Google is in the OED – again

It’s not the first time ‘google’ has been recorded in the OED

A learned letter from David Oakey of the University of Birmingham in The Guardian points out that whilst the new meaning of the verb ‘google’ appears in the 2006 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, it’s not the first time the word has been recorded. Earlier editions list ‘google’ as a verb meaning to bowl a googly (1907) and as an obsolete variant of ‘goggle’. But I don’t suppose that back then they’d thought of the Googlegänger.

Dawn of the digital natives? Or: When is reading not proper reading?

Literacy may not, after all, be killed off by technology

An interesting article by Steven Johnson on the front of this week’s Technology Guardian says that scary reports about the decline of reading in the digital age ignore all the screen reading that’s going on. He’s even found a study (in Michigan, admittedly) that found ‘that grades and reading scores rose with the amount of time spent online’. He concludes, ‘What separates the Google generation from postwar generations is the shift from largely image-based passive media to largely text-based interactive media.’ Why, everyone’s actually writing more now they’re on blogs and MySpace. The end of the literate world may not, after all, be at hand!

The National Literacy Trust published its own findings last December on Young people’s self-perceptions as readers. They surveyed 1143 pupils who defined themselves as ‘readers’ and 471 pupils who defined themselves as ‘non-readers’. However, their findings show, in an interesting reflection of Steven Johnson’s comments, that ‘the a huge percentage of non-readers do read, just not the kinds of materials that are traditionally associated with reading.’ Take a look at the full survey findings to learn more.

Web 3.0 is all about rank and recommendation

Both Rank and recommendation on this site…

It’s good to receive an unsolicited plug in The Guardian, though I must say that I’m still trying to catch up with Web 2.0. Whatever happened to Web 2.1 and all the other incremental steps? Well, it turns out that ‘the technology is not enough on its own,’ which is reassuring in a way.

Meanwhile, Literary Connections has plenty of recommendations….

Is Wikipedia wicked? To Google or not to Google?

Prescribed reading lists or more information literacy?

After the magnificently named Tara Brabazon’s article on Bowling Google a googly in the Guardian on 22 January, there’s a more measured response to the problems of plagiarism (deliberate or otherwise) from Dr Stephen Thornton of Cardiff University. In this week’s paper he makes a plea for ‘more information literacy’ and a less ‘Stalinist’ approach than Professor Tara’s refusal to mark anything that comes from material she hasn’t prescribed for her first year students.

Sack the bad teachers – Woodhead must go!

Ofsted now rates the teacher training provided at Buckingham as just “satisfactory”

Hugh Muir reports in today’s Guardian that ‘Ofsted now rates the teacher training provided at Buckingham – the only private university in England – as just “satisfactory”.’ Oh dear, and that’s where the teachers’ friend, former chief inspector of schools (and occasional Telegraph columnist) Chris Woodhead now works, along with Professor Anthony O’Hear, once Mrs Thatcher’s education guru, and Professor Alan Smithers. As Muir comments, ‘Must raise standards, they always say. Certainly we must.’

Is this what they mean by a private education? Or just unfair?

Pupils at private school discover their teacher in ‘shocking soft-porn’ advert on YouTube, Daily Mail reports – and the teacher disputes it

Pupils at private school discover their teacher in ‘shocking soft-porn’ advert on YouTube, Daily Mail reports

‘Is this what all English teachers get up to?’ said a friend to me yesterday. It seems his son’s English teacher is the latest to be snared by the ghost of follies past because of the Internet. I must say that his cheerful reaction seemed rather unwarranted in the circumstances. Not that the comments in the paper read much better. ‘It is absolutely awful, morally,’ the Mail quoted one parent as saying, ‘especially given the type of school she teaches in.’ (Had this been a bog-standard comprehensive, it was implied, such conduct would have been acceptable.) ‘Headteacher Andrew Chicken said the school was looking into the case,’ the paper reports. Mr Chicken was pictured in his academic robes and grinning far too broadly in view of the gravity of the situation (nay, he almost seems to be smirking). Headmaster, please don’t look any more closely – avert your eyes! The students also appear to be treating this with unseemly levity; one is quoted as leaving a message for the unfortunate teacher on YouTube: ‘Perhaps you could sign autographs at the bag racks.’

Still, let’s look at the advantages. As the Mail’s report says in its opening sentence, ‘When pupils at a private school found their English teacher starring in a raunchy video on the Internet, they paid attention like never before.’ Reading the Daily Mail site is never good for those of a liberal disposition, however; the right hand side of the web page carrying this article is headed Femail; on the day I visited the page, the first article said: ‘Is it breasts, height, amount of body hair? A new book reveals the secrets of attraction …’ (Clearly the answer is no – it’s being an English teacher that counts for most.)

I shall refrain from linking to the news article: find the Daily Mail for 16 January 2008 for yourselves if you must.

Latest news: ‘Mum defends teacher’, the Manchester Evening News reports on 19 January – and quite right too, especially when it seems the film may have been edited after shooting to change the emphasis. After all, this could happen to anyone, couldn’t it, your Majesty?

Unfortunately, the Sun, that defender of freedom, has also reported the case (it’s now a ‘sex film’ – note the inverted commas, boys and girls). The comments posted by readers appear to support the teacher and at least show some erudition: ‘I suppose if she had played the lead in Romeo an Juliet (with the nude scene as written in by W Shakespeare) she would have been OK,’ says ‘jimboman’. Funny, I don’t remember that in the Folio, Jim: have you been watching too many videos yourself? With friends from the Sun….

Sign of hard times

‘Sub-prime’ is 2007’s word of the year

The American Dialect Society chose ‘sub-prime’ as 2007’s word of the year. Presumably it’s been made to a NINJA: ‘No Income, No Job or Assets. A poorly documented loan made to a high-risk borrower.’ Amongst the ‘most creative’ nominations was ‘Googlegänger: person with your name who shows up when you google yourself’.

Happy Christmas!

What’s your own favourite Christmas reading?

At one time, it seemed to be the job of the Head of English to select something modern to accompany the traditional readings at the school Carol Service. T S Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’ was a common, if not necessarily popular, choice. In my classroom, I preferred Charles Causley’s more accessible (and more amusing) ‘Ballad of the Bread Man’, with its arresting opening:
Baby in crib
Mary stood in the kitchen
Baking a loaf of bread.
An angel flew in the window
‘We’ve a job for you,’ he said.

U A Fanthorpe’s enjoyable Christmas sequence, including ‘Cat in the Manger’ and ‘The Wicked Fairy’, has a similar tone. Her Christmas Poems are well-worth seeking out.

John Betjeman’s ‘Christmas’ was another favourite; it must be an English trait to treat this central Christian festival in such a low key, ironic manner before hinting at belief. There is, of course, a long traditional of Christmas verse in English, including Christina Rossetti’s ‘Christmas Carol’ (‘In the bleak mid-winter’), which has become so well-known as, well, a Christmas carol, that it’s easy to forget it’s not traditional. More on the Christmas page.

What’s your own favourite Christmas reading, for the classroom or comfortably by the fireside?