Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rajeev Sethi

Yuriko interviews Rajeev Sethi.

Rajeev Sethi
(Graphic & Designer)

By Yuriko Lochan
I called upon Mr. Rajeev Sethi, an eminent scenographer and designer who travels to all corners of the world and remains involved in various important design projects in different corners of the globe. His office is situated in a residential area in the central part of South Delhi, behind a well-known shopping centre that has been recently enlivened by the influx of the arrival of increasingly more European and American specialty shops. We had been fostering our friendship for some years and I had the opportunity to assist him with his exhibition at the National Mall in Washington DC which he had designed for the Silk Road Festival, where I had helped him to create some of the exhibits. He was considerate enough to accommodate me with my request for an interview although he was extremely busy.

His office is located in a residential habitat and aptly illustrates his philosophy of using natural materials with a sense of generosity. The Library houses a collection of books on Asian design and architecture along with a collection of antique textile tastefully collected by Mr. Sethi himself. He is always stylishly clad in a loosely fitted Khadi garb which is made of hand spun and hand woven arborous cotton. His exhibition designs and his designs of interiors amply reveal his deep rooted association with the traditional art forms of the country so does his personal attire. He is therefore also committed to the improvement of the social status of the Indian craftsmen and the crafts that they create.

Rajeev says,
“I suppose you could say that my first project dates back to my childhood. The occasion was a festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, when children build a model of the village inhabited by Krishna called Jhanki, in one corner of the neighborhood. As a student, I had an opportunity to create a stage set for a dance performance, which was the fusion of the Indian traditional dance Kathak and Flamenco of Spain. Later, I discovered my interest in painting and received a scholarship to study graphic art at Paris. Subsequently, I worked at the studio of Pierre Cardin; however there came a time when I felt a certain emptiness towards the world of design. And it was chance that I came into contact with Mrs. Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay, the key person who had contributed towards reclaiming the value of Indian traditional art and crafts during the independence movement in India. I was compelled to wonder where does contemporary India exists. I questioned India’s design and craft trends which were completely following the examples set by European and American concepts and invariably sought to copy them. I wanted to discover what represents real India of our present times”.

The Exhibition “Aditi”, hosted by the Indian Government, exhibited over 2000 objects of arts and crafts, which ranged from the ancient to our times. It was an extremely ambitious project undertaken which involved around 40 village craftsmen and musicians who transformed exhibition spaces in New York and United Kingdom into replicas of Indian village scenes creating a similar ambiance. The event gained immense popularity and was acclaimed for its appeal.

An exhibition “Golden Eye” held in New York paid tribute to the craftsmen of India at the International level. The project incorporated traditional crafting skills which usually tend to be only valued as casual work and sought to promote those items that have a commercial potential. This unique consciousness and characteristics of the Indian craftsmen was consciously paired with internationally renowned designers. Sethi stressed the point that both the traditional craftsmen and the famous designers develop an environment of mutual respect regardless of their status.

Named after a village in the province of Orissa, “Dongar” was another project which was a collaboration between modern artists with traditional craftsmen whose skills have been passed down to them through generations. For the artists touched by the innocent sensibilities of the villagers, the encounter must have served as a rediscovery of India and indeed of mankind itself. For the villagers, who were inspired by the artists, it was a good opportunity to reaffirm the importance of their own skills. In the evening, the villagers played their drums and they all sang and danced together. It was then that they realized that tradition is not something to be restricted to a small, provisional scale, but rather, should be open and adaptable and that entertainment is also a form of art; at the origin, they were all one.

In India craftsmen still have a difficult life and nearly all of them lack assurances of their livelihood. Moreover, there is still a prevalent tendency to look condescendingly down upon craftsmen. Rajeev has organized a non-profit body called “SARTHI” that comprises of craftsmen and is endeavoring to improve the living conditions, health, education, skills, affluence, and marketing of India’s crafts.

Mr. Rajeev Sethi: specialized in History at college; received a scholarship from the Indian and French Governments and studied graphic art in Paris; later worked at Pierre Cardin’s studio for three years and returned to India in 1972. During the last 30 years, he has been noted internationally for his consistent contribution in presenting and celebrating Asia’s cultural heritage.

Mrs. Yuriko Lochan, an Artist born in Osaka in 1962, completed her undergraduate studies and obtained a Masters Degree in painting at the Faculty of Fine Art, Kyoto City University of Arts. She is a practicing artist and has been residing in India for the last 15 years after her marriage to an Indian artist.

Deccan, Chronic.

Is Karnataka following the Gujarat mode of development?

Between 1998 and 2000, communal incidents were reported every six months, every month between 2000 and 2004, and from 2004 on, we find that incidents occur every week."
The invariable plot for violence, he adds, is about a boy from a Muslim or Christian community ‘found being friendly’ with a Hindu girl, which leads to the self-styled protectors of the Hindu faith ‘intervening’ to ‘free’ the girl. Except intervening here means thrashing the boy. "We should remember that there was a sustained campaign against the Muslim community in Gujarat before Godhra happened," says Phaniraj. Just prior to the Surathkal riots in 1998, a lot of pamphlets warning young Hindu women against going with Muslim boys were circulated.

"There is a state of utter and complete lawlessness in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Bellary." H.D. Kumaraswamy Janata Dal (S) President

"One of them asked Hindu women to be cautious of Muslim men in footwear shops."
In fact, you would indeed think the Mangalore pub incident to be ‘trivial’ compared to earlier incidents in the region (See here) were it not for the staged replays of the event,

courtesy a local TV channel. On the very same day, Bajrang Dal men had barged into a private party and assaulted those present. And the man who instigated the pub attack, Prasad Attavar, had in 2007 assaulted a Muslim boy at the Ideal Ice-cream Parlour in the heart of Mangalore for talking to a Hindu girl. More ghastly, however, was the 2005 incident in a Puttur cinema when two men (one Muslim) and two Hindu women working in an areca processing factory had gone to see a movie. Around 150 Bajrang Dal activists barged in, dragged the four out and assaulted them before handing them over to the police. As recently as six months ago, a Muslim and Hindu couple living together were forced to return to their native Gadag by parivar activists. "Intrusion into private spaces has become common," says Phaniraj.

The girls who were assaulted by Mutalik’s Sena

Rajashekar rues that even people have become insensitive. "The pub incident is not a one-off criminal act as the CM and home minister are trying to project," he says. "It is part of a political programme. The fact that TV cameras were in position before the incident took place reminds me of the Walter Benjamin observation that ‘Fascism makes a spectacle of its ideology’. People are not shocked by what has happened. They simply watched it like any TV serial."

Father Prashant Madtha, former principal of St Aloysius College, Mangalore, attributes the frequent eruptions in the city to a clash of cultures. "Because of the various educational institutions in the area, Mangalore has witnessed an influx of people from across India. The locals feel threatened by the outsiders and feverishly protect their culture from corruption."

Amidst all this are fears that the constabulary too has been communalised. But state DG and IG of police, R. Srikumar, dismisses the idea outright. "It is easy for people to pass value judgements," he says. "Let those who accuse us give us in writing the names of officers who have acted communally and we’ll investigate the charges."

