The freedictionary.com tells me that the definition for “mind-boggling” is “intellectually or emotionally overwhelming,” or “astonishing, bewildering.” Which means I was right: it’s the perfect definition for how I’ve been feeling about the ways technology is morphing books. I’ve wavered between overwhelmed, astonished, and bewildered at the possibilities—and the pressures—of tracking the implications for my professional roles as writer, reader, and educator. And I’ve swung between intellectual curiosity at all the opportunities springing up, and the emotional attachment I have to the feel and smell of a “real” book in my hands.
Speaking of hands, often the best way to get past bewilderment is to get your hands on something and dig in. I had the fortunate experience last year of working as the project editor for a tech discovery curriculum that heavily featured technological devices such as iPads. Despite the fact that the curriculum didn’t focus on books—usually my comfort zone—working on the project opened my eyes to all sorts of creative possibilities. The curriculum writers whose work I was editing used technology to help young people understand their emotions, imagine their futures, and engage with other people and the world around them. In other words, the same things that I expect from books! By the time my role in the project was finished, I had gained a new appreciation for how technology might prove to be an enhancement—rather than a competitor or destroyer—of the more traditional book format I love.
One other not insignificant thing I learned: the curriculum was aimed at military youth in 5th through 12th grades, particularly those who, because their deployed parent is a reservist, don’t necessarily have regular interactions with other military youth. I gained a much greater appreciation for military families and what young people experience when a parent is deployed. These young people might be found in any classroom, and I want to remain more conscious of that as I walk into my next school visit.
The “Operation: Military Kids Tech Discovery Curriculum” is now onlin. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page and you’ll find the actual Activity Plans, which you can read if you’d like to get a feel for the curriculum itself. You may find yourself thinking—as I did—that if military youth can find it in themselves to be this resilient, then a grown-up children’s book writer like me can find it in herself to be resilient when it comes to changing book technology.
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