I shuffled through the mail left by my daughter on the kitchen table. The cover of the newly arrived November edition of ISTE’s Learning and Leading with Technology reached out to me….Cool Tools for School. Ahhh…worth looking at. Below that? Is Your Website Accessible?, Students Without Borders, and (!!!!) Do Schools Still Need Brick-and-Mortar Libraries? (READ IT HERE)
Kudos, to Doug…obviously. Yes, I am a school library media specialist and I appreciate the support he offers to our programs, particularly in light of Mastrion’s out-of-touch stereotyping that leaves me “alone, in [my] information monarchy” surrounded by words, words, words…and nothing more.
But it isn’t enough to disagree with Mastrion’s point-of-view…mostly because I am a librarian, which makes my own intentions instantly suspect. “Perhaps” I am simply an apologist who values traditional literacy over the more “progressive” approach.
So…let’s start with Mastrion’s assertion that Google (a tool I consider myself proficient in using) offers a simpler and more efficient means of finding information for students today. I tested that theory in a quest to find out exactly “who” Johnson and Mastrion are, and how their thinking is impacting learning, specifically with regards to technology.
Now, I’ve read Johnson before. He’s a well-known writer in the fields of information and technology education. Still, would the novice researcher find his work as easily online as off? The answer is YES. I Google his name, and irregardless of it’s commonality, Doug Johnson’s site hits the top of the list. Johnson has made his ideas and research available across platforms (print and online).
Next, I Google Mastrion’s name (in quotes, to keep the first and surname relative to one another, of course) and get 751 hits. Below are the results:
Hit # 1 – He graduated in 1985 from Courtland High School in Fredricksburg, VA. I can’t tell more, since this is a subscription site to which I do not belong.
Hit # 2-3 – Mastrion’s page on the ISTE ning. Hmmm…a couple of friends, one group, and 4 references to the article in question. Not much here.
Hit #4 – Readingman.com on AboutUs Wiki pages. Promising. But the domain link takes me no where (its for sale). No more information here. A search for “readingman” yields a mind boggling list of articles about men from places called “Reading.”
Hits # 5-6 – 123 People…which offers basic location information and weblinks (many no longer working, some to the same sites Google found)
Hit # 7 – The Curry School of Education schedule (mentioned the school in his ISTE piece) … a list without much information about Mastrion, himself.
Hit # 8 – Finally… Reader’s Digest Association Announces Its 1999 American Heroes in Education. According the article, Mastrion donned “cape, shield and size-18 sneakers” as ”…READING MAN!!! …a young man not afraid to make learning fun. Enthralled by Reading Man and his wondrous, book-lined Read-it-torium, Mastrion’s rural South Carolina students have become eager readers and overachievers. ‘If some adults don’t get it,’ he says, ‘then so be it.’”
Hit #9 – Link to an architectural firm’s mock-up of “a Reading Village concept for the I’On neighborhood in Mount Pleasant…an accelerated pre-kindergarten, where 2 and 3-year-olds work toward mastering national kindergarten standards. 4 and 5-year-olds master national 1st and 2nd grade standards in both reading and language arts.” Another link to readingman.com, which is defunct.
Link # 10 – Link to New York Creative Managements list of Currently Available Children’s Books. Mastrion’s book 12 Crabs in a Basket is listed. A side-search for the book itself, on Google and on Amazon (in quotes and out, numberical “twelve” and spelled-out) yields nothing more. (Sigh…)
#11 – Mastrion’s Profile on AtLinks. Not alot here.
#12 - Respected library, Joyce Valenza’s twitter feed (she tweeted on the ISTE article, of course!)
# 13 – A link to the Village Montesorri School’s parent connection site, which features a quote from Masterson and note that he was 1998 National Teacher of the Year
A child’s mind isn’t a blank slate; it’s more of a jungle. Each time a parent helps a toddler read, the child is walked through this jungle from one side to the other. Trip after trip, a seemingly impossible passage becomes a well-worn path. Children sent to kindergarten skipping merrily along this path to literacy fare far better than those sent to school with machetes.
More of the same, including a result that promises
Teacher recognized for inspiring classes with his creativity …For DuBose Middle School teacher Keith Mastrion, all it takes is a little imagination and some bright red tights. Day in and day out, the 31-year-old … 22.214.171.124/stories/1999/04/25/met_259875.shtml
but I gave up on after it froze my browser five times.
Finally…Hit #20 yields me Mastrion’s BLOGGER address…a blog that began (and ended?) with a single post on September 1, 2009
I could go on…through the 70+ pages of links. If I were an adolescent (or most adults), I’d give up now. As noted in The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine
the number of documents in the indices has been increasing by many orders of magnitude, but the user’s ability to look at documents has not. People are still only willing to look at the first few tens of results.
I decide to look at one more page. Surprise…Mastrion’s response to an editorial by Doug Johnson, “A Proposal for Banning Pencils,” written in 2006 and reviewed on the blog, edfocus, just this fall. Mastrion’s response to Banning Pencils? (scroll down to the comments on the post) is enlightening. While I don’t really agree with Mastrion’s inferred criticism of Johnson
(…the problem I have with reductio ad absurdum pieces, when I read them, when I write them and when I speak them, is that whomever they’re directed toward has an easy out. They’re simply able to laugh them off, not take them too seriously, walk away without too much afterthought…)
it would seem they are arguing on the same side. In fact, I applaud what both Johnson AND Mastrion have to say. Mastrion writes:
Ban. It’s a powerful, frightening concept, packed into such an elementary word. The mentality behind it, most often ignorant and fear-based, has the power to ruin, even end lives. We’re the lucky ones. We don’t have to tolerate its usage too much. But consider the world around us. Consider those struggling against bans imposed upon them … My best classrooms were always microcosmic democracies … Throw in the great number of disruptive technologies in the hands of our students, and you’ll understand some teachers’, some administrators’ and some districts’ hesitancy toward adopting higher usage of technology … Still, that’s no excuse … Education is a tool that needs to be used, worked with, experimented with, worn and torn to the point of breaking … as educators we’re duty bound to place the tool of technology firmly in the grasp of the masses we teach. If we don’t, it could cease to become a tool in the hands of everyone and quietly become a weapon in the hands of a self-selected few.
And yet, Mastrion’s own words lead me to ask Mastrion a few crucial questions:
- With ONLY 50,000 books on Google (+ what’s online at other sites), should we limit students to reading ONLY these texts? In fact, if we limit students to online access resources, are we not, in effect, banning materials that do not lend themselves conveniently to online consumption. It’s all good (well, not really) to suggest reading online for children who consume 15-30 page stories that are largely visual. But reading on screen is, for the most part, a skimming activity… something in writing literacy circles we need to teach more towards. But, imagine reading a Harry Potter novel on the screen of your laptop. Many students simply couldn’t situate themselves so (it’s downright uncomfortable to “curl up” in bed for 6 to 20 hours straight with a screen). Many students simply wouldn’t!
- If the classroom is a microcosmic democracy, how can we, in good conscience, teach a child to trust Google to simply “deliver” the information they need at the push of a button. Libraries are more than repositories of print. School libraries are PROGRAMS that teach children to dig deeper and ask questions about the information they encounter.
- Finally, if all children do NOT have access to a laptop and/or a father (much less a well-educated, reader of a father), are we not limiting education to the “self-selected” few?
Mr. Mastrion, considering your apparent championship of literacy, are you serious?
NOTE: Join in the conversation at www.iste-community.org/group/landl