The other worry is the media. "The local media here has coopted the language of the parivar," rues Phaniraj. "So, the common man has started accepting propaganda without questioning it." The general attitude of the Sangh to media non-compliance was evident in the case of B.V. Seetharam, the editor of the Mangalore-based newspaper Karavali Ale and a Sangh critic. Handcuffed and arrested in an alleged extortion case on January 6, he is still in prison.

The quality of public discourse too seems to have reached a nadir ever since the BJP has come to power.There seems to be no middle path. Following the church attacks, a mainstream Kannada newspaper ran a poisoned debate on the issue of conversions for over a month. The right-wing historian and novelist S.L. Bhyrappa, who opened the debate, claimed that "there was an alarming increase in conversions ever since Sonia Gandhi had come to power". He also endorsed a study which said that every day "5,000 people in India were converting to Christianity".

Besides the coastal districts, there has been an uneasy calm at other flashpoints like Baba Budangiri since 2004, where the Sangh parivar is hell-bent on converting the Sufi shrine with a rich tradition of religious syncretism into an exclusive Hindu pilgrimage centre. BJP leader H.N. Ananth Kumar had vowed to make it the ‘Ayodhya of Karnataka’. The Hubli Idgah Maidan issue had cropped up temporarily in September 2004 when Uma Bharati courted arrest and lost her chief ministership, but there has been little noise since then. The silence is eerie, however, and with a BJP government in power, pregnant.

Cherry Blossoms in Winter..

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Frida Kahlo Doll

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and another vietnamese bag!

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the bag i have been looking for for months and finally found!

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Mexican Dog

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Peruvian Musician

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with baby

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Hmong and Peruvian Dolls

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boxy smile

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i love boxes

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chinese new year dragon

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ducks on a carousel

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a new expression

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Sacred Music Festival in Delhi in Febuary

Here is a review of it, in the times of india.

Happy Singh

Khushwant Singh writes an obit for Happy Singh, who passed away recently.

Let me repeat for the umpteenth time: there must never be another Indo-Pak war. If, god forbid, there is one, there will be no winners. Both India and Pakistan have long-range missiles that can ruin both countries. So let us tell the sabre-rattlers in clear terms, be they Pakistanis or Indians, that war is too serious a matter to be left to soldiers or politicians. Only common men, women and children who will be most affected by its impact have the right to take this decision.

If necessary, make human chains extending from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea, one on the Pakistani side, the other on the Indian. And let the tanks and armoured cars run over the chains before they start firing their guns. There are people of peace and goodwill who will gladly volunteer to stake their lives for their countries.

We have our Kuldip Nayyars and Swami Agniveshs to lead them; they have their Asma Jehangirs, Najam Sethis and Jugnu Mohsins to lead them. This is what Gandhi would have done. This is what Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, would have done. This is what you and I should be doing.

So what are the options when our relations come close to breaking point, as they did after the attack in Mumbai on 26/11?
We proved to the world that the perpetrators were Pakistanis. Since the crime was committed with military precision, we proved to the world that the criminals were trained by professionals on Pakistani soil. Pakistan’s rulers were reluctant to admit that because it would reflect on their inability to control subversive elements. I’m convinced that in their hearts
they know our charges to be true and in due course will concede it.

We have also proved to the world that Pakistan is ruled by important men whose writ does not run beyond a few miles around Islamabad, and that its social norms are dictated by demented mullahs who close down girls schools, force women to wear burqas and impose medieval codes of conduct on the masses. They also preach hatred against Indians. We have to jointly wage a relentless war against them till they are stamped out of existence. If we succeed, we can live in peace as good neighbours.

The good die young
Whenever a young person close to me dies, my first reaction is to ask why he or she had to die without enjoying life to the full. This happened recently when my nephew Binny’s wife Happy died suddenly one morning. She was in good health. The evening before I had seen her playing with the children of the mohalla. You would not mistake her: a mass of grey-black hair cascading down to her waist and a diamond sparkling on her nose. Full of vitality and happy laughter.

Early next morning she had acute pain in her chest. Instead of waking up her husband sleeping next to her, she rang up a friend. The friend insisted she wake him up and take her to a hospital. At first, the doctor did not think it was serious and told her he would have her up and about soon. That was not to be. They brought her back in a glass coffin. I got the news from my daughter. I was stunned with disbelief.

Though the mother of a grown-up daughter Sanam, working in Dubai, I regarded her as a girl. I only knew her nickname Happy — and happy she always was. Happy had the unique distinction of being liked by everyone in our extended family in which outward bonhomie often conceals backbiting and bitchiness. She was not interested in petty squabbles and was more inclined towards spiritual matters. While others spend their evenings in the Gold or Gymkhana clubs, she did the rounds of bookstores in Khan Market. On her way home, she occasionally dropped in to chat with me.

“Mamaji, I am not interested in politics or fiction, I’m into metaphysics,” she said to me once. I didn’t understand what she meant by metaphysics and asked her to elucidate. “Religion, love, other-worldiness, spirituality and that sort of thing, you know,” she replied. I didn’t understand but nodded my head.

It was a strange preoccupation for a woman who was the niece of a famous soldier, General Harbaksh Singh, and moved in high society. She did most of the talking during the arguments she had with preachers of religion and their disciples. She always got the better of them as she was better read and had thought over problems of life and death. Some relations say that she had a premonition that her time was coming to an end. She had told them and arranged some of her affairs — ‘in case’. On her 60th and last birthday, she told her friends not to bring any presents. Instead, she gave them gifts in return.

I wonder why nature does not provide a fixed period of time for people to enjoy all that life has to offer before they go.

Most people are in reasonably good shape until their 70s. Then the body begins to show marks of deterioration — life becomes a burden to oneself and those around you. I ask Happy wherever she is, “Why did you have to leave us so early?”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

words of wisdom

=== - Daily Quote ===

>From listening there is an action

Do you understand what I mean by a reaction? You insult me, you say something which I don't like, and I react; or I like what you say, and again I react. But is it not possible to listen to what another says without reacting? Surely, if I listen to find out the truth or the falseness of what you are saying, then from that listening, from that perception, there is an action which is not reaction.

Collected Works, Vol. XIII - 233

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The perils of inheriting a war

Juan Cole on Obama's first move to bomb villages in Wazirstan.

Jan. 26, 2009 | On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered an Air Force drone to bomb two separate Pakistani villages, killing what Pakistani officials said were 22 individuals, including between four and seven foreign fighters. Many of Obama's initiatives in his first few days in office -- preparing to depart Iraq, ending torture and closing Guantánamo -- were aimed at signaling a sharp turn away from Bush administration policies. In contrast, the headline about the strike in Waziristan could as easily have appeared in December with "President Bush" substituted for "President Obama." Pundits are already worrying that Obama may be falling into the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam trap, of escalating a predecessor's halfhearted war into a major quagmire. What does Obama's first military operation tell us about his administration's priorities?

