the effort to make science exciting and hip, but I think Discovery News has gone a bit too far. Using the word “badass” is one thing and could probably be overlooked, but calling Einstein a bamf is another thing altogether. (If you don’t know what a bamf is, turn to our friend Google who knows everything about pop culture, slang, and curse words. Hint, it isn’t the sound that X-men’s Nightcrawler makes when he transports.)

So, imagine you are a teacher showing this video to your students hoping they will develop some interest in science or learn something when a student raises their hand and asks “What’s a bamf?” All science learning goes out the window. Now, native English speaking students might not ask, because it may be part of their vocabulary already. However, I work with 100% English as a second language students who are more likely to ask about words they hear that weren’t in their class vocabulary list.

There’s a secondary reason why I can’t use or recommend these videos to our students. The narrators speak at the speed of light. Apparently, they have a quota of information they have to spew in a tight time limit. Really limits the educational value of these videos.

13 Little Blue Envelopes

In Book Review on July 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Harper Collins Children’s Books
9780007319909

The premise of this book caught my attention. A teen girl receives 13 blue envelopes from her favorite aunt. She is to open one at a time and follow the instructions before opening the next envelope. The letters within lead her on a trip through Europe.

I struggled to read this book because I couldn’t relate to the main character. Maybe it’s because I’m not a teenage girl anymore. However, I didn’t have that problem with Wonder by R.J. Palacio  even though I’m not a deformed 5th grade boy. Characters can be other, but still be relatable. In fact, they should be other. The beauty of reading is the opportunity to live another life from the comfort of your easy chair.

The main character, Ginny, has an amazing opportunity, but she is a petulant traveler. She goes to see the Vestal Virgins, but is unimpressed by them. “The story behind them was interesting, but they were still just a bunch of broken statues.” I walked on a Roman road in Petra, but I didn’t say to myself “this is just a bunch of broken stones.” What occurred to me was “wow, this is thousands of years old and it is still a good road.” Not having at least a little sense of wonder didn’t fit the main character of this book.

I’m still attracted to the premise of the book. When I was young, I dreamed of travelling and seeing the world, but there was no money for that. There was no adventurous aunt giving me a push. There was no supportive parent willing to fund a coming of age experience. Luckily, in my old age I am able to live abroad and travel to exotic places. Reading this book didn’t just make me wish I had gotten a much earlier start, but also made me wonder if I should or could make it happen for someone else.