Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens

The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in the a World of ScreensThe Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in the a World of Screens by Stephen Apkon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3 ½ stars

Are you visually literate?
•Do you know when a visual has been created in order to manipulate its viewer?
•Do you understand how an image is constructed and coded?
•Could you create a visual project, such as a webpage or a short film?

Is it important that we have these skills? In a “world awash with images” (from sleeve), the answer is yes. Apkon shows how literacy – “the ability to comprehend and to express or articulate” (37) – can no longer be limited to just reading and writing. It must also include listening, speaking and viewing.

The Age of the Image begins with a background and history of literacy and visual media. It continues with the following topics:
•the neuroscience of images
•our present experience with images, e.g., Kony 2012, YouTube
•business and images: manipulation and persuasion
•the practical basics of making a movie
•and designing a new curriculum

In designing a new curriculum, Apkon proposes we ask students to create multimedia projects to see what they have learned about a topic, instead of assessing with tests or essays. These kinds of assignments require “a level of library skills that [are] much greater than...using the Dewey decimal system” (211). They also engage students and develop soft skills, such as teamwork.

To naysayers and prospective Luddites, Apkon responds: “Literacy is always a response to emerging technology. While conservative elements in a society often fear and resist change, the transformation is usually painless” (13). We used to resist having televisions in homes and calculators in schools.

This book has challenged me to think more visually, and to be more critical of what I create and what I view.
•Can we convey more information through images if our audience can read them correctly?
•Is text becoming redundant?
•Here are a couple of links that extend these ideas:

On the other hand

Although the book stresses the use of stories, I would have liked to have heard more about the importance of narrative. The book needed more editing to trim the repetition, too. Ironically, for a book about visual literacy, there aren’t a lot of images. More would be nice, preferably in colour, especially when illustrating the practical aspects of movie-making.

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Image credit:
G. Klimt / Music / 1895. Fine Art. Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 28 Jul 2013.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Key West, Florida

In the heat of late afternoon, college girls on Spring Break barrel down Duval Street on tandem bikes. Long straight hair, mirrored glasses and bikinis. How long will their brazen spirit last?

Women dance in an alleyway while waiting for a table at the Cuban restaurant. Across the square, the sunset celebrations intensify: buskers, magicians, soap box speakers and acrobats vie for attention. A lone girl spins a hula hoop at the side. Only she remains when the others disappear into the dark.

A statue of Marilyn takes refuge in a side street.

As dusk turns into night, the temporary citizens of the Conch Republic fill the streets. The light shifts, and people vanish around corners and melt into shadows.

Ernest Hemingway Gives Writing Advice in Key West

Pilgrims make their way to Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West. The guides know all the stories, as well as the names of the six-toed cats. But can they advise a fledgling writer on how to develop his craft?

In Hemingway's lifetime, Arnold Samuelson tramped his way to America's southernmost tip to find his idol, and simply knocked on the door. What do you think happened next?

Hemingway's house
Tourists to the workshop 

The gangplank - from bedroom to writing room

Inside the workshop

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Alabama Jack's, Florida Keys

"If you have to ask how long it'll take you to get to Key West, you've kinda missed the point."

Gutenberg Bible

"[T]he twenty-one complete Gutenberg Bibles that survive are among the most valuable books in the world" (50).

Apkon, Stephen. The age of the image: redefining literacy in a world of screens. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. Print.

Viewed in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the NY Public Library, July 2013.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Lakeland: Ballad of a Freshwater CountryLakeland: Ballad of a Freshwater Country by Allan Casey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Did you know that:

*Canada has more than three million lakes?

*60% of world's lakes are found in Canada?

Informative, yet romantic, Lakeland paddles through the meaning of lakes in Canada, to Canadians. It's not surprising that this book won the GG. Beautiful images such as "the wavering green minnows moving into the shade under a boat dock like suspended jade pieces" (2), help evoke the lake as "nature's most beautiful landscape feature" (10). Yes, that's from Thoreau.

The book journeys throughout Canada and contemplates the environmental damage that we are doing to our lakelands. For me, the book really shines when Allan Casey focuses on the personal and his experiences on Emma Lake.

A suitable read for intelligent cottage reading.

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Monday, 15 July 2013

The Westing Game

The Westing GameThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun way to while away a few summer hours. Enjoyable game of figuring out whodunit. Clever enough to keep a reader guessing, as well as providing enough legitimate clues to make you think you have it all figured out.

I think it would be great to read it with one (or more) of your favourite children.

To an adult, the characters may seem a bit brittle, two-dimensional or over the top, at times, but I did gradually warm up to them as the story went along. Especially Turtle. It is a fantasy, after all.

Recommended to me while in NYC by employee at Posman Books.

Some of your young ones might enjoy The Westing Heirs website created by 4th grade students:

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Image Credit:
Maggs, Michael. Opening chess position from black side. 2007. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 15 July 2013. <>

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Literacy 2.0: Reading and Writing in 21st Century Classrooms

Literacy 2.0: Reading and Writing in 21st Century ClassroomsLiteracy 2.0: Reading and Writing in 21st Century Classrooms by Nancy Frey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This slender book packs a lot of valuable ideas and advice between its covers. A great quick, but powerful, read for over the summer months. Literacy 2.0 is a valuable aid to educators as we move from the consumption of limited knowledge to the production and synthesis of information. We live in an age where the “audience is now the world” (1); a fact to celebrate, rather than fear.

The book is practical in nature. Here are some highlights:

Chapter 1 begins with a reframing of traditional teaching. Items include:
• gradual release of responsibility;
• essential questions;
• the difference between problem- and project-based learning.

Chapter 2, “The Eternal Search”, discusses three-dimensional reading and Boolean searches. What I found interesting was their instruction on:
• how to use Wikipedia effectively;
• and how to implement RSS feeds to gather research.

Chapter 3, “Making Responsible Choices” details ethics:
• digital citizenship;
• plagiarism;
• and good resources on teaching students how to cite.

Chapter 4 involves the creation of information. The writers discuss
• Fair Use;
• The Creative Commons;
• Essential Questions.
The chapter is also peppered with useful Web 2.0 tools for teachers to use with their students.

Chapter 5 shows the power of having the world as your audience. Chapter 6 outlines potential pitfalls.

Each section of Literacy 2.0 is summarized in “chapter tweets” to highlight the material just read.

Don’t forget to go to the publisher’s site for GREAT online resources. The site includes links mentioned in the book, as well as reproducible handouts. I’ve included a few more links because I think they are wonderful resources. (specific to this title) (links to all literacy reproducibles) (links to all instruction reproducibles) (technology reproducibles)

Image credit:
Whytock, Ken. Digital Technology. 2012. Flickr. Web. 11 July 2013. <>.

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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Rock Star of MoMA

Is it weird that people are no longer looking at art? Instead, they are documenting themselves posing with the art object. Paintings have become famous, celebrities. We desire to be seen with them.

Escape To New York

Even with modern conveniences available, I needed somewhere to escape the 45 C humidity of NYC. Enter Bryant Park, located right next to the NY Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Leave it to New York to think of an urban oasis which includes free WiFi and juggling lessons.

Another place to escape the hectic pulse of the City is on The High Line. Running through Manhattan's West Side, an abandoned rail line has been converted to a city park. We only touched on the southern tip, but would definitely make The High Line a priority on a return trip.

In both cases, the vision of the municipal leaders teamed with an active citizenship, make these two parks wonderful models for other communities.

I'll have to talk to my mayor about that.

Just discovered: Shows one more wonderful natural element of NYC.