Obama's first meeting with his team on national security issues focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the course of which the new president is reported to have endorsed the drone attacks. Friday's were the first major U.S. airstrikes on Pakistani territory since Jan. 1, because the Pakistan Taliban Movement in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) had launched a campaign to discover local informants for the Central Intelligence Agency, killing 40 of them. The two cells the U.S. hit are accused of raiding over the border into Afghanistan, lending support to the Taliban there.

The tribal notable Khalil Dawar, who lived near the village of Mir Ali in Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency, hosted a party of five alleged al-Qaida operatives in the guesthouse on his property. An American drone hit the site with three Hellfire missiles. According to the Pakistani press, the strike not only killed the four Arab fighters and a Punjabi militant, but also the Pashtun host and some of his family members. A few hours later, missiles slammed into another residence near the village of Wana in a nearby tribal agency, South Waziristan, killing 10. Pakistani sources disagreed over whether there had been any foreign fighters at all at the second target, with locals claiming that 10 family members, including women and children, were the only victims. Villagers in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt sometimes rent to the Arab fighters because they are sympathetic to their struggle, but sometimes they just need the money.

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The U.S. committed itself, when it overthrew the largely Pashtun Taliban in 2001, to building up a new government in Afghanistan and restoring the country to stability. The new government of President Hamid Karzai, however, was viewed as disproportionately benefiting northern ethnic groups such as the Tajiks, Hazara and Uzbeks. NATO search and destroy missions in the ethnically Pashtun south of the country alienated villagers, as did forcible eradication of lucrative poppy crops. The Taliban revived, and new groups emerged allied with them, turning to suicide bombings and attacks on the new Afghan army and on NATO and U.S. troops. Obama has committed to dealing with this problem by increasing the size of the U.S. and NATO troop contingent in Afghanistan, which already stands at more than 50,000, but the plan is facing stiff resistance from NATO allies and their publics.

Sandwiched between the lush river-fed plains of Pakistan and the deserts and mountains of southern Afghanistan, the 13 Federally Administered Tribal Areas are a no-man's land that is technically part of Pakistan but seldom truly controlled by Islamabad. Ethnically, the inhabitants are Pashtuns, the same group that dominates southern Afghanistan, and many of them deeply sympathize with those Afghan neighbors who are fighting Western troops and the Karzai government. In recent years, tribal and village organizations in FATA have been shunted aside by Muslim radicals who formed the Pakistan Taliban movement, emulating the Taliban of Afghanistan. They not only raid into southern Afghanistan but have also committed terrorist acts in Pakistani cities such as Peshawar and Islamabad.

The Bush administration launched 30 air attacks on targets in Pakistan in 2008, killing 220 persons. The strikes seem to have started in the summer, during the presidential campaign, about a year after candidate Obama began urging this policy. Bush may have instituted the aerial attacks to deny Obama a campaign talking point and to prevent him from out-hawking John McCain. That is, Obama may have pushed Bush -- who had earlier been wary of alienating Pakistan -- to the right. The American bombing of the tribal areas occurs with tacit Pakistani government acquiescence as a result of a secret agreement reached last September, despite the sometimes vehement public denunciations that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani issues after they've occurred.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Marketing the Obama Girls

Washington Post is reporting that President Obama's daughters have a doll each, named "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia". Marketing knows no bounds.

First lady Michelle Obama, who has described herself "first and foremost . . . Malia and Sasha's mom," has defended her daughters' likeness, saying it is not proper for a company that makes the plush Beanie Babies to produce dolls called Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia.

Ty recently released the 12-inch dolls in their collection called TyGirlz. The dolls have soft brown skin and big eyes. Ty's Web site shows Sweet Sasha wearing two pigtails and a pink and white dress, with Marvelous Malia doll wearing her hair to the right side and a blue-green shirt.

The company, which is based in Oak Brook, Ill., has said the dolls are not made to be exact replicas of the first couple's daughters and are not based on the Obama girls.

Since their father's campaign, fascination with Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, has grown intense, with Web sites devoted to photos of the girls, what they are wearing and what they are doing.

The girls have become fashion icons. Thousands of people tried ordering the J. Crew coats that the girls wore on Inauguration Day. Malia wore a blue coat with a blue bow, and Sasha wore a guava pink coat with a tangerine scarf.

Girls across the Washington area watched Malia and Sasha dance at the Kids' Inaugural concert at the Verizon Center on Monday. They have read about the sleepover the Obama girls had at the White House and the surprise visit by the Jonas Brothers. Children have written to the Obamas inviting the girls to join local Girl Scout troops, clubs and play groups. Michelle Obama has said she is focused on making sure the girls are settled in their new life in Washington.

On Thursday, Jenna and Barbara Bush, daughters of former president George W. Bush, wrote a letter to Sasha and Malia, giving them advice on living as "family members of a president."

"Sasha and Malia," the Bushes wrote in a letter published in the Wall Street Journal, "it is your turn now to fill the White House with laughter. . . . It isn't always easy being a member of the club you are about to join. Our dad, like yours, is a man of great integrity and love; a man who always put us first. We still see him now as we did when we were seven: as our loving daddy. Our Dad, who read to us nightly, taught us how to score tedious baseball games. He is our father, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV. Many people will think they know him, but they have no idea how he felt the day you were born, the pride he felt on your first day of school, or how much you both love being his daughters. So here is our most important piece of advice: remember who your dad really is."

thanks Nayan for the link.

thought for the day

When you get upset or disturbed, remember that it is the EGO that gets upset and disturbed and tell him, "I do not want you, get away, out of me."

- The Mother [p-65, White Roses, Sixth Edition, 1999]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Charles Wheeler Memorial at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey tribute to Charles Wheeler

20 January 2009

By John Mair

BBC director general Mark Thompson has described Sir Charles Wheeler as the 'the best reporter in the BBC's history' when he led the tributes at a memorial service held at Westminster Abbey today.

The "reporters' reporter" died last year after a career which saw him heralded as the ultimate broadcast journalism craftsman.

As well as Thompson, attendees at today's service included BBC director of vision Jana Bennett, director of the World Service Nigel Chapman, Sir John Tusa, former BBC director of news and current affairs Tony Hall, former editor of Newsnight Tim Gardam and Channel 4 founding father Sir Jeremy Isaacs.

The on-screen faces were out in force too, including David Dimbleby, Peter Snow, Angela Rippon, Peter Jay and John Cole.

Sir Charles's wife and two daughters, Shirin and Marina paid their own tributes. Marina's husband London Mayor Boris Johnson - complete with bicycle bag - was present but did not speak.

Thompson had worked with Wheeler as a young producer on Newsnight. He was unstinting in his admiration for "'the finest reporter in the BBC's history". He said that Wheeler "told the story of the 20th century in beautiful sparse English".

Thompson admitted that Wheeler "could be very canterkerous but always for a cause". He said he "hated mediocrity" and "valued every word". Hence he was willing to row "with anybody at any time over quality".

Wheeler started his journalistic career nearly seven decades ago as copy boy on the Daily Sketch before joining the BBC where he would become its most distinguished foreign correspondent ever in Germany, South East Asia, Germany again and then, most memorably, in the US during the Johnson and Nixon eras.

