Tagged: the highlighter

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Introducing The Highlighter!

favicon I like to read a lot: books, articles, and everything in between. Since 2012, I’ve published some of my favorite articles on education on Iserotope and talked about them. Then I began bundling the articles into a collection, Iserotope Extras, that readers could access anytime. (This led to this screencast, which demonstrated my extreme enthusiasm about the new feature.)

A few years later, in 2015, Iserotope Extras migrated to a weekly email digest, published every Thursday morning. In addition, the scope of Extras broadened to include articles on race, education, and culture.

The digest has been growing since then. The first issue had just two subscribers, and 80 issues later, there are 115 readers (slow and steady, similar to the Kindle Classroom Project). The digest is alive and well.

I’m therefore happy to announce that Iserotope Extras is now The Highlighter. Take a look at the new nameplate!

Every week, I highlight 4-6 articles that I think you’ll love. Coming soon, you’ll be able to see my highlights to these highlighted articles. (Here’s a sample.) The long-term idea is not only to share high-quality writing but also to invite you to read these articles with me, as part of an “article club,” or a nonfiction reading community.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, check out last week’s issue, or take a look at the archives. You can sign up at either place! If you are already a subscriber, thank you, and please leave your comments here! favicon

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Please read: “Our School,” by Lauren Markham

favicon “Our School” is the best article on education that I’ve read in a very long time. Lauren Markham reports on the new curriculum in Alaska’s North Slope Borough School district, home of the Iñupiat people. It is a story of how a community can rebuild its educational system in order to decolonize, resuscitate, and heal.

If you are an educator, or if you care about education, there are many connections here. It will push you to think again about the big questions, like: What is education for? and Why do I teach? This article will be well worth your time.

Excerpt
“THE ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL education system in the United States fails people on the margins of society—whether it is impoverished communities in Appalachia, immigrants in Baltimore, African Americans in Chicago, or First Nations from New Mexico to Alaska. Free and universal education pretends to be our democracy’s great equalizer—but the system was made by and for a certain subset of people decidedly not on the margins. It can perpetuate inequality while intending, or pretending, to do away with it.”

You can read the article here: http://j.mp/2k6Dt4d. There’s also a chance that it’ll be included in Iserotope Extras, a weekly email digest that includes my favorite articles about race, education, and culture. Feel free to subscribe! favicon

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Please listen: “How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By Individual Choices,” featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones

favicon Nikole Hannah-Jones is my favorite journalist and my second-favorite famous person (after Bryan Stevenson). Here she is being interviewed by Terry Gross for Fresh Air (~45 mins) about school segregation and her article, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City” (from Extras #46). Ms. Hannah-Jones argues that segregation will continue to exist in our country “as long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children.” (Want more NHJ? Check out Extras #47, Extras #65, and Extras #4 — her gut-wrenching This American Life piece from July 2015.)

Excerpt
“One of the things I’ve done in my work is show the hypocrisy of progressive people who say they believe in equality, but when it comes to their individual choices about where they’re going to live and where they’re going to send their children, they make very different decisions.”

You can read the article here: http://j.mp/2jejEqu. There’s also a chance that it’ll be included in Iserotope Extras, a weekly email digest that includes my favorite articles about race, education, and culture. Feel free to subscribe! favicon

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Please read: “The Making of an American Terrorist,” by Amanda Robb

favicon This isn’t easy reading, but it’s important. In “The Making of an American Terrorist,” New Republic writer Amanda Robb interviews and reports on Robert Dear, who shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic and killed three people in November 2015.

Dear is white, poor, middle-aged, Christian, and mentally ill. He lived in an RV in a rural part of Colorado. He watched a lot of right-wing TV and read a lot of right-wing websites. What makes this article so scary is that there are a lot of Robert Dears in America.

Excerpt
It would be easy to dismiss Dear as an unstable man who was driven by his mental illness rather than an organized ideology. After his arrest, psychiatrists diagnosed him with a “delusional disorder, persecutory type.” But Dear’s tendency toward violence was shaped and steered by outside forces every bit as much as the foreign terrorists we have come to fear.

Here’s the article: http://j.mp/2hlqARG (via Pocket). You can also find this article in this week’s Iserotope Extras, a weekly email digest that includes my favorite articles about race, education, and culture. Feel free to subscribe! favicon

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Please read: “The Need to Read,” by Will Schwalbe

favicon My friend Lynn emailed me “The Need to Read,” by Will Schwalbe, in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. It is definitely worth reading.

