Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Creating a Worldwide Literacy Community by Pam Allyn

These are my notes from Pam Allyn‘s Friday keynote, “Creating a Worldwide Literacy Community,” at the 2013 ICE Conference in St. Charles, Illinois. Pam is @pamallyn on Twitter. Pam’s website is “Lit World: Be The Story.” MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Pam Allyn at #ice13

Now is the most exciting time to be an educator! We can be connected to so many… story of being connected to educators in Kenya, running a lit club, inspired by the example of other peers who have been the first women they’ve known going beyond the 8th grade in school.

Over 800 million people around the world are illiterate, and over 2/3 of those are women

Many of us feel alone today
– all of us together having a human social responsibility
– this is how we can change the world together

Never before has literacy been as important

Literacy is humankind’s greatest and most lasting innovation

History is told by those who can write it down

When I started teaching in Brooklyn, New York, I taught deaf students
– Burt was a student I taught who had every stumbling block possible, but he was a fighter
– he was mad when he came into my classroom because no one had invited him into the literacy club, or for some reason he hadn’t heard or received that invitation

I asked Burt what his passion was and what he loved
– he said “animals”
– we got lots of books about animals, and we read together, we read aloud
– Burt drank it in
– we said you don’t have to do anything

The great educator Frank Smith once said “We all belong in the literacy club”
– we are not doing enough to get kids in the literacy club today
– I always think of Burt when I travel, remembering the kids who feel excluded from the literacy club
– that year, Burt felt INCLUDED, part of a community, part of the literacy club

about 9 months ago I was on Facebook and a message popped up
– it was the face of an adult man
– my husband could recognize Burt 25 years later
– he said, “I’ve been looking for you. Is this my beloved teacher?”

Anyone who says technology is detached, cold, taking us away from the wonder and smell of books
– when I hear people complain about missing the “smell of books,” I just want to tell them to bake some banana bread!
– remember the smell of books mean they are OLD, and it reminds me of my grandmother’s attic
– people do have nostalgia for things they miss
– Portuguese word: “Saudade” means longing or nostalgia

There are schools I go to in this country where I do NOT see students reading
– where

There is NO such thing as “children’s book publishing” in some countries in this world
– our children’s authors are bards and guides to help us understand what it means to be a child in this world

Many don’t understand that children have and deserve their own voices

The amazing thing about Margaret Wise Brown and “Goodnight Moon” is…
– we wonder to ourselves why children love this book
– 1 reason is because Margaret Wise Brown told a story about the here and now of childhood
– it wasn’t a moralistic story, that was how children’s literature had been before there (very preachy, teaching you good matters)
– Margaret Wise Brown was an early childhood educator: she taught adults what children were really thinking about
– stuff like this: It gets dark, and it’s scary when it’s dark
– separation is hard, it’s about life and death, about journeys that start and end
– this is a signal to use to STAY AWAKE
– don’t be lulled to sleep
– the world is hard
– each page of that book the clock hand moves, only 26 minutes go by
– for a child that is a long time

oral language and communication

The question “how were the last 7 years” is like the question “how was school today” to most kids in school

When my daughter went to school for the first time I asked her what her favorite part was:
– “I liked recess the best”
– I asked why and she said “that was the only part of the day I didn’t think about how I missed you so much”

We all generally have a few themes
– Hemingway, others…

We are inspired by a few things

Great thing about the blogging community: If you love something, you have passion for it, you can share it

What brings you to tech is the love of it

When I say literacy
– Technology is our power tool for the innovation of literacy

The Post It was a great innovation
– the inventor worked for 3M and was in church 1 day, wanting to put a note in the Bible that wouldn’t harm or tear the thin pages
– the reason that innovation worked is because you can put YOUR stories on it

I have a photo I carry everywhere wondering what her story would be

Thank God for Facebook, to reunite me with Burt

Steve Jobs could see the art in the mechanics around him

The art of literacy is the innovation, the connection
– it’s about ONLY CONNECT (Ian Forrester, 1932)
– he know what we are all trying to do here, the beauty of what you do in your work is ONLY CONNECTING

When I visited this school in Kenya they didn’t have any books
– now primary education is mandated, but there is no quality and there are no resources


“it’s not just technology’s triumph… It serves…”

The book and story “The Life of Pi” has heart in it
– we asked our Lit Club students: What’s in your heart? What’s in the map of your own heart…

It’s about Zelda, your mother, my cold cat, those themes that we revisit over and over
– they teach us something and they help us connect to the world about something

This is Jane, she loved animals
– she loved sitting outside
– one day she spent 5 hours in her family’s hen house and didn’t move, because she wanted to see an egg hatch
– that was Jane Goodall

She didn’t want to be inside, she wanted to watch things change outside, that was Jane
– however everyone was forced to learn outside

This was Barack
– in his latest State of the Union, you can hear this idea of repetition
– how smart he was to know he should write a memoir before he’d even lived half is live
– you can hear the words of King, Lincoln, and many others who came before him
– he know “story matters” from the beginning

Whatever your politics, this man is a great writer and he knows the power of story to win elections


Story of a woman inspired by Nancy Drew: courageous

Warren Buffet: became a great philanthropist
– when asked about early influences, he talked about being in his father’s shop, writing numbers in the back, having a paper route, insisting taxes be taken out of his salary
– he didn’t learn these things in school

I don’t like this about these stories: They happened outside of school
Maurice Sendak talks about being sickly and having to stay out of school

Beauty of technology as the warming revolution
– these authors could have been doing these things in school
– kids becoming teachers of others
– imagine Jane Goodall teaching her friends at school about what it means when a hen’s egg hatches?!
– think of these possibilities

we have these kids in our classrooms now
– we have the tools now
– we have that finger in the sand
– when I talk to teachers today who say “we don’t have the resources” I say “we need to advocate for them”
– the tablets

It is a human right to have technology in school, it is all about democracy

When people
– you have to read and write a lot!

why are we forcing kids to check their devices at the door? The revolution is that STORIES MATTER

My father as a volunteer for our organization in Nairobi just did one thing: Asked kids to tell him their stories

to be a good teacher you have to be a good listener
– great thing about the Internet and technology: we are listening to each other!

You make the time for things you love

in this revolution I want us to collect, share and enjoy stories

Why is it that reading aloud is so important to teachers, but we are pained when we tell teachers “We need to do it every day?”

We never hear a student say, “My favorite teacher was the one who did test prep with us”

If you want to have a legacy, you have to read aloud to kids
– as an incidental thing, the kids will do great on tests

I said to my daughter as she left for the ACT “Just remember the word mitigate”
– my daughter came back with wonder from the test: That word was on the test!

“Remember I come from a long line of women who knew what they were talking about”

World Read Aloud Day
– great to see ideas like this go viral!

We shouldn’t ‘take the day off’ of school for read aloud day
– we should be doing this in school every day
– that’s how I feel about access

access, access, access.

“Planting the Trees of Kenya” by Claire Nivola
– no one listened to her when she talked about the need to plant trees
– she realized it was a children’s movement
– the children made it come alive
– Wangari was a messenger for the children, just like Margaret Wise Brown remembered the loneliness and separation before dark

That is the truth of stories

Worldwide at least 793 million people remain illiterate, and

mobile – portable – democratic

we can bring books wherever we need to bring them
– put them in our pockets
– carry them with is
– text them to each other
– tweet them to us

our stories are mobile, portable and democratic

story connects us, story is human
– stories matter

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