His daughter Shirin said in her address: "He was quietly outraged by injustice."

In her and her sister Marina's tribute she described Wheeler as a "first class human being" and the man who loved nothing more after a foreign filming trip than to go digging in his garden. Today, they said, they feel closest to him there.

Wheeler was a one off - making programmes of quality and commitment even into his 85th year.

He loved reporting, loved finding out new things, and had the great journalist's knack of causing mischief while telling great stories. Management at the BBC often attracted his ire.

He once very famously cut the new broom John Birt down to size in a public meeting over his management speak. Lord Birt did not attend the memorial.

thanks Nayan for the link

so that our kids can fly...

I thought Devis with babies said it best today..

Friday, January 16, 2009

Barack Obama writes to his daughters

Barack writes to his daughters here.

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better-and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much-although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you-to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

Tina Sani sings Faiz

Tina Sani sings Faiz's lyrics.

And another beautiful ghazal here.

Thanks Amitava for the link

George Bush Presidency

Juan Cole writes poignantly about the differences between himself and W.

So Bush, the impudent, opinionated, stubborn socialite is made president in 2000 by his daddy's rightwing friends on the supreme court. And because of September 11 he gets his chance to avenge the failed Vietnam War, and to kill Saddam Hussein, the unpleasant little brown man who had dared defy W.'s wealthy and powerful daddy.

W. wasn't up to dealing with the Middle East. It is a complex, vital, fractious place and is notorious as the graveyard of modern presidencies. Carter was done in by Iranian hostage-takers. Reagan embroiled himself in Iran-Contra. Bush Sr. imprudently took on the Israel lobbies over loan guarantees for Israeli colonies on the West Bank, and that misstep helped cost him reelection.

W. is a frightful combination of ignorant, dull, and pigheaded when to succeed in the Middle East he needed to be well-informed, bright and intellectually agile.

Those were my stomping grounds; I knew them the way W. knows Houston. But when I objected to his policies at this little weblog, my mailbox was flooded with hate mail from people who thought W. knew best about the Middle East. As if you could get experience, knowledge and wisdom about the world from 20 years of bar hopping in Texas. Did the man even have a passport?

His war in Afghanistan was little more than an aerial intervention in favor of the Northern Alliance, who, given close air support, easily rolled back the Taliban. But Talibanism was not merely an ephemeral political ideology that could so easily be defeated. It was a cry for order on the part of a brutalized and often exiled population that had suffered Soviet and warlord wars. It was a cry for authenticity on the part of a people warding off foreign domination. It was a vehicle of Pushtun power at a time when the Dari Persian speakers had found new patrons such as Iran and India. Talibanism was not defeated in 2001, it simply went underground for a while.

Bush had a huge country to deal with in Afghanistan, a little larger than France but with a geography more like the American southwest-- and analogues to the Rocky Mountains and the Arizona desert. It was among the poorest countries in the world, seeded with millions of land mines and haunted by widows, orphans, and the maimed. Riven by ethnic, linguistic, religious and tribal divisions, it was a virtual basket case. Bush promised to make the big investments in it that would bring it back from the brink. He lied. From 2001 through 2006, my recollection is that the US spent $80 bn. on war operations in Afghanistan and $10 billion in civilian aid. It was a drop in the bucket.

Bush boasted last night about Afghanistan being some sort of shining democracy. I wish Afghans well, but no countries that poor and desperate are stable democracies. The Karzai government would collapse in short order if the US and NATO troops weren't propping it up. The Taliban and other guerrilla insurgencies operate with impunity in places like Ghazni not far from the capital. And, Bush's harping on the liberation of Afghan women is just annoying. Women are better off than under Taliban rule, which was pathologically misogynist. But rural Afghan tribes haven't suddenly decided to treat their women differently. Some warlords regiment the women under their control only a little less thoroughly than had the Taliban. And, besides,the Taliban themselves are back and dictating such matters in some of the Pushtun areas.

Bush has not bequeathed us a shining city on a hill in Afghanistan, but a crippled state in need of billions of dollars of investments that we no longer have because of Bush's kleptomaniac buddies, whom he enabled.

Bush essentially left a small garrison in Afghanistan and tried to deal with its monumental problems on the cheap. Instead, he diverted the needed resources to his building war with Iraq already by winter of 2002. All of the lies and propaganda whereby he dragged us into Iraq, all of the fearmongering and falsehoods, are too well known to rehearse.

The US has been involved in unjust wars before. But it had fought few wars of choice, in which it just fell on another country without having been attacked. The US had tried to stay neutral in both the world wars. Bush blustered and grunted, shouted accusations and plotted provocations, postured and told tall tales, and herded us into an illegal war with intimations we faced the threat of a madman with nukes. He had no evidence for these false and outrageous claims.

He praised Iraq as a pro-American democracy last night. Bush confuses elections with democracy. Bush had nothing to say about the price Iraqis played to have this rogue experiment on their lives. Did he kick off conflicts that killed over a million Iraqis? That massive toll is entirely plausible. Then there would be 3 million wounded, and a million widowed, and 5 million orphaned. He had nothing to say about the swathe of destruction he has left across the Middle East, like the slimy trail of a huge calamitous slug. Bush has destabilized the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region. Turkish-Kurdish, Arab-Kurdish and Sunni-Shiite battles loom that could redraw the map of the region. We may muddle through, but it is too early to tell. Bush just can't help flashing that "Mission Accomplished" neon whenever he talks about his achievements in Iraq.

There are weasels among the pundits who say that Bush has been vindicated, insofar as Iraq has regained better security than it had in 2006. This is like saying that the Norwegian brown rat was vindicated when the Black Death ran its course, having killed a third of Europe before it subsided.

Bush has not redeemed the Vietnam War but rather made us live through something very like it all over again, the only difference being that this time we are likely to have the sense to get out before we are thrown out.

Bush even dared address us about how wonderful things are in the Middle East now without bringing up the ongoing massacre of Palestinians in Gaza or the continued expropriation and statelessness of the Palestinian people, who may as well be slaves. Bush was the first US president to call for a Palestinian state, and he had pledged that he would accomplish something to revive the peace process in the final two years of his catastrophic presidency. But he ended his second term with a mediocre rightwing Israeli prime minister openly boasting of ordering him around.

Bush was never more than a screw-up. He admitted when running for president that there were deficiencies in his knowledge and experience, but he said he would make up for that by appointing good people around him. It turns out that if someone doesn't have a lick of common sense, he won't even know which of his advisers is giving him wise counsel, and he sure as hell won't know how to appoint wise people to advise him in the first place. W. thought the trustworthy, competent people were Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. He doesn't seem to have taken Colin Powell seriously, and the way he used and discarded Powell is yet another stain on his disastrous presidency.

W. had the gall to exploit people of color at his stage-managed farewell, even though his party is overwhelmingly White and he has driven people of color into much deeper poverty in contrast to Clinton, who raised the standard of living for the poor and actually enforced civil and voting rights. W. brought a native of New Orleans before the cameras last night, as though this gesture could erase his maddening unconcern toward the damage done one of the country's great cities by his own lackadaisical attitude.

