September 25, 2013

Write your own book. Then what?

    Linda Lee is a completely amazingly illustrator who lives in Amsterdam. On one day she might be illustrating a work for children and on the next day it might be a witty piece of social satire for the Dutch press.
    So when the Kids' Book Network was recently privileged to publish her unique story sequence of wordless illustrations, reinvented as a book – The Metal Detector – our young readers could fill in to write themselves, it was terrific fun.

The book
you write yourself.

    Kids inventing their own words for The Metal Detector are soon thinking about the next book they want to write. And the next. And pretty soon they are writing and reading and writing and reading a lot more. And as big readers they quickly become better learners, too.
    Thank you, Linda Lee.
    But now Linda's gift shows us something more, that even the most exciting invention can be reinvented

The new "silent"

    Linda and her creative colleague Magda van Tilburg have now recreated Linda's illustrations again – as a delightful authentic silent movie.
    Visit!  and enjoy!

August 15, 2013

Some observations about the apparently eternal appeal of phrenology.

Let it never be said that the mysteries of the human mind do not merit close scientific investigation.
    So let's take a moment to consider the bold discoveries of phrenologists in the 19th century. Once they noticed that human heads are all shaped differently, and are often sprinkled with unique individual bumps, they concluded that with a one-foot ruler they had all they needed to decipher the variations in human personality and intelligence.
    After all, these head bumps could be carefully measured and calculated. And because the human mind was apparently located in some proximity to the human head, that made their conclusions automatically scientific and true, right?
    Today, of course, phrenologists are a scientific joke from the distant past and we wonder how anyone could have ever believed their head bump conclusions in the first place. No one today could ever be so stupid to believe something so moronic masked as science.
    Or could they?

    Today we have a bright new generation of phrenologists, now represented to us as statistical mathematicians, who are convinced that they can turn around the test scores of children in school to accurately measure, not anything about the children themselves, but the quality of teachers. They call this teacher measuring method "value-added." The only problem is, their analysis never includes any adjustments for the umpteen – which is a real and very large whole number – qualitative factors which are confronted every day by real teachers in real classrooms, and which make their pseudo-statistical conclusions completely meaningless. Complexity, both social and mathematical, is something they just don't like to think about.
    And yet, they will not give it up. It's like they invented celery yogurt or something, and then have to keep trying to explain why everyone should love it.
    How did this all happen in the first place?
    As their circulation continues to shrink, newspapers are looking desperately for new "issues" to keep their existence relevant, and they have lead the frenzy for test-based teacher evaluations. But even if this method makes no sense, "improving our schools" has always been a popular campaign mantra for politicians as well so why just not go along? And as for administrators, of course, well – you just never want to contradict politicians.
    So how will this all end?
    Don't worry. The end is finally near.
    Our complete national fixation on "fact-focused" student test scores will soon begin to wash away as we now move away from fact memorization as our total educational focus and return to teaching children, along with essential reading, writing and math skills, a greater ability to think. To analyze. To compare. To evaluate. To infer. To conclude. To hypothesize. To predict. To imagine. To invent and discover.
    It's called the Common Core, or the return to reason.
    And it's going to happen now.