The New Year Old Reader and Writer

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1 Submitted on: 10/15/2014 The New Year Old Reader and Writer Blanche Woolls, San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA David V. Loertscher, San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA Copyright 2014 by Blanche Woolls and David V. Loertscher. This work is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License: Abstract In a world that will soon have six billion cell phones they may be the key technology to reach the new year old reader and writer. While little is available in the research to analyze the effect technology on reading habits, online writing has been useful in creating communities of writers. To build reading schools, teens must have materials to read. Translating current publications into electronic format needs permissions and translations. This paper proposes that the fastest and most effective way to engage readers of all cultures and all languages is to encourage the youth of every nation to write and to read what other youth place or write on their cell phones. A network of existing organizations, communication industries, and software developers could create this system. Prototypes already exist, but few the writing of teens. A checklist of activities leading to a successful project and the benefits to be gained are provided. Keywords: Reading Creativity Cell phone technology Makerspaces The proliferation of printed reading materials for teens since 1520 may have succeeded in providing something to read in most first world countries, but it has been a dismal failure in the rest of the world. Because of the costs associated with printed media, it is not likely to be any more successful in the next 500 years. However, the immediate availability of hard copy printed material has done little to counteract how television and 1

2 social media draw students into a different form of recreation. What seems to be a better way to attract teens is to use their chosen format and technology. We will soon be living in a world where there are six billion cell phones and emerging smart phones. Already in many third world nations, a majority of teens have access to a delivery in the palm of their hands. Thus, if we expect a literate world, the cell phone may be the key technology to reach them and involve them, but how to provide things to read that will be read. Is this merely an assumption that somehow literature or something they will want to read will appear in the palms of their hands? At the present, little can be found in the research to analyze the effect of technology on reading habits of teens when books are on cellphones and teenagers. What is available that has been tested is the acceptance of youth for digital materials and that has often been with younger children. They are reported here because they do have some applicability to older youth. Massey et al i1 conducted a comparative study of responses from children in Germany, Honduras, New Zealand, and the United States to the International Children s Digital Library (ICDL) collection. Analyzing the respondents book forms, most students wrote whether they either liked or disliked the book, summarized the text, or said how the book made them feel. This study confirms the ability to research online reading using a controlled format. Two studies looked at technology and writing skills in elementary children. In the first, Olthouse and Miller 2ii used Web 2.0 technology to expand the learning opportunities of gifted children as defined in the U.S. as well above average learners who may be underachievers. In this study, the personality characteristics identifying talented writers included motivation and high reading ability. Online writing was useful in creating communities of writers. These authors provided information for self-publishing on websites. 2

3 A study 3iii of computer assisted language learning (CALL) when it was used to motivate fourth grade English as a second language (ESL) students tested improving their writing skills. Fidaoui et al found that both teachers and students agreed on the motivational factors with CALL to produce well-developed, well-written papers. For older students, the use of the cell phone for texting has been considered a threat to the ability for youth to write and especially to spell. LOL and OMG are turning up in term papers. In McHale s study 4iv, super communicators are multi-channel; his teens used a variety of tools to communicate including text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking sites such as Facebook. He suggests getting teachers to use blogs and wikis to get students to collaborate. Students recognize that they need to write logical essays, particularly those who will be completing college entrance applications. He found that 86% of his respondents thought that good writing was important to life. Good writing is usually easier when students are good readers; good reading skills build into good writing skills. To build reading skills, teens need to have materials readily available to read. This can lead to improvement in writing skills, and teachers, parents, and students all seem to agree that writing skills are important to life. Combining reading with writing seems to attack two problems with a single solution. The first is to find good literature for youth that they will want to read and the second is to improve their writing skills through creating materials to read. The current literature for youth reflects cultures that are less likely to capture the imagination of many. Yet, that is the literature that could be shipped via cell phone to youth anywhere and everywhere. But, would that work? The challenges of trying to ship what is available in bookstores and libraries runs into more than just locating what is already available in an electronic format. Most of what is available is available for a cost that for many would be prohibitive for most teens. It would even be a challenge for school librarians 3

4 who have limited resources to purchase e-books. What about the books are still not in electronic formats? Choosing what to transfer into an electronic format that is not yet available in that way has legal implication of ownership and copyright for that ownership. The process of developing the ICDL meant securing the appropriate permissions before books could be placed into their database. Again, publishers might need to be paid even if someone else was doing this transfer. Some practical challenges arise with what needs to be translated into the readers languages, as well as sensitivity to cultures in various countries. These can be overcome simply by letting the youth themselves create their own books and share them. Should they decide to translate, the very experience of translating their work into another language will help learn the second language. They might even write their story in the second language increasing their second language skills. Illustrations may also become a part of these e-books and could be done by either the author or another youth. Short pieces, both fiction and informational, and poetry, could start with text only and move to illustrated works written by teen for teens and children available on their cell phones? Could that simple idea really work? Preliminary research has been conducted in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic where cell phone technologies are common. School librarians often encourage students to write and may already distribute this writing among classes and their schools, but that is the limit to their distribution. If teachers and librarians were to submit the best of this writing to national associations or forwarded to national libraries, these central depositories would allow dissemination throughout the world and in many languages. Joined by large communications corporations, dissemination would be free to both consumers and writers uploading their 4