Bush lumbers off into his Dallas gated community (until recently whites-only), having dropped the pretense of being a rancher who liked to "clear brush." He has enriched his cronies in the military-industrial complex, and opened Iraq to investment by US petroleum firms. But the US economy was hollowed out by an administration that did not believe in auditing the books or actually regulating businesses as the law requited. Bush was a socialist on military and security issues and an anarchist when it came to curbing the abuses of corporations or the white-tie superwealthy that he called his base.

Bush never escaped the habits of his ne'er-do-well undergraduate days at Yale. In the end, he replaced being drunk on beer with being drunk on power. He replaced wooing the women with wooing the corporations. He replaced frat boy hijinks with ruinous wars that wrought a devastation across the rugged expanse of West Asia unlike anything seen since the pagan Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258.

Our nation renews itself, and makes small revolutions with its political campaigns. We have the opportunity now, to choose truth over propaganda, responsibility over recklessness, compassion over brutality, altruism over self-interest, and ability over incompetence. We have the opportunity to repudiate the past 8 years, and to transcend them once and for all, to redeem ourselves as a nation. The persons we choose to serve us as first among equals in our republic can bring us shame or honor as a nation. But it is our choices as individuals that make us shameful or honorable in ourselves. We must never again allow a crew of crooked bullies to make us underlings, lest we be laid to rest in dishonorable graves.

Digital and Media instruction in the classroom

Reading Rockets has a fascinating article on the use of laptops and technology in the classroom. It has a great resource list of websites that teachers can use.

This article describes how digital and media literacies are woven into a fourth-grade classroom. Background on how a teacher and school brought new literacies to students through the use of technology is revealed so that other teachers can engage in similar instructional support.

As new literacies that include digital and media technologies evolve, preparing students to understand and adjust to these literacy demands is critical to current and future expectations for pleasure and work (International Reading Association, 2001; Leu, Mallette, Karchmer, & Kara-Soteriou, 2005). For instance, teachers may identify with past models of literacy that are paper and pencil bound; however, new conceptions involve continually changing views of reading and writing, particularly with the advent of the Internet (Leu et al., 2004; Warschauer, 2006). These new literacies include innovative text formats (multiple media or hybrid texts; Lemke, 1998), new reader expectations (reading nonlinearly; Warschauer, 2006), and new activities (website publication; Leu et al., 2004). They extend traditional literacy experiences with comprehension of information on the Internet; effective use of search engines to locate information; evaluation of Internet sources; communication using e-mail, texts, and chats; and the use of word processing programs (International Society for Technology in Education, 2007).

The Internet has caused educators to confront issues related to new technologies, as previous technological innovations have never been adopted so rapidly and in so many places simultaneously. The Internet allows for immediate dissemination of information through the click of a single link, for instance (Warschauer, 2006). Moreover, Internet access has become common in schools. In 2005, approximately 95% of K-12 classrooms in the United States had Internet access (Parsad & Jones, 2005). Additionally, 80% of kindergartners use computers and over 50% of children younger than 9 years old use the Internet (Goldberg, Russell, & Cook, 2003). However, the average of U.S. students' use of computers in school was 12 minutes per week (Wells & Lewis, 2006). This descriptive data points out that computers and Internet access are available to students, but most students do not have sufficient time in school with this technology to develop new literacies.

Bringing new literacies into a classroom is not an easy task for a teacher, especially when two thirds of teachers feel underprepared to use technology (Kajder, 2005). Teachers face additional challenges as well. These include problems with resources (lack of technology, time, or technical support), teacher knowledge and skills (inadequate technological and pedagogical knowledge), school leadership (lack of school planning or scheduling), teachers' attitudes and beliefs (not valuing or being fearful of the use of new technologies), and assessments (traditional rather than matching new literacies' expectations; Hew & Brush, 2007). Additionally, Leu et al. (2005) identified the following three important points to ponder before bringing new literacies to classrooms:

Simply using software programs on computers does not prepare students for new literacies' expectations.
New literacies are deictic in that they constantly change and require teachers to embrace these changes.
New literacies are essential in classrooms so that equal opportunities are offered to all students.
Although educators may assume that bringing new literacies into the classroom, especially through the use of a laptop for each child (one-to-one laptops), is a new technological innovation in education, the reality is that these structures have been in existence for almost 20 years (Dunleavy, Dexter, & Heinecke, 2007). The first documented use of one-to-one laptops was in Melbourne at a private girls' school in 1990 (Johnstone, 2003). In the late 1990s, Microsoft's initiative, Anytime Anywhere Learning Program, brought laptop learning to 1,000 schools. By 2005, 55% of U.S. schools had instructional laptops, although not necessarily one-to-one laptop classrooms (Warschauer, 2006). Many schools used carts with laptops with wireless access to support instruction as a substitution or transition to one-to-one laptop classrooms.

Warschauer's (2006) research found that laptops and connections to the Internet provided scaffolding for many classroom topics, thus building background knowledge. He noted increased student engagement in wireless classrooms as students participated in more diverse writing activities, analysis of reading, and use of media-production software. Finally, he observed how students gained control of reading on the page as well as the screen. The students realized that there was more to a computer than games or chatting and gained practice in reading for a variety of purposes, such as interpreting the textual and visual elements in a document and knowing how to navigate and find information.

As more classrooms and schools adopt one-to-one laptop instruction, the need to document the work of teachers and students in such settings is important (Dunleavy et al., 2007). The descriptions found in this article provide the pragmatic details of making such a transition in instruction and can serve as roadmaps for teachers considering such a shift in their instructional practice. We have responded to the need for rich description of exemplary new literacies instruction by sharing Todd Wright's journey in bringing laptops and new literacies into his school and classroom. Todd (second author) teaches at Fernley Elementary, a rural Nevada elementary school with about 565 students. The majority of students are white (68%) with the largest minority group being Hispanic (24%). Approximately 45% of students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch.

Todd's classroom through the experiences of Michael
In most schools, the opening day is spent with students coming to know their new teacher and classmates, getting materials, and learning the new rules and expectations. Imagine the excitement on fourth-grade students' faces when, in addition to meeting their teacher, Mr. Wright, and their classmates, they are issued their own laptops for the year, which they will use in and out of school.

To gain an understanding of what learning is like in this classroom, we share a narrative centered on the literacy instruction of Michael-a collective identity of several students. This example brings the use of technology as a tool to life as it showcases how a laptop complements and extends traditional literacy learning and supports student engagement. We provide a photograph of students working in Todd's class (see Figure 1) so that readers can get a sense of the classroom. To see additional visuals of students and their classwork, visit The descriptions shared in this article only target explicit literacy instruction and learning; however, technology is integrated with all subject areas including math, science, and social studies.

