While I may have been away from my computer, and my SLIS courses, between November 15th and 20th - it seems I couldn't escape noticing connections to research.
Typing an oral history transcript during the flight (terrible fear of flying), I kept going back to how the island of Ireland was broken into two so that Northern Ireland would remain faithful to the United Kingdom, while the Republic of Ireland could begin its own governance. Originally four districts, Ulster was the most northern portion of Ireland. If, when the country split and it had been retained all of its district - there would have been a tremendous shift. For the first time, Catholics would have outnumbered the Protestants and been in clear majority. What would that have done? Changed everything. My oral history narrator shared how the housing authority, the police, and the political organizations like the Orange Men and the Apprentice Boys of Derry dominated the areas, controlled the housing placements, and created a greatly segregated country. Belfast is considered the "most segregated city in the world" and Derry, the hometown of my narrator, is not much different although not as noticeable to the outside and no"peace walls." He raised the question of terrorism and asked, "Was George Washington a terrorist?" He and his revolution was no different in allowing the United States to attain its freedom from the United Kingdom. Isn't that what the IRA did for Ireland?
Sir Ken Robinson spoke of the changes we've seen all around us as research proves out old theories. For example, he had those over the age of 40 raise their hands if they had their tonsils removed. Many hands shot up because the medical solution to continuous colds and throat maladies was to remove that "extra flap of skin." There were almost no hands raised for those under 30 years of age because medical research proved that removing tonsils was no longer a recommended medical necessity. However, we are still teaching children using the same predetermined industrial timeframe (bells ringing, equivalent to first shift) using formats that have gone unchallenged for far too long. "Children in school right now will hold positions that don't even exist yet", but still we educate with 19th and 20th methodology.
Assembly of Literature for Adolescents of NCTE-ALAN: Breakfast with guest speaker and honoree Scott Westerfeld led to many laughs and great discussions about how he went about researching for his Leviathan series...told from the perspective of two adolescents: a would be heir to the throne and a young girl pretending to be a boy to fly with their military air service - both of whom lost their parents. The idea for incorporating all of these fantastical military machine graphics arose from the outrage of his American fans of the Uglies series when the series was published in Japan with pictures as a manga. Scott did a great deal of research and discovered that the newer 'technology of the camera' replaced so many professional artists who up until that time were held in higher esteem. In HG Well's War of the World, the illustrator/artist received top billing with larger, more noticeable font. When Scott challenged the idea of a crazy walking machine Keith (his artist) rendered, he was sent back original military drawing of just such a machine. The entire trilogy was created around research, of the time period, place, technology, political alliances, royalty & rebellion. (http://scottwesterfeld.com/books/leviathan/ )
Throughout the day, every other author who shared experiences about their writing also referred to the necessary research that goes into each book. They must build creditability with a reader, which is key so that when they toss in a bit of surreal or impossible, there can be a 'suspension of disbelief' and the reader continues on in his reading still accepting the narrator's storyline.
And I suppose, since every author has his or her own writing group, in research terms that equates to a focus group where elements can be tested and challenged. So that some bits and pieces of the story will become part of the final publication, while many other bits and pieces need adjustment or removal.
An educator who was to be the winner of an award during the Children's Literacy Assembly (CLA) - David Shannon celebration breakfast, who couldn't be there to accept because she was conducting research in Japan. Wouldn't that be fun to say. I'm invited to receive some prestigious literary award, "Sorry, I'll be in Japan." Her current research is centered around resources for children with ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorder. By initially using focus groups and then individual sessions with children, their parents, and their educators - she is hoping to determine which reading materials are most beneficial and valid for those suffering from ASD. Her acceptance speech, presented on her behalf, included terms like authenticity, reliability, validity, qualitative, discourse analysis, and social construct. I searched through my notes and the conference program, and couldn't seem to locate her name anywhere. Unfortunately, I no longer have the 396 page program as it was either that or a signed copy of a book for my YA students. Clearly, not a tough decision! The online program, an exact replica of the print program only shows the chair, committee and honored author/guest. No mention of awards or award winners. (http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/publication/?i=131673)
Its funny how things come full circle, sometimes more quickly than anticipated. Big news in education in Texas. Can you imagine teachers using curriculums that show how the Boston Tea Party is considered an act of terrorism? Parents are outraged, so I've heard. My own husband challenged the notion. Which is really funny considering he was part of a militia reenactment group for a number of years so knows the intricacies of battle of that time period more than most people. (see NCTE: Thursday's notations)
Sleep-deprived yet high on meeting YA authors experience - is a great motivator talking with my students about reading and writing. Shared Chris Crutcher's story of how high school was easy. He found his brother's assignments for every paper in every class, organized and practically gift-wrapped. So, great grades for Chris (never caught), but it meant that he never ead books he should have. So, when he reached his late twenties and wanted to become a writer, he discovered "You can't ever be a writer until your a reader." He had to go back and read at age 30 what he should have been reading in high school; lesson learned (and shared!).