5 work. A simple effective pilot project could provide a proof of concept research foundation for further development. This paper proposes that the fastest and most effective way to engage readers of all cultures and all languages is to encourage the youth of every nation to write and to read what other youth place or write on their cell phones. The idea is to find mentors who will help discover, produce and disseminate this writing through the national school library associations and national libraries of every nation in a great network of LitoPedia of the globe. The object would be to find the S.E. Hintons, the Mary Shellys, and the Ann Franks in a project to discover talent worldwide and, in the process produce a world of teen readers and writers. We propose that a network of existing organizations, communication industries, and software developers create a system that could work almost anywhere, in most cultures, and in most languages. Prototypes already exist, but few that we are aware of attempt to capture the writing of teens. Thus the proposal is a flip of the idea currently in place. It is an attempt to capture the interest of youth already in a social media culture and focus on their creative and literary abilities not usually captured, preserved, or shared. Organizations presently available to help with project are at this conference. The members of both the International Association of School Librarianship and the School Library Section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions are in place to join with this effort. One communication company has been approached and is very interested in providing a platform for the database. This paper points to possibilities, the presentation toward probabilities. The Project 5

6 The base of this project has been the authors of the paper, David Loertscher and Blanche Woolls. They will continue as the base for the immediate future with a succession plan put in place as early as possible. A checklist lists the tasks to begin this project is shown below Activity Respons ibility 1 Establish an advisory committee to consult virtually on Base project. 2 Chose a title for the project Advisor y 3 Develop and refine guidelines for the project and establish Advisor timeline y 4 Determining platform to house database Base 5 Creating electronic template Advisor y 6 Creating the search capability Progra mmer 7 Announcing the project Organiz ations 8 Gaining support from librarians, their teachers, their students Organiz ations 9 Inputting the first 200 or 2000 or 20,000 records Progra mmer 1 The launch The World 1 Building a National Presence Advisor y, Organiz ations 1 Establishing a succession plan Advisor y The formation of an advisory committee of librarians who are interested in the project and are willing to assist in its implementation is crucial. This committee should have members who are creative and willing to work virtually. They should to represent the organizations whose membership will be responsible for locating and mentoring the first teens to share their writing. With the Internet, virtual meetings can be held easily and challenges and solutions discussed within a 24 hour period. Volunteers are being accepted at this meeting and a first task is to choose a name for the project. 6

7 The physical time commitment for the advisory committee would be in one hour intervals when the committee is meeting. This could be two-three hours a month at the onset. The mental time commitment is not easy to predict. Additional time would be needed to answer queries between meetings. Guidelines for the project authors and their sponsors or mentors need to be established. These guidelines should be carefully articulated if librarians will understand what is expected of their participation and how they should present the project to their teachers and students. This will be an international database with the stories appearing in the language of the country unless the teen wishes to place it on the database in another language that they will be translating. Librarians will need to work with teachers to create these stories using good writing skills. Because such writing can be beneficial to all students and not just the most creative, students might be encouraged to place their stories on the database when it is their best work. It could give a voice to youth who are not necessarily the best students, but are doing their best work as authors or poets. This project is somewhat akin to the Wikipedia phenomenon where contributions are accepted and published from people all over the world and in many languages. Along with the guidelines, the advisory committee must establish a timeline for the project. This will not be a 30 day undertaking; however, if no definite times are established early in the project, little if anything will happen. Teens will need to understand their work should be original and that anything that is submitted will become a part of the database and remain there. Because in the world of publishing, the book cover often sells the book, teens could be encouraged to design their own book covers or one of their friends might do this. Some preliminary work has been done to find a platform to house the database. One vendor has indicated an interest and that interest will be reaffirmed. 7

8 To make sure that all the information that pertains to the teen and only the needed information is collected, a template will be created to make sure the appropriate bibliographic information is collected and also a brief abstract of the book. The database must be searchable by author, countries, languages, subject, perhaps a simple analysis of the probable reading level among others. Announcing the project to the world is something that will need very careful planning by the advisory committee and every organization and every librarian who has been participating so that, a very broad group will be eager to begin encouraging their teens to take part in the project. The next step, gaining support from many librarians, teachers, and students will require a great deal of hard work and a little luck. Publicity for the project can be shared through announcements in newsletters of IASL and IFLA and with national school library associations, and in larger countries with regional or state association communications. The need to get mentors prepared to help students and to monitor the submissions from the writers will require time. Once the project is well underway, it is hoped that older students might serve to mentor and monitor the work of younger students as well as to serve as helping critics for their peers. One of the benefits of this project could be the training of students to collaborate to edit. When the chosen number of records has been entered, a world-wide launch will begin. It is hoped that broad publicity for the event can also bring much needed attention to the role of school libraries in the reading of teens. The date for the actual launch is dependent upon the timeline with an understanding that a large enough number of records from a variety of countries and ages will be on the database to encourage readers and future writers. This is easier to determine when the country volunteers are in place because it has a multiplier effect. 8