Figure 1. Students in Todd's classroom

Routines in Michael's Literacy Instruction
As soon as Michael enters his classroom, he takes out his laptop to pick up any files from the school server that his teacher has put there for the day and checks the class webpage (see Figure 2 for the layout of the class webpage). These files may include learning centers, writing prompts, graphic organizers, digital worksheets, URLs, media files (pictures, audio, or video), or corrected work. By bringing these files to his computer, Michael is ready for the teaching and learning expectations of the day. Michael then synchronizes his class calendar with the teacher's so he has the up-to-date homework and event schedule.

Once these activities are complete, he checks to see what the morning sponge is (an activity to keep students engaged as Todd checks in with individual students). Today the sponge is centered on vocabulary, so Michael uses the thesaurus on his laptop for the word launched so that he can gain an idea of what this word means and learn about related words. He then uses his word processing application to write a sentence using this word, thereby demonstrating his understanding of its definition. Complementing the sentence is a nonlinguistic representation of the word that he creates by using a drawing application (see Figure 3). This activity and the class webpage demonstrate the hybridity evident in new literacies documents (Lemke, 1998), where students use word processing, drawing, or music in a single document.

Figure 3. Visual representation of vocabulary words

Click to see full image

Shifting to More Formal Literacy Instruction During the Reading Block
Most days, Michael's teacher leads the class through a short minilesson on a reading comprehension or vocabulary strategy before engaging in differentiated instruction. Today they read Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg from their basal reader. Before they start reading, students open up a timeline graphic organizer on their computers, which supports the week's reading comprehension strategy-sequence of events. Students use instant messaging (IM) to pair-share during the reading of the story with their 8 o'clock buddy. (Todd has a clock for each student with a different person's name near each time. When he says a time, students know their partner.) Todd begins reading and stops the class periodically for discussion and to add events to their timeline graphic organizer. They also pause when prompted by the teacher to use IM to share their thoughts and answers to questions with their partner. Most of this instructional process is familiar to teachers; what is novel is completing a timeline on a computer screen and having students use IM to deepen comprehension and foster engagement.

When the story is completed, Michael and his classmates spend a substantial part of their literacy block arranged in a Seat-Center-Circle organizational structure. Technology is integrated throughout the Seat and Center parts (those parts where students work independently), but not Circle. Circle is when small groups of students meet with the teacher and read and study leveled reading books. During Circle time, the teacher most often works on traditional literacy expectations grounded in print. However, during independent times, students engage in new literacies through the use of technology.

When working independently, Michael does one of three things. The first is to respond to a writing prompt on his computer that is directly related to the story or informational text read that day. Michael also completes a digital practice sheet or worksheet, a more traditional use of technology. The third activity is a book study. Students are offered multiple titles that are related to the theme of the core program from which to choose. As Michael is reading his book, he may use a Venn diagram (see Figure 4) or a comparison map to relate his chosen book to stories from the theme. Michael also joins a blog where other students reading the same book contribute and comment on each other's postings (see Figure 5). Michael participates in center activities that are Internet-based and related to the week's story and reading skills. The links that Michael uses are all on the class website so that he doesn't have to spend time locating them.

Breaks in Instruction
During recess breaks throughout the day, students are free to stay in the room and engage in noninstructional activities. Michael engages in sending IMs, checking and sending e-mail, and going online to enter kid-friendly virtual worlds like Club Penguin ( Students, particularly those who do not have Internet access at home, enjoy engaging in these activities during breaks in instruction.

Differentiated Literacy Instruction
After recess Michael logs on to KidBiz Achieve3000 (, a web-based, individualized reading and writing instruction program. First, he checks his KidBiz e-mail and replies to a question meant to stimulate background information for a current events article. After he finishes replying, he reads the article. This article is written at his reading level, so the whole class is reading similar articles but at different reading levels.

Similar to other teachers, Todd is expected to prepare his students for high-stakes assessment. He has Michael complete the thought questions from the KidBiz website. Thought questions are questions or writing prompts related to the article that call for students to use information from what they read to write a constructed response-a response that clearly answers the question. This is very similar to criterion-referenced test (CRT) constructed response questions and provides students experience with this expectation. For instance, the question that Michael responded to was, "National Basketball Association players are honoring soldiers during basketball games. Is this a good idea? Use ideas from the story in your answer." After the class has finished their assigned KidBiz tasks, there is either a whole-class or small-group discussion of the article to extend meaning and explore answers.

Following this reading and responding, Michael opens the Internet browser and clicks on a link that takes him to a webpage with all of the stories his class is reading this year. He finds Just a Dream and clicks on Vocabulary from the pull-down menu. With this click, he is taken to a site called Flashcard Exchange, where his teacher has already entered vocabulary words for him to practice.

Writing Instruction
After this independent practice, Todd shifts to writing instruction. He begins by posing the question, "Have you or anyone you've known ever had an imaginary friend? Instant message your 3 o'clock buddy and tell him or her about this imaginary friend." Then he leads a discussion about the writing trait, Ideas and Content, and tells the class to listen for good examples of this writing trait as he reads a picture book, Ted by Tony DiTerlizzi, about a boy with an imaginary friend. Although Todd wants them to do a Quick Write (first draft writing) on their laptops about an imaginary friend, he does not feel they are ready for this writing, so he has them return to the Internet to an interactive writing prompt found at This particular prompt encourages Michael to describe his imaginary friend's color, size, and amazing features. With this preparation in place, Michael and his classmates start the Quick Write. While everyone is writing, Todd confers with three to four students about their individual writing and ways to improve it. This activity demonstrates once again the seamless movement from traditional literacy practices, like reading a book, to new literacies through using IM and writing at a website.

As Michael's class completes more Quick Writes, they are saved electronically into a folder to revisit later. Every two weeks or so, Michael is instructed to go back through his Quick Writes and pick one that he would like to take through the writing process. Michael then uses the software program Inspiration ( to organize and brainstorm his story or informational text. Following his first-draft writing, he revises using the built-in thesaurus to help with word choice and the built-in spelling and grammar check to edit his piece. Michael has learned that he has to be careful when doing these checks as he can't just assume the computer is always correct. The next step in this process is peer review, where a fellow student reads and evaluates Michael's writing electronically. Finally, after several revisions and edits, he is ready to print out and post his writing on the writing bulletin board in his class.

End of the Day Routines
Before leaving school, Michael picks up his homework from the server. Tonight's homework is a graphic organizer that is to be filled out from a webpage. Todd saved a copy of the webpage for pickup because not all of Michael's classmates have Internet access at home. Michael leaves school with his laptop tucked into his backpack, ready for out-of-school learning.

Getting there
In Todd's words,

What makes today's kids really sit up and fires their neural fibers? Technology. Kids don't see laptops, MP3 players, cell phones, PDAs, DVD players, and video games as technology, it's just life. Schools need to connect education to their students' lives with technology.
That is exactly the path that Fernley Elementary School took. Following are some of the important details of this process.

