Friday, July 8, 2011

Techies

Well, here's something out of the ordinary for me. My kids and I got all teched out.

We read the book Make Way for Ducklings, only, since I was going all technological, the kids listened to the book on CD. 'Cuz we're old school like that.

After listening to the story several times over the course of a week or so, we took a trip through GoogleLitTrips.com. This site coordinates literature with Google Earth, allowing you to follow the steps your characters take through satellite images. I won't deny that it was kind of neat. Google Earth is kind of neat. But I'm not sure how much it added to our literary adventure.

My kids are way too young to really appreciate gazing upon satellite photos of far away places. But even when they do comprehend the coolness of that, I don't fully value the experience, as far as reading goes. If we were reading about ancient ruins in Mexico or the Eiffel Tower, absolutely. A bunch of ducks that fly and waddle around Boston? I don't know that pictures of the real place make the experience any better. Is seeing a photo of the actual river the ducks swam in better than the river in our minds? Or the river drawn in the book? I'm not convinced. Good writing gives you good pictures.

I perused  the site again to see if there were other "Lit Trips" I might like to try in the future. I came upon one book I enjoyed reading with my sixth graders, Fever 1763. Now if Google Earth could take readers back to Colonial Philadelphia, that would be something else. But, it can't. I'm not sure the trip through the modern city would really enhance the readers' experience.

The one thing the "Lit Trips" does that is worthwhile, is it asks probing questions along the way, hitting key areas in Bloom's Taxonomy. If activating your kids' higher level thinking does not come naturally to you, you might appreciate targeted comprehension questions at key stopping points.

All in all, it was kind of a cool thing to do once. I won't rule out doing it again one day. But for now, I think we'll stick to the old-fashioned way of picturing the places we read about: using our imaginations.

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