9 If school librarians in 20 countries each submit a minimum of 20 pieces, the launch could start with 400 entries. While the likelihood for the greatest success suggests that this project should provide school librarians with a national presence. To do this, ultimately the country projects should be housed in a national library as soon as it can move through the first stages to test for success locally. School librarians volunteer to begin the project and later they can help the person at the national library assigned with collecting entries. With attention focused on the national level or in a much larger country at the regional or state level, attention comes to those higher in governments who fund schools and libraries. Benefits of the Project This project would have many benefits beyond helping teens become voracious readers. It has implications for research, for sharing cultures, and to build international understanding. This project could provide many avenues for research into reading habits of teens. Data could be collected using two similar questions to those posed to children using the ICDL, simply, did you like the book? When teens read about the cultures of another group described by the group s members who are similar in age, it is easier to accept what is being read. One of the greatest challenges to building international understanding is the lack of knowledge of cultures, countries, and the recognition of similarities and the understanding of differences. This collection of books written by teens for teens should break down perceptions in a way that little else can do. While changes in perceptions are difficult to assess, this is not an impossibility. Increasing international understanding might be seen as an impossible longitudinal study to test how effective change might occur. However, our readers could answer questions 9

10 that were more in depth with what they learned that was new about a country or a region, a religion or a culture, the people and their lives from reading a book. In order to place this paper in a more practical context, one possible scenario has been written. As the project unfolds, other real experiences could be collected for the future promotion of the project. A Sample Scenario When the librarian of a school discovered the international reading and writing project at a school library meeting (or substitute an online message from her library association) she attended, she took the idea home to the teachers in her school. A few teachers volunteered to test out the idea and the adults formed a committee of students to help them. This committee tested the system from their national library to see if they could access a few examples on their own cell phones in their community. Finding out that it was easy to download and read something another teen had written just as one would download a Wikipedia article, the committee investigated how they might contribute writing from their school for the national library s library to be shared internationally. Then the committee prepared a challenge for their school. Students demonstrated the system to several language arts classes. The project was incorporated into their existing curriculum, and students wrote their own pieces as individuals or in teams. They critiqued the writing of others and nominated certain pieces they had produced to be sent to the national library. Before they could submit their pieces, they followed the guidelines for submission, its cataloging record, and including various tags with the piece that might help other readers discover their work. Meanwhile the national library had developed a team of volunteer editors from their country using a system similar to the one created by Wikipedia. As a volunteer, each received one or more submissions and they would decide whether the work was appropriate for the 10

11 intended audience, in the correct format, and ready for both the national database and for the international database. The volunteer editor could send back a congratulatory to the local school or, when needed, make suggestions for a revision that would make it more successful. Upon acceptance, the volunteer editor would upload the piece to the national library database and it would automatically appear as a document for anyone in the country to access. Most would be sent on the international database. Young people anywhere in the country or in the world could find something that they would like to read on their cellphones by topic, or genre, or country or language. Back home, celebrations, news items, and other publicity could encourage other teens to write so that their work was being read across their own country and beyond. It would be a natural thing to read a story, online, at any time as it would be read as an message or a check on a Facebook page. A reading and writing culture in the school and beyond would be developed. Like many other services on cell phones, this would be done for free to anyone with a connected device. This brief proposal is being given its international launch at this meeting. It is not a totally original idea. Other avenues are available for youth to write and post their writings. However, many of those opportunities are on sites that offer things for sale. Most sites are country or language specific. The authors are hoping that this project offers possibilities for your students and we encourage you to sign on as someone who would like to join the original advisory committee. Others may want to wait and continue to hear about the progress of the project. Our addresses are and References 1 Massey, Sheri, Ann Carlson Weeks, and Allison Druin. Initial Findings from a Three-Year International Case Study Exploring Children s Responses to Literature in a Digital Library. Library Trends (Fall 2005) 54:2, pp

12 2 Olthouse, Jill M. and Myriah Tasker Miller. Teaching Talented Writers with Web 2.0 Tools. Teaching Exceptional Children (November/December 2012): 45:2, pp Fidaoui, Diana, Rima Bahous,, and Nahla N. Bacha. CALL in Lebanese Elementary ESL Writing Classrooms. Computer Assisted Language Learning (April 2010): 23: 2 pp McHale, Tom. What Writing Crisis? One Educator s Take on Texting and Teens. Technology & Learning (June 16, 2008): 28:11. p

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