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Teacher Tom: "But How Do They Learn To Read?"
""But how do they learn to read?"

It's the question most often asked by doubters when first learning about play-based education. Most people "get" that play is important for young children, at least to a certain degree, they're not ogres, but they just can't get their minds around the idea that most children, when left to their own devices, will actually learn to read without adult intervention.

First of all, from a purely developmental perspective, preschool aged children should not be expected to be reading. This isn't to say that some preschoolers don't teach themselves to read. I've known readers as young as two. And at any given moment, there will be a handful of four and five-year-olds at Woodland Park who are reading books on their own because that's how human development works: some children start speaking at three months and some barely utter a word until after they've celebrated their fourth birthday; some are walking by six months and some aren't up on their feet until they're closer to two. Parents might worry, but the truth is that it all falls well within the range of "normal." The research on reading indicates that the natural window for learning to read extends to as late as 11 years old!

Of course, in today's America, a child who is not reading by the time he is seven or eight is thought to have some sort of learning disability when the fact is that he is perfectly normal. A couple years back a University of Cambridge team reviewed all the available research on the topic and concluded that "formal" schooling should be delayed until children are at least seven, and that, indeed, pushing it earlier is damaging children's "academic" achievement, especially when it comes to reading.
Studies have compared groups of children . . . who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7 . . . (T)he early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children's reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who stared at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later.

Their recommendation is that the best "academic" education for children under seven is the sort of "informal, play-based" environment we offer at Woodland Park because that is how the human animal is designed to build the foundation for all future learning.

The sickening thing is that today's kindergartens and preschools are charging pell-mell in the wrong direction:
A new University of Virginia study found that kindergarten changed in disturbing ways from 1999-2006. There was a marked decline in exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education and an increased emphasis on reading instruction. Teachers reported spending as much time on reading as all other subjects combined.

With the advent of the Common Core federal public school curriculum in the US (and it is a curriculum despite it's advocates' insistence that they are merely "standards") with its narrow focus on literacy, mathematics, and testing, it has gotten even worse since 2006. Indeed:
Last year, average math scores . . . declined; reading scores were flat or decreased compared with a decade earlier.

We are proving the research: we are damaging our children. This is why I remain so consistently opposed to what is happening in our public schools. By law I'm a mandatory reporter of child abuse in my state. This might not fit the legal definition, but it definitely fits the moral one.

That still begs the original question: how will they learn to read?

As I learned from Carol Black's brilliant essay entitled A Thousand Rivers, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439, very few people could read. In fact, reading was primarily the domain of the clergy who needed the skill to read and create Bibles. But the printing press suddenly made printed matter widely available. With no notion of formal literacy education, Europeans were left to learn to read on their own, passing on the knowledge from one person to the next, from one generation to the next.

Literacy rates steadily climbed for the next couple hundred years, then surged around the time of the American Revolution when Thomas Payne's pamphlet Common Sense became a runaway hit, selling over a half million copies and going through 25 printings in its first year. It's estimated that 2.5 million colonists read it, an astronomical number for the time. And it's not easy reading. Nevertheless, historians credit this viral document with inspiring the 13 American colonies to ultimately declare their independence from British rule.

People wanted to read, they needed to read, so they learned to read, which is why literacy rates in those original 13 colonies were actually higher than those we see today in in our 50 states. A similar thing has happened, albeit at a faster pace, with computer technology. I have a distinct memory of Dad buying an Apple II+, a machine that came with no software. Instead it came with thick instruction manuals that taught us how to write our own programs. You could take classes on "how to work your computer." Today, our two-year-olds are teaching themselves as these technology skills have gone viral. The idea of a computer class today is laughable, just as a reading class would have been laughable in 1776.