Teacher and Principal Initiative
Todd shares this transformation to new literacies through his personal journey as an educator who wants to upgrade to a 21st-century model for teaching. He says,

I feel passionately that my job as a teacher is to prepare my students for their future. I started this journey 10 years ago when I began exposing my students to as much technology as possible. At the beginning, it was one Internet-connected desktop computer.
Fernley Elementary School was very much like any other public elementary school 10 years ago, one where teachers solely relied on books and paper for teaching. Todd began his quest to bring technology to his classroom with one computer with Internet access. The turning point came when Fernley received a new administrator, Alan Reeder, who had the desire and drive to improve student achievement through an infusion of technology and who was willing to provide leadership and support. The school targeted a goal that 80% of instruction in each content area would be supported with technology in fourth and fifth grades-an ambitious one for a rural Nevada school.

The first step was to start a computer lab (a classroom equipped with multiple computers with Internet access for teachers to use with their students) and purchase two mobile, wireless, laptop labs. Todd took over the teaching of the lab, where every class, K-5, visited once a week. He taught students to use technology as a tool to help them accomplish grade level expectations and to meet the essential learning outcomes required by district and state standards. At this time at Fernley, technology-supported instruction occurred most often in the lab with Todd, but teachers were also bringing technological innovations into their classrooms through the mobile laptop labs. They were encouraged in these first tentative endeavors by Todd, who nudged them to try and supported them as they did.

After three years teaching with the lab and mobile labs, the principal wrote a grant for 2 one-to-one laptop classrooms and received funding. Todd left the computer lab and took over in the fourth-grade one-to-one classroom. His transition to this classroom was supported by his three years in the computer lab, where he taught students digital and media technologies, and his previous teaching in fourth grade. As he began his new position, he brought a strong knowledge base of new technologies to his students (see Table 1 for many of the technologies to which students have access) and a current knowledge base of exemplary literacy instruction. His students brought their technological experiences from the computer lab setting as the foundation for their in-class extended experiences with laptops in the fourth grade.

Table 1. Applications and web support available to students at fernley elementary

Support type Resource
Applications Appleworks
Comic Life

Keynote software Excel

Web support Flashcard Exchange ( Teachers can input information for flashcards and students access them online. ( This website allows students to e-mail and blog.
Google Earth ( We use this so they see where everything is in the world.
Inspiration graphic organizer/outline software ( We use Inspiration as a graphic organizer before we write or as we read a story. We use it for note taking in science or social studies.
KidBiz ( This website integrates technology and routine classroom curriculum
netTrekker ( This is a search engine made especially for schools. Sites have all been previewed by educators. Sites are rated by reading level and they have a speech function built in. Also, sites can be searched by state standard.
QuizStar ( Teachers enter in quizzes for students to take online. The site gives a breakdown of each question so teachers can see how many students got a question right or wrong. ( This site provides information about a word of the day, a dictionary, and thesaurus support.
Unitedstreaming ( Teachers use this to access educational videos.
WritingFix ( We use this to teach writing traits, and students really like the interactive prompts.

Teaching in a One-to-One Classroom
What has each student's access to a laptop meant for Todd's teaching? It has made Todd rethink how he teaches everything, and it has made him a better teacher. He says,

Every week when I am lesson planning, I consider how I can best integrate the technology. I don't use the technology just for the sake of using it. I want to use it in a way that enhances learning and best motivates students. I find myself borrowing ideas from colleagues, the Internet, and educational publications. I am a better teacher because I am making my students' learning relevant to them and their times.
In listening to Todd, it is evident that the challenges of bringing technology to his classroom are also sources of creativity and enthusiasm. At first, Todd says that time management was an issue. It took him longer to plan, as he explains. "I had to think about all of the kids having laptops and infusing technology in real ways." Coming from a lab offered Todd background in technological applications, but the sessions in the lab were typically for a half hour to an hour per week per class. Now he had to plan for full-day instruction with technology infused into all subject areas over the course of an academic year. Even with the initial time demands for planning and preparation, Todd finds himself, after three years of teaching with new literacies, still excited by the possibilities for student engagement and learning.

Preparation and Professional Support
Todd was not working alone through this major learning and teaching shift at his school. He received support from Apple when he became an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE). For more information on what the ADE program is, visit Apple's edcommunity. For Todd, the greatest benefit of being an ADE was attending their Institute to learn cutting-edge techniques for integrating technology and joining a worldwide community of educators who understood the importance of teaching students with today's technology.

Apple didn't just prepare Todd to teach with digital and media technologies, they came to Fernley and provided professional development for all the school's teachers. The training involved a mixture of learning applications and ways to integrate laptop instruction with lessons and standards already being taught. With Apple's support, Todd became responsible for continuous, on site, professional development. Each summer he offers a 20-hour technology-related workshop for teachers. In these workshops, he introduces teachers to learning with a laptop and shows them how to use its potential in daily instruction.

Simultaneous with this support, Todd created a group of students known as Wright's Techies, students from his fourth-grade class who had moved up to fifth grade. Their responsibilities are to be tech-savvy enough to assist their fifth-grade teachers and classmates. They are expected to help with everything concerning the laptops, including knowing the operation of all applications and troubleshooting problems.

The training of Wright's Techies is twofold. The majority of their training comes during their fourth-grade year, where they are exposed to how laptops and applications work. The second part occurs in the summer, a few weeks before school starts. Todd brings Wright's Techies in for a day to review any changes to the laptops for the upcoming year. They also learn how to assist their new fifth-grade teachers and classmates, who will not be as familiar with the technology. Teachers are pleased with the resources brought to them through the support of the Wright's Techies. They value the help with troubleshooting and teaching other students the technology so they can focus on content.

Preparing Students for New Literacies
When viewing a typical day for Michael, readers may wonder how a student came to be so proficient with new literacies. Fernley has carefully scaffolded new literacies for all students. New literacies instruction begins in kindergarten when students visit the computer lab or work on a laptop in their classroom. Students learn how to visit, explore, and learn from material shared on websites. They learn to write using word-processing programs. They also become familiar with multimedia projects, like those created with PowerPoint.

In third grade, students' classrooms have eight laptops in addition to two student desktop stations. When visiting third-grade classrooms, it is common to see students investigating ideas using the Internet and reporting on their discoveries. Third grade serves as the transitional year where students continue to visit the lab and also have laptops available in their classrooms, thus becoming better prepared for fourth-grade instruction. In fourth and fifth grades, students work solely in their one-to-one laptop classrooms. Their teachers, with the guidance of Todd, extend students' earlier experiences with new literacies and bridge intermittent laptop use to consistent use in fourth grade.

During these early explorations with technology, keyboarding techniques are shared with students and practiced somewhat. Todd observed that "keyboarding slows students down, and often their hands are not large enough for proper keyboarding." Most students have some practice with keyboarding but are allowed to develop their own style. As Todd has worked closely with fourth- and fifth-grade students in one-to-one classrooms, he noted that, "their speed triples by the end of one year through their constant use of the keyboard."

As seen in these entries into technology in the primary grades, students are prepared for its more extensive use when they enter fourth grade. During this year, their everyday use of digital and media technologies expands as they routinely create multimedia projects using various software programs. They create music, voice recordings, and podcasts. They create books and graphic organizers using Internet links and graphics. Finally, they become comfortable using blogs, e-mail, and instant messaging for sharing ideas.

