I will start this review sounding like the slightly-over-the-hill woman that I am. Don’t they write books like Anne of Green Gables anymore? I suppose it would be too tame in this day of dystopian, paranormal fantasies, where children are manipulated at the hands of evil adults. It is, as they say, a different world, perhaps especially for young women.

That being said, I loved Mind Games. From the opening sentences, we are thrown into a fast-paced, well-crafted narrative in which we encounter events in much the same way as the characters, trying to figure out what is really going on, which is the right path, and who can be trusted. And, by the end, we’re still not sure.

What we are sure of is that Fia and Annie are finally taking control of their own lives and making their choices out of their love for themselves and each other, rather than out of anger and fear. Underlying the almost breathless plot is a rich story of two sisters, and as much as I wanted to find out what happened, I forced myself to slow down and understand and savor the relationship between the girls. Their shared guilt over the death of their parents, their moments of enlightenment when they see how their spiritual blindness has led them down wrong paths and their realization that what we think we see is not always what is true: these are the intertwining themes that take Mind Games above the horror and violence and provide the reader with a sense of something greater. We see two young women coming into their own and that’s a great story in itself.

White’s narrative weaves in and out between past and present and between the sisters. The resulting pattern is both intricate and intriguing. While the main story seems to be Fia’s, without Annie’s voice we would not truly understand Fia. And seeing both past and present unfold at the same time makes the narrative more compelling than if the story were told in chronological order. There is writerly craft here from the “deaths” that bookend the story and the many ways that White plays with notions of seeing and reading and feeling. 

As I finished and reflected, I found much to like and much that could be discussed with teens about choices and control. Plus, I’m glad I read it close to the release of the sequel since there is much still to discover.

Perhaps, in the mean time, I’ll start working on Anne of Green Gables and Zombies ;-)

Just a reminder that this blog has moved to http://www.ivyrun.com/wordpress.  I’ve just posted a new entry entitled Digital Literacy: Reading the Paper Online.

You can read my post, “Learning Welsh,” over at the new home of In Another Place: http://www.ivyrun.com/wordpress.  Please update your aggregators!

Greetings, all! In an effort to consolidate my online life, I am moving this blog to my professional website at Ivy Run. You can read new posts by visiting http://www.ivyrun.com/wordpress.

Here’s the follow up to the story of the student who faced expulsion for running a Facebook study group for his chemistry class.  He was not expelled but does have to take a course in academic honesty.  In addition, he’ll get a zero for the homework, which counts as 10% of the grade.

This sounds like a triumph for digital natives over digital immigrants.  But, unlike when I made the first post, now I’m not so sure what I think.  I talked to some of the teachers I was working with this week, and they pointed out that unlike a face to face study group that usually has 5 to 10 members, this group had 146 members.  And, the follow up article makes a crucial point: “The professor had asked that students perform their work independently.”

That sentence hit me hard because I am always arguing that the piece where the immigrants can have an influence on students is in the ethics department.  There is certainly no way that we could argue that working with a group of students in Facebook could be considered doing your work independently.  And, if it was an unstated assumption, then I could back them up.  But, in this case, the professor stated that he expected independent work. Doesn’t he have a right to punish students who violate that stated expectation?

I suppose we could argue about the expectation itself.  We live in a networked world in which the traditional view of a solitary student studying seem outdated.  We live in a world in which students will be working collaboratively to solve problems.  But, we also live in a world in which, now and then, you are expected to work alone.  We live in a world in which we are expected to do the right thing even when no one is watching.  In this case, considering the prof’s expectations, the right thing to do seems to be that you work alone.

I think the most frustrating part of this for me is that we are hearing everything second hand.  The first article did not mention the fact that the prof expected them to work alone.  And, that one sentence doesn’t give enough information: work alone on projects? work alone on homework?

Brenda Dyck, over at wwwedu, posted a link to this article about a Canadian college student accused of cheating because he organized a Facebook study group where students worked together on their homework. Turns out it is the university’s responsibility to make sure that students do their own homework. As the students rightly point out, there are many face to face study groups in which students are working on homework, but none of them have been expelled.

To me, it seems like a clear case of the “digital divide” between young people and adults, with the latter having a misunderstanding of social networking. I’m impressed that students are using Facebook for more than just idle chatter. In addition, I would guess that these future chemists will be collaborating with others throughout their careers so they are getting a good start on that skill as well.