And just as "walking" or "talking" classes would be laughable to us today, so too should this whole nonsense of "reading" classes. Yet shockingly, we continue to go backwards with literacy to the point that most of us seem to think that it's necessary that children spend days and years of their lives at earlier and earlier ages, being drilled in a utilitarian skill that past generations just learned, virally, over the natural course of living their lives. No wonder children hate school. No wonder they are bored and stressed out.

Certainly, there are children in our world who are "at risk" for not learning to read, including those with actual learning disabilities, as opposed to the manufactured ones we are currently slapping on normal children who are simply taking a little longer to getting around to reading. And for those children, as well as for those who are being raised in illiterate households, intervention may be necessary. But for the overwhelming majority of our children, the greatest literacy challenge they face is our obsessive rush for more and more earlier and earlier. We are, in our abject ignorance, our refusal to actually look at the evidence, teaching our children to hate reading, which is in my view a crime not only against children, but against all humanity."
children  reading  play  literacy  pedagogy  teaching  schools  carolblack  unschooling  deschooling  play-basededucation  kindergarten  sfsh  history  gutenberg  thomaspayne  tomhobson  walking  howwelearn  necessity  coercion  learningdisabilities  talking  education 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Links 2013 ["Bret Victor: It’s the end of 2013, and here’s what Bret fell in love with this year"]
"What is the difference between scientific and non-scientific thinking? Thinking within a consistent theory versus thinking haphazardly?

I'm crucially interested in the problem of representing theory such that intuitions are fruitful and theoretically sound, and representations suggest analogies that stay true to the theory. That's not diSessa's problem, but I feel that his viewpoint has some powerful clues."



"Hofstadter says that all thinking runs on analogy-making. Sounds good to me! If he's even partially correct, then it seems to me that a medium for powerful thinking needs to be a medium for seeing powerful analogies. And a medium for powerful communication needs to be designed around inducing the dance he's talking about up there."



Kieran Egan: "Thinking about education during this century has almost entirely involved just three ideas—socialization, Plato's academic idea, and Rousseau's developmental idea. We may see why education is so difficult and contentious if we examine these three ideas and the ways they interact in educational thinking today. The combination of these ideas governs what we do in schools, and what we do to children in the name of education.

Our problems, I will further argue, are due to these three ideas each being fatally flawed and being also incompatible with one other."

Bret Victor: "If you're going to design a system for education, it might help to understand the purpose of education in the first place. Egan points out how modern education is implicitly driven by a cargo-culty mish-mash of three lofty but mutually-incompatible goals. Good luck with that!"



"The cultural importance of the printing press doesn't have much to do with the technology -- the ink and metal type -- but rather how print acted as a medium to amplify human thought in particular ways.

Print was directly responsible for the emergence of a literate and educated society, which (for example) made possible the idea of societal self-governance. The US Constitution could only exist in a literate print culture, where (for example) the Federalist papers and Anti-Federalist papers could be debated in the newspapers.

As you read and watch Alan Kay, try not to think about computational technology, but about a society that is fluent in thinking and debating in the dimensions opened up by the computational medium.
Don't think about “coding” (that's ink and metal type, already obsolete), and don't think about “software developers” (medieval scribes only make sense in an illiterate society).

Think about modeling phenomena, modeling situations, simulating models, gaining a common-sense intuition for nonlinear dynamic processes. Then think about a society in which every educated person does these things, in the computational medium, as easily and naturally as we today read and write complex logical arguments in the written medium.

Reading used to be reserved for the clergy, to hand down unquestionable Revealed Truths to the masses. Today, it's just what everyone does. Think about a society in which science is not reserved for the clergy, to hand down unquestionable Revealed Truths to the masses, but is just what everyone does."



[Reading tips from Bret Victor:]

"Reading Tip #1

It’s tempting to judge what you read: "I agree with these statements, and I disagree with those."

However, a great thinker who has spent decades on an unusual line of thought cannot induce their context into your head in a few pages. It’s almost certainly the case that you don’t fully understand their statements.

Instead, you can say: "I have now learned that there exists a worldview in which all of these statements are consistent."

