Cambridge, Mass.,start-up BoomWriter Media, a content creation, delivery, and collaboration platform used in 5,000 schools in 80 countries, seems aptly named for a growing concern. In June, it added 400 schools to its roster and now has a presence in all 50 states. Next week its Online Storytellers Camp, presented in partnership with WGBH Boston, goes live with a tale begun by Jeff Kinney, which campers get to finish. In addition, BoomWriter is working with WGBH on a pilot for a television series featuring the avatars BoomWriter created to protect the identities of children using the platform. The company is also partnering with Barnes & Noble to develop apps for the Nook. And it’s about to seek new funding after raising $940,000 over the past year.
Founded in 2010, BoomWriter grew out of a conversation between current CEO Chris Twyman, who also started the HR technology company Zapoint, and Ken Haynes, v-p of product development, who taught Twyman’s daughter at the Pierce School in Brookline, Mass. Twyman wanted to break down the writing process into smaller, more easily digestible pieces and allow people to work collaboratively. Haynes was looking for a way to bring more technology into the classroom. Together they developed, tested, and launched the platform with cofounder and CTO Ian Garland, who lives in England.
The concept behind BoomWriter is relatively straightforward. Teachers assign one of the company’s projects, like Suki’s Alligator, which was recently completed by students at Milton High School in Milton, Mass. The first chapter, or “story start,” will have already been written, sometimes by a celebrity like Jordan Knight, lead singer of New Kids on the Block, or by an author like Kinney, or, in the case of Suki’s Alligator, by a local Boston freelance writer. The remaining chapters are written collaboratively, one by one. Groups of students each submit their second chapters to their teacher, who then edits and posts them. The students vote anonymously on which entry they like the best, using BoomWriter software, and the winning chapter becomes chapter 2. The process is repeated until the book is finished.
Michael Rosen sums up where the UK education system is at… Grainy video, but worth your time.
I’d like to have been in the audience to hear this…
Speaking at the Telegraph Hay Festival, Prof Schama — who acknowledged his own contribution to the plans — said that the syllabus was like “1066 and All That, but without the jokes”.
“This is a document written by people who have never sat and taught 12-year-olds in a classroom,” he told an audience of teachers. “None of you should sign up to it until we trap Michael Gove in a classroom and tell him to get on with it.
“You want to say to him, ‘Let’s go into a class of nine-year-olds and do the kingdom of Mercia with them. I would love to see how you would do that’.”
A leading Welsh author has warned that a literacy crisis among TV-obsessed school pupils is threatening the future of children who are leaving primary education without the ability to write a legible sentence.
Award winning writer and former literary critic Jennifer Sullivan has described the alarming 20-year decline in standards as “depressing and upsetting.”
Dr Sullivan has also called for more home involvement from parents, citing late night TV as a threat to literacy.
She said: “In one school I was asked if I had children, and where they lived.
“I said, three grown-up daughters, living in London, Essex and Northern Ireland.
“One small girl shrieked with excitement: ‘Oh, Miss, the one what do live in Essex (sic)? Is she famous? Is she on Towie (The Only Way Is Essex)? Oh, I want to be an Essex girl when I grow up!’
“I asked how come a nine-year-old was allowed to stay up to watch The Only Way Is Essex.
“‘I got a telly in my bedroom, Miss.’
“I asked how many other children had TVs in their bedrooms.
“Those children who did not have TVs or computer games consoles in their rooms could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
“I asked them what time they actually went to sleep. Not one confessed to turning out the light before 10pm at the earliest and staff confirmed that children often dozed off in class.”
She added: “This battle for literacy must start with parents.
“Parents should be begged, as a first step – for the sake of their children’s immediate health and their future success – to remove televisions and games consoles from their children’s bedrooms.”
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, writing in the Telegraph about the need for an increased awareness of the riches available in contemporary young adult literature:
The way forward is to remove the barriers between teenage fiction and the classics, to acknowledge that both have their role in encouraging reading for pleasure, and that those roles may overlap. The national curriculum today gives great leeway in choosing the books that are to be studied, but what that tends to mean is that the selection now falls not to examiners or ministers, nor to pupils, but to their teachers.
To make the most of these freedoms, teachers need to know about teenage writing. They must seize on the work of a new generation of writers for teenagers as a priceless teaching resource. Sadly, the Times Education Supplement’s recent survey of teachers’ top 100 books suggests that their knowledge of new writing is patchy. To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men remain the unimaginative staple diet for many.
This is where school librarians need to come to the curriculum’s rescue. As schools’ resident book experts, school librarians have never been so important as they will be in the next 18 months, as teachers look for support in finding the books that will teach the new curriculum.
The resources we have to inspire young people’s reading are greater and more profound than ever before. If we make the most of them, the results will be extraordinary for individuals and for society. And for the disadvantaged young people the NLT works with, reading is no less than a lifeline.
The best-selling author, who receives hundreds of fan letters each week, told The Independent that children from Eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal all had better spelling and grammar than British children.
“They’re writing in English, and apologising for their English, yet these letters will be more grammatical and spelt more properly than [those from] our own children. It’s quite extraordinary.” Around 90 per cent of children who write to her cannot even spell Jacqueline correctly, she said, adding that standards had slipped in the two decades that children had regularly written to her.
The full list of Bookbuzz titles for 2013
Booktrust have announced the selection of titles to be offered to secondary school children by Bookbuzz for 2013.
Including prize winners and best-selling authors, it offers a brilliant array for 11-year-old students to choose from. Bookbuzz offers secondary schools the chance to give Year 7 students the choice of a book from this carefully selected list of 17 titles including fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Bookbuzz aims to support reading for pleasure and independent choice at the important transition stage from primary to secondary education. It also works to encourage a whole school reading culture.
The element of choice has proven to be vital to Bookbuzz’s success, with the report on the 2012 programme showing that although encouraging motivation for reading is a complex challenge, it is one that Bookbuzz successfully meets.
This year’s list includes a plethora of prize winning authors including a Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner, Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize winner and a Carnegie Medal winner.
The full list of titles for Bookbuzz 2013 is:
Soldier Dog by Sam Angus (Macmillan)
Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway (Usborne)
After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross (Oxford University Press)
Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock (Nosy Crow)
Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane (Macmillan)
Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press)
Payback by Graham Marks (Franklin Watts)
Space: The Whole Whizz Bang Story by Glenn Murphy (Macmillan)
Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver (Penguin)
Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things by Michael Rosen (Penguin)
Dark Lord: The Teenage Years by Jamie Thomson (Orchard Books)
My Best Friend and Other Enemies by Catherine Wilkins (Nosy Crow)
Killer Animals: The Wimp’s Guide by Tracey Turner (Franklin Watts)
Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants by Giles Andreae and Korky Paul (Penguin)
The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle (Templar)
Oh Dear Geoffrey! by Gemma O’Neill (Templar)
Giggle Giggle What’s So Funny? by Ben Mantle (Macmillan)
A National Poetry Centre for Primary Schools
CLPE is the home of Poetryline and the National Centre for Poetry in Primary Schools.
The result of the annual CLPE Poetry Award was announced this evening, alongside the official launch of the National Poetry Centre for Primary Schools and the Poetryline website.
The ACHUKA blog will alert you to significant updates on Poetryline.
This month-long teachers’ strike in Denmark – over pay and conditions – has been very under-reported in the UK. This comes via the French news agency AFP.
Denmark’s government on Thursday moved to end a bitter month-long dispute with teachers over working hours that has left 800,000 pupils out of classes.
"We have reached a point at which the government finds it necessary to intervene," Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt told reporters at a news conference.