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Excerpts

Reading is the best way I know to learn how to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. Perhaps that is why reading is one of the few things you do alone that can make you feel less alone. It is a solitary activity that connects you to others.

I’m reminded that reading isn’t just a respite from the relentlessness of technology. It isn’t just how I reset and recharge. It isn’t just how I escape. It’s how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement.

And here’s my favorite:

Books remain one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny—but only as long as people are free to read all different kinds of books, and only as long as they actually do so. The right to read whatever you want whenever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control and domination: It’s one of the world’s great joys.

Source: http://j.mp/2gtt9kI (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a weekly email digest that includes my favorite articles about race, education, and culture. Feel free to subscribe! favicon

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Iserotope Extras: “The Desegregation and Resegregation of Charlotte’s Schools”

favicon Author Clint Smith of the New Yorker makes a controversial claim: that the recent police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte is connected to the community’s decision in 1999 to resegregate its schools. This article is worth your time.

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Excerpt
“The school system in Charlotte did not resegregate by accident, just as police in Charlotte did not perceive Keith Lamont Scott as a danger by accident. The country we live in is one that we have built to be this way. The cities we live in were built this way. They were court-ordered. They were signed into law. We made these choices, and now we see the consequences.”

Source: http://j.mp/2dO5cUc (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a weekly email digest that includes my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. Feel free to subscribe! favicon

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Recommended Reading: “In San Jose, Poor Find Doors to Library Closed”

favicon Most of the white, college-educated, middle-class, similarly-aged people I know have warm memories of their local public library when they were kids. These memories usually involve walking or biking to the library, checking out tons of books, and getting an ice cream cone on the way home. For many Americans, the public library is a personal sanctuary, a haven for knowledge, and a treasure of our democracy.

Not everyone, however, shares those sentiments. When I taught in San Francisco, my students told me over and over again that they had a more complicated relationship with their local public library. It didn’t feel comfortable or welcoming. I asked them why they felt that way, and the No. 1 answer was, They were afraid of library fines.

In a recent New York Times piece, reporter Carol Pogash assails the San Jose Public Library’s policies regarding late fees, lost materials, and checkout privileges. The library faces $6.8 million in unpaid fines. Its late fee is 50 cents per day per item. It prohibits checking out additional materials if people owe more than $10. And it uses a collection agency to recoup debts in excess of $50.

In “In San Jose, Poor Find Doors to Library Closed,” Ms. Pogash does not pull punches. She interviews young people who say their moms don’t allow them to check out books. One mom tells her daughter, “Don’t take books out. It’s so expensive.”

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The article goes on to explore how the San Jose Public Library is not alone in its aggressive policies. For example, Texas allows its libraries to take delinquent patrons to court. Though I understand that libraries face tough challenges, particularly when a majority of people do not return books on time, current practice does not seem to be the right way to go.

Obviously, I do have bias because of my interest in the Kindle Classroom Project. Just to be clear, I love public libraries, especially the San Francisco Public Library and the Oakland Public Library. Libraries need to exist, and they do good things. Still, one thing I’ve learned since founding the KCP is how important it is to decrease barriers to reading. (Books are best in young people’s hands.) Rather than keeping track of tons of books each year, students check out and return just two items: their Kindle and their charger. Simple as cake. (Loss and breakage to Kindles is just 3.1%.)

Excerpt
“SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Damaris Triana, then 8, lost several “Little Critter” books that she had borrowed for her sister, the library here fined her $101 — including $40 in processing fees — a bill that was eventually turned over to an agency to collect from her parents.”

Source: http://j.mp/1qkXjdO (via Pocket). You can also find this article in next week’s Iserotope Extras, a weekly email newsletter that includes my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. Feel free to subscribe! favicon

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Recommended Reading: “I’m Gonna Rise Above What I Was Doing”

favicon If you teach students who will be the first in their families to go to college, or if you teach urban students, this photographic interview, “I’m Gonna Rise Above What I Was Doing,” is important to read.

Excerpt
“Chicago taught Tavaris Sanders how to survive among gang members. Is there room for him to thrive at a liberal-arts college? Jonah Markowitz photographed Mr. Sanders throughout his freshman year at Connecticut College. Now a sophomore, he spoke about the photos with Mr. Markowitz.”

Tavaris — who earned a 4.2 GPA in his Chicago high school — experiences intense challenges, both academic and social, in his first year of college. The photograph of him checking his phone in the cafeteria is particularly startling. So is his resilience.