And if it feels worthwhile, you can make a genuine effort to understand that entire worldview. You don't have to adopt it. Just make it available to yourself, so you can make connections to it when it's needed.

Reading Tip #2

Carver Mead describes a physical theory in which atoms exchange energy by resonating with each other. Before the energy transaction can happen, the two atoms must be phase-matched, oscillating in almost perfect synchrony with each other.

I sometimes think about resonant transactions as a metaphor for getting something out of a piece of writing. Before the material can resonate, before energy can be exchanged between the author and reader, the reader must already have available a mode of vibration at the author's frequency. (This doesn't mean that the reader is already thinking the author's thought; it means the reader is capable of thinking it.)

People often describe written communication in terms of transmission (the author explained the concept well, or poorly) and/or absorption (the reader does or doesn't have the background or skill to understand the concept). But I think of it more like a transaction -- the author and the reader must be matched with each other. The author and reader must share a close-enough worldview, viewpoint, vocabulary, set of mental models, sense of aesthetics, and set of goals. For any particular concept in the material, if not enough of these are sufficiently matched, no resonance will occur and no energy will be exchanged.

Perhaps, as a reader, one way to get more out of more material is to collect and cultivate a diverse set of resonators, to increase the probability of a phase-match.

Reading Tip #3

Misunderstandings can arise when an author is thinking in a broader context than the reader. A reader might be thinking tactically: :How can I do a better job today?" while the author is thinking strategically: "How can we make a better tomorrow?"

The misunderstanding becomes especially acute when real progress requires abandoning today's world and starting over.

We are ants crawling on a tree branch. Most ants are happy to be on the branch, and happy to be moving forward.

[image]

But there are a few special ants that, somehow, are able to see a bigger picture. And they can see that this branch is a dead end.

[image]

They can see that if we really want to move forward, we'll have to backtrack a long ways down.

They usually have a hard time explaining this to the ants that can only see the branch they're on. For them, the path ahead appears to go on forever.

[image]"
bretvictor  brunolatour  andreadisessa  douglashofstadter  place  cognition  science  sherryturkle  kieranegan  terrycavanagh  stewartbrand  longnow  julianjaynes  davidhestenes  carvermead  paulsaffo  tednelson  dougengelbert  alankay  reading  toread  2013  gutenberg  printing  print  modeling  simulation  dynamicprocesses  society  progress  thinking  intuition  analogies  education  systemsthinking  howweread  learning  ideas  concepts  context  readiness  simulations 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Rediscovering Literacy [Way too much here, quotes are from only the beginning]
"Literacy used to be a very subtle concept that meant linguistic sophistication. It used to denote a skill that could be developed to arbitrary levels of refinement through practice.  Literacy meant using mastery over language — both form and content — to sustain a relentless and increasingly sophisticated pursuit of greater meaning. It was about an appreciative, rather than instrumental use of language. Language as a means of seeing rather than as a means of doing…

The written form itself was merely a convenience…

Before Gutenberg, you demonstrated true literacy not by reading a text out aloud and taking down dictation accurately, but through exposition and condensation.

You were considered literate if you could take a classic verse and expound upon it at length (exposition) and take an ambiguous idea and distill its essence into a terse verbal composition (condensation)…

the fundamental learned behaviors that constitute literacy, not reading and writing…"

[Update: Adding the final portion to this bookmark]

"This might sound like engineering elitism, but I find that the only large classes of people who appear to actually think in clearly literate ways today are mathematicians and programmers. But they typically only do so in very narrow domains.

To learn to think with language, to become literate in the sense of linguistically sophisticated, you must work hard to unlearn everything built on the foundation of literacy-as-reading-and-writing.

Because modern education is not designed to produce literate people. It is designed to produce programmable people. And this programmability requires less real literacy with every passing year. Today, genuinely literate reading and writing are specialized arts. Increasingly, even narrowly instrumental read-write literacy is becoming unnecessary (computers can do both very well).