Maybe part of the concern is that once the homework problems are posted this semester, students in future courses won’t have to actually do the homework. Hmm…you mean the instructor might have to find new problems? Or reconsider how to teach the course using Facebook as part of the curriculum rather than banning it?

Just a quick post as I’m out the door for a digital storytelling workshop.  Watched John Adams last night and enjoyed it.  It opens with the Boston Massacre and I was reminded of a media literacy lesson that I did with middle schoolers.  We took a look at Paul Revere’s famous engraving of the “massacre.”  Rather than an historically accurate depiction, it is a propaganda piece, designed to further rile up the mobs against the British.  Here’s a good description of the inaccuracies of the picture.

Just finished reading The American West by Dee Brown, who is probably best known for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the classic history of Native Americans. The American West is a collection of short historical pieces roughly organized in chronological order. It reviews much of the Native American history but also covers railroads, cowboys, and the rise and fall of Western towns. I really enjoyed it, despite having a pretty solid knowledge of much that it covers. My husband and I have explored a good bit of the territory that Brown describes, mostly during our Lewis and Clark trip in 1998.

Part of what made The American West so good was the extensive use of photographs and maps. I think history is often a dull subject to students because it the materials tend to text-based, and unless you’ve got an engaging writer like Brown, the endless dates, names and locations can be overwhelming.  For me,  history lives in the stories that Brown tells and those photographs and maps helped flesh out the story for me.

This morning, I sat down to add the book the my LibraryThing catalog and then started poking around the Library of Congress website. What a treasure trove of visual representations! The site covers not just items in the LOC collection but also links to other sites, such as the University of Washington’s online exhibit about the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest. These repositories offer a wealth of materials for the teacher to use but also for digital storytelling projects as well.

I searched the Google maps directory and was surprised that I couldn’t find an overlay about Native Americans or even western history.  What a great project that would be for students who are studying history.  It helps make the link between geography and history.  For instance, the National Park Service has an interactive map for the Battle of Little Bighorn that can be used with Google maps satellite view to better understand the terrain and the battle itself.   I was never very good at deciphering battles from text descriptions so this offers some new understanding.

 I’ve been reading Native American history lately, and I have a draft of a blog post about the American West waiting for a little more work.  So, I eagerly clicked on the link in my gmail this morning that took me to this Discovery Channel article about new archaeological discoveries related to Native Americans.  It seems that, based on mitochondrial DNA, they can be traced to six founding mothers.  The article itself is worth a look, especially for educators, since at the bottom of the first page there is a nice video about the “cool” job of archaeology.

Here’s my question on this early Sunday morning: how did Google know?  Or, was it just a coincidence?  I’m used to the links at the top of the page being related to my email.  In fact, it’s even funny sometimes how they find just the right link to go with whatever I’m reading.  But, as far as I know, I haven’t either sent or received email related to Native Americans.  I have, however, done several Google searches so perhaps that’s where it’s coming from.  Or, maybe, it is just a coincidence.  And, while it worries me a little that Google seems to know a lot about me, I’m also sort of happy since I probably wouldn’t have found the article on my own.

I am reading Dee Brown’s The American West.  It’s a compilation of short, illustrated pieces the Brown wrote in tandem with photo editor Martin F. Schmitt in the 1950s.  Despite being pretty familiar with the history of the West, I am still finding some great new tidbits of information as well as new ways of considering that history.

Last night, I read two different passages about how Easterners were lured into coming out West.  I thought both were excellent illustrations of media literacy.  The first dealt with a sketch created by in 1869 by artist Henry Worrall called “Drouthy Kansas.”  You can read the whole story at the Kansas Historical Society’s website. Media literacy figures in because of the comment made by several Kansas farmers, wiped out by the drought and grasshoppers that came in the mid-1870s.  As they headed back East through Topeka, they stopped to talk to Worrall and suggested that it was the “diabolical seductiveness of that picture” that convinced them to come to the state in the first place.  This illustrates the power of the visual to persuade.

Another similar story comes from Kansas.  Western speculators often used the power of media to attract Easterners to new towns that were really nothing more than some marks on the ground.  Brown writes:

John J. Ingalls, Massachusetts lawyer, was attracted in 1856 by a colorful lithograph of Sumner, Kansas Territory.  When Ingalls arrived, he found little but platted kansas prairie.  In later years, as senator from Kansas he recalled the attractive advertisement as a chromatic triumph of lithographed mendacity.”

I turn again to the Kansas Historical Society’s website for Ingall’s story.

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