Source: http://j.mp/1MugLev (via Pocket). The Chronicle of Higher Education. You may also find this article in this Thursday’s edition of Iserotope Extras, a curated newsletter of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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The rise of phone reading, and what that means for the Kindle Classroom Project

favicon Apparently, people are reading more and more on their phones. Please check out Jennifer Maloney’s article, “The Rise of Phone Reading,” in The Wall Street Journal.

In the last three years, according to Nielsen, the percentage of people who read primarily on their phones has jumped to 14 percent from 9 percent. On the other hand, the percentage of people who read primarily on their e-readers has plummeted to 32 percent from 50 percent.

From the article: “The future of digital reading is on the phone,” said Judith Curr, publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint Atria Books. “It’s going to be on the phone and it’s going to be on paper.”

I think this trend is real and will likely continue. So why am I still collecting recycled Kindles and giving them to students? Shouldn’t I just encourage them to read on their phones? After all, the White House is moving in that direction, and the New York Public Library is developing an e-reading app for smartphones.

Moving to phones — as Worldreader has done — won’t work for the Kindle Classroom Project for several reasons. The most important reason the KCP cannot and does not want to rely on BYOD, or bring your own device. That’s inequitable. Plus, giving a student a Kindle is a crucial part of the program. When a teacher tells a student, “This Kindle is for you,” that means, “I care about you and your reading.”

The second reason is practical: Phones won’t work because they’re banned in most schools. The point of the KCP is to increase access to reading in order to encourage students to grow lives of the mind. That means making reading an option as often as possible, as simply as possible. If phones can’t be out, then students can’t be reading.

I won’t get into some of the other reasons — like whether phones distract students more than e-readers, or whether the phone “is antithetical to deep reading,” as neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf argues.

Sure, perhaps a trusty Kindle 2 e-reader is becoming antiquated, and maybe a few students (though I haven’t heard this from many of them) would prefer sticking with their phones to read. But overwhelmingly, students tell me they love having a Kindle and a library of 500+ books to read, along with the opportunity to request new ones whenever the like.

Source: http://j.mp/1Jixwou (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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“This Kindle is for you.”

Kindle Giftfavicon Too many programs for students have caveats and conditions. Too many rules and responsibilities. Too many if-thens.

“If you agree to do this list of items,” these programs say, “then you get these rewards.” Sign this paper, follow the requirements, and later, you’ll reap the benefits. If you don’t, too bad; your lack of follow-through demonstrates your lack of interest in the program.

I understand this reasoning. It’s an American tenet, after all, that consistent hard work leads to progress and success. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging these values in students.

But at the Kindle Classroom Project, there is a different message: “This Kindle is for you.”

This is what I tell the students when I give them their Kindle. The only rule is not to break or lose the Kindle. Otherwise, they get to use it as they like. They can read a lot or a little. They can choose what they read and request books they want.

This message emerged from conversations last year with KCP teacher and close friend Kathleen Large. Miss Large is an extraordinary teacher because she loves her students unconditionally and pushes them to a build a life of the mind. Gifts with conditions, she would argue, do not appropriately demonstrate the care, respect, and love we wish to offer our students. We must instead give and trust.

“This Kindle is for you” is powerful because it means, “I believe in you, I care about you, and I encourage you to read. This gift contains a library of books. Choose any of them to read. If you don’t find something you like, let me know, and I’ll buy it for you.”

If we want young people to read, we can’t complain that they don’t read, or say that they’re lazy, or that teen culture repudiates the quest for knowledge, or wonder why they don’t go to the library. Instead, we must put books in students’ hands.

Respected reading teacher Donalyn Miller calls on us to be “book patrons.” Here’s my favorite passage from her recent piece, “Patron of the Arts“:

“Many of my students over the years haven’t owned a single book they can call their own. It’s heartbreaking. While I recognize that many people lack the resources to purchase books, we must accept that for children to have access to books, someone—a parent, teacher, librarian, or generous donor must buy books and put them in children’s hands. If we truly value reading, the artists and publishers who create children’s books, and the children themselves, we must embrace our role as book patrons.”

According to Ms. Miller, the if-thens shouldn’t always be for our students. Rather, they should be for us. If we put books in students’ hands, then they will read.

I’m proud to be a part of the Kindle Classroom Project, and I’m very appreciative of the many donors, teachers, and students who make it possible. favicon