These are not stupid people. You only have to listen to a child delightedly reciting supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or indulging in other childish forms of word-play to realize that raw skill with language is a native capability in the human brain. It must be repressed by industrial education since it seeks natural expression.

So these are not stupid people. These are merely ordinary people who have been lobotomized via the consumerization of language, delivered via modern education.

We dimly realize that we have lost something. But appreciation for the sophistication of oral cultures mostly manifests itself as mindless reverence for traditional wisdom. We look back at the works of ancients and deep down, wonder if humans have gotten fundamentally stupider over the centuries.

We haven’t. We’ve just had some crucial meme-processing software removed from our brains.

Towards a Literacy Renaissance

This is one of the few subjects about which I am not a pessimist. I believe that something strange is happening. Genuine literacy is seeing a precarious rebirth.

The best of today’s tweets seem to rise above the level of mere bon mots (“gamification is the high-fructose corn syrup of user engagement”) and achieve some of the cryptic depth of esoteric verse forms of earlier ages.

The recombinant madness that is the fate of a new piece of Internet content, as it travels, has some of the characteristics of the deliberate forms of recombinant recitation practiced by oral culture.

The comments section of any half-decent blog is a meaning factory.

Sites like tvtropes.org are sustaining basic literacy skills.

The best of today’s stand-up comics are preserving ancient wordplay skills.

But something is still missing: the idea that literacy is a cultivable skill. That dense, terse thoughts are not just serendipitous finds on the discursive journeys of our brains, but the product of learnable exposition and condensation skills.

I suppose paying attention to these things, and actually attempting to work with archaic forms like maxims and aphorisms in 2012 is something of a quixotic undertaking. When you can store a terbayte of information (about 130,000 books, or about 50% larger than a typical local public library) on a single hard-disk words can seem cheap.

But try reading some La Rochefoucauld, or even late hold outs like Oliver Wendell Holmes and J. B. S. Haldane, and you begin to understand what literacy is really about. The cost of words is not the cost of storing them or distributing, but the cost of producing them. Words are cheap today because we put little effort into their production, not because we can store and transmit as much as we like.

It is as yet too early to declare a literacy renaissance, but one can hope."
production  jbshaldane  oliverwendellholmes  larochefoucauld  words  aphorisms  comprehension  jargon  wisdom  knowledge  banter  citation  correspondence  conversation  self-indulgence  technology  printing  web  content  composition  civilization  memorization  oralculture  creativedestruction  recitation  history  highculture  popculture  culture  internet  education  2012  gutenberg  text  understanding  condensation  exposition  literacy  communication  language  writing  reading  venkateshrao  unschooling  deschooling  moderneducation  schools 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Steven Berlin Johnson: Instead of building cathedrals in learning, we need to learn to build cathedrals | Creativity, Imagination, and Innovation in Education Symposium
"“Collaboration between different intelligences is the hallmark of innovative spaces,” he remarked. But it wasn’t always easy for Johnson, who has an undergraduate degree in semiotics from Brown University and a graduate degree in English Literature from Columbia, to see how science and the humanities could be entwined. It wasn’t until he was exposed to the work of former Columbia Professor Franco Moretti that he realized bridges could be built joining the two.

Moretti gained fame for controversially applying quantitative scientific methods to the humanities. Johnson mentioned reading Moretti’s Signs Taken for Wonders, and the mind-blowing impact the professor’s use of Darwinian techniques to analyze literature had on him. It was the first time he saw scientific procedures being employed to evaluate literature.