When asked about his classroom and the changes to his students brought about by the use of new technologies, Todd says,

The number one thing laptops have done is motivation. Kids are sitting up and leaning into their learning. As a teacher, this is the one thing I want from my students. If I have them engaged and motivated, the sky's the limit.
Students leave Fernley better equipped with the skills required in their futures. They know how to expertly search for information on the Internet, how to evaluate the reliability of different websites, how to find information on a website, and how to take notes from the Internet. Moreover, they know how to use word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software (International Society for Technology in Education, 2007).

Do new technologies result in student learning?
What effects are seen on student learning is the big question for many educators who want answers before bringing new technologies to classrooms. This question is not an easy one to answer. Coiro (2005) indicated that there were improvements noted in comprehension when teachers were given instruction in new technology use. Teachers learned how to support students in comprehending Internet text that is not linear or fixed and, as a result, became more effective at facilitating comprehension on the page or screen. Warschauer (2006) also documented gains in motivation, writing competency, and critical thinking when laptops were used in the classroom.

However, the biggest hurdle when considering new technologies and student learning is that most assessments evaluate traditional literacy and content knowledge. For instance, in current assessments students read on the page and answer questions, or they write on paper to document writing proficiency. A better question related to assessment is, What can students do with new literacies that is not measured by current assessments (Leu et al., 2005)? For example, when thinking about writing assessment, although students are asked to handwrite a composition, the majority of writing today occurs on computers, and this type of writing is typical in one-to-one classrooms. So students in one-to-one classrooms are not able to demonstrate writing competency using familiar technological support because they must rely on traditional expectations. How much more sophisticated would their writing be if they could use the technological tools with which they are familiar?

To answer the important achievement question at Fernley, teachers routinely examine the assessments that students complete, both formative and outcome. Teachers use classroom-based assessment to refine instruction, and they use quarterly benchmark assessments tied to the district's and state's standards. Within this repertoire of formative assessments, classroom-based assessments are the only ones that target new literacies. The biggest challenge for Fernley is to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) as measured by the state criterion-referenced test (CRT) and writing test administered to fifth graders. Since 2002, Fernley has made AYP each year. During the 2006-2007 year, they qualified as a high achieving school for the growth in students who reached benchmark criteria. The most current CRT results indicated the following about the school's fourth graders:

72% met or exceeded the benchmark criteria for English language arts
65% of those qualifying for free or reduced-cost lunches met or exceeded the benchmark criteria for English language arts
67% of Hispanic students met or exceeded the benchmark criteria for English language arts
When considering CRT scores, it is important to note that students were not asked to evaluate a website, read a website, or gain information from a website. Neither of the assessments, formative or outcome, asked students even to use a word processor. Neither of these assessments quantify students' engagement as they learn. So until assessments include at least the first two components, it will be difficult to more precisely measure the additional knowledge students gain from using digital and media literacies. However, as shown by the data from this school, students did not regress on outcome assessments because of the inclusion of new literacies.

Essential Elements for Successful Implementation of New Literacies
The journey to new literacies through the use of technology happened at Fernley and can happen at other schools. Schools must consider their preparation for and response to several key elements before embarking on this journey (Hew & Brush, 2007). Fundamental to any implementation are resources that include access to sufficient technology, time for teachers and students to learn the technological applications, and technological support. At Fernley, the principal acquired the funding through grants and had a leader in place in Todd Wright. Moreover, Fernley carefully planned its initial support with Apple and continuing support and professional development with Todd for success.

A second issue is teacher knowledge and attitude about new literacies (Hew & Brush, 2007). Fernley presents a case study of working with teacher knowledge and attitude through a gradual model of moving to new literacies. Primary teachers are carefully supported with the lab and the gradual introduction of classroom laptops. In third grade, there are higher expectations for teachers to bring digital and media technologies to their classrooms. These efforts are carefully supported with Todd's leadership, ongoing professional development, and student experts. By fourth grade, teachers are aware of the extended expectations for laptop learning and instruction, and students are prepared for this more consistent use of digital and media literacies. To bring new teachers to new literacies and to provide support for returning teachers, there are summer workshops to refine teachers' knowledge about technology and explore ways to use it in learning. Todd similarly provides summer workshop support for student technology leaders.

A final issue is centered on assessment. The question of how students achieve on traditional assessments will affect those who make decisions about moving to new literacies. This question, although important, is losing its power as major assessments like the National Assessment of Educational Progress move to the use of computers (Olson, 2007).

Final encouragement
When Todd was asked why a teacher would want to take on learning about and using new literacies, especially with the additional work, time, and thinking required, he replied,

Teachers take on this challenge because it is their job to prepare students for the future. There is a steep learning curve at the beginning, but after the first year, most teachers won't spend any more time preparing lessons. Once teachers have training in using laptops and how to integrate technology with state standards there is greater student engagement in learning. Teachers will see that giving a laptop to a student results in greater engagement. Greater engagement equals higher achievement. End of story.
About the authors
Barone teaches at the University of Nevada, Reno, USA; e-mail

Wright teaches at Fernley Elementary School, Fernley, Nevada; e-mail

Coiro, J. (2005). Every teacher a Miss Rumphius: Empowering teachers with effective professional development. In R.A. Karchmer, M.H. Mallette, J. Kara-Soteriou, & D.J. Leu,Jr.(Eds.), Innovative approaches to literacy education: Using the Internet to support new literacies (pp. 199-221). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Dunleavy, M., Dexter, S., & Heinecke, W.F. (2007). What added value does a 1:1 student to laptop ratio bring to technology-supported teaching and learning? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(5), 440-452. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00227.x

Goldberg, A., Russell, M., & Cook, A. (2003). The effect of computers on student writing: A meta-analysis of studies from 1992 to 2002. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 2(1). Retrieved from

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are Childbirth classes necessary?

Babble has an intelligent discusssion on the reasons for the classes. I have often wondered if I really needed the classes, since the birth that I experienced was so different, but I do think the classes empower you with the knowledge to make a choice. So when I felt the pain of natural childbirth was unbearable. I asked for an epidural. I gained that knowledege from the childbirth classes.

Childbirth education exists to fill a gap in the modern birthing system. Your caregiver will definitely talk to you about your pregnancy, and should be able to answer questions you have about childbirth. But most doctors and many midwives don't educate their patients about all the various ins and outs of pain coping strategies and hospital procedures. They just don't have time. Call it a conspiracy or just a byproduct of our medical system, but it's usually not part of the package. Childbirth education fills in where the doctor's office appointment leaves off.

Ideally, in childbirth ed, you learn what happens to your body in labor; how to cope with the pain (with equal attention given to medical and non-medical approaches); what hospital or birthing centers' policies are and how they might affect you; what choices you may have along the way.

Birth classes may also include some info on postpartum health, newborn care and breastfeeding, although most often these topics are covered in separate, designated classes. You can learn most of what is taught in a birth class from a good book or even online, but there are a few aspects of the classes that can't be picked up from a little Googling.

Some benefits of in-person preparation:

· You can ask questions and see positions in person.

· You have contact with an educator who can put you in touch with other experts or resources if you need them now or later.

· A series of classes will allow you to ramp