From that moment on, Johnson began researching iconic innovators."
cathedralsoflearning  everythingbadisgoodforyou  gaming  games  multidisciplinarythinking  connectivesyntheticintelligence  connectiveintelligence  multidisciplinary  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  generalists  specialization  interconnectivity  patterns  conenctions  innovation  multipleintelligences  diversity  problemsolving  systemsthinking  parenting  videogames  teaching  schools  collaboration  gutenberg  crosspollination  feathers  exaptation  devonthink  evolution  stephenjaygould  commonplacebooks  creativity  darwin  francomoretti  semiotics  hunches  learning  2011  stevenjohnson  charlesdarwin  interconnected 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Who says our way is the right way? « BuzzMachine
"As I sit on the board of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, I have been thinking about the different ways people learn. RFB&D gives students the tools to learn by listening. We call that a disability. I think it may soon be seen as an advantage.

A group of Danish academics say we are passing through the other side of what they wonderfully call the Gutenberg Parenthesis, leaving the structured, serial, permanent, authored, controlled era of text & returning, perhaps, to what came before the press: a time when communication and content cross, when process dominates product, when knowledge is distributed by people passing it around, when we remix it along the way, when we are more oral & aural.

That’s what makes me think that RFB&D’s clients may end up w/ a leg up. They understand better than the textually oriented among us how to learn through hearing. Rather than being seen as the people who need extra help, perhaps they will be in the position to give the rest of us help."
reading  education  technology  jeffjarvis  attention  literacy  gutenbergparenthesis  gutenberg  listening  learning  deschooling  unschooling  lcproject  dyslexia  blind  distraction 
december 2010 by robertogreco
The Gutenberg parenthesis – print, book and cognition
[Linkrot, so try: http://www.sdu.dk/en/om_sdu/institutter_centre/ikv/forskning/forskningsprojekter/gutenberg_projekt ]

"Emerging at the intersection of the research interests of several scholars of this Institute working in literary and cultural studies from international perspectives, the Forum is constructed around the growing awareness that the dominance in cultural production of the printed text, not least in the form of the book, is merely a historical phase, and one which is now coming to an end under the impact of digital technology and the internet. It can be appropriately designated the “Gutenberg Parenthesis”, an image which usefully identifies a common framework for research on a variety of topics: contrastive analyis of the parenthetical phase in relation to what came before and/or after, with regard say to cognition, or under the auspices of a “contextual formalism”; the intriguing compatibilities, despite the technological differences, between oral, “pre-parenthetical” culture and digital, “post-parenthetical”…"

[Update 11 Nov 2013: This bookmark is the victim of linkrot, but I'm adding some references here via Britta Gustafson's comment on a Snarkmarket post (http://snarkmarket.com/2013/8137#comment-9806 ):
http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/events-detail.asp?EventID=538
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dreamyshade/2951109496/sizes/l/in/photostream/
http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/forums/gutenberg_parenthesis.html
http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/04/the-gutenberg-parenthesis-thomas-pettitt-on-parallels-between-the-pre-print-era-and-our-own-internet-age/ ]

[more: http://cjr.org/the_audit/the_future_is_medieval.php
http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/mit5/papers/pettitt_plenary_gutenberg.pdf ]
gutenberg  history  attention  publishing  literacy  reading  writing  text  print  digital  gutenbergparenthesis  cognition  books  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  thomaspettitt 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Reading isn’t just a monkish pursuit: Matthew Battles on “The Shallows” » Nieman Journalism Lab
"In ecosystems like the Gulf of Mexico, the shallows are crucial. They’re the nurseries, where larval creatures feed and grow in relative safety, liminal zones where salt and sweet water mix, where light meets muck, where life learns to contend with extremes. The Internet, in this somewhat dubious metaphor, is no blowout — it’s a flourishing new zone in the ecosystem of reading and writing. And with the petrochemical horror in the Gulf growing daily, we’re learning that the shallows, too, need their champions." [via: http://snarkmarket.com/2010/5790]
matthewbattles  books  culture  internet  reading  thought  nicholascarr  clayshirky  social  writing  cv  howwework  howwelearn  learning  conversation  gutenberg  complexity  history  journalism  philosophy  ideas 
july 2010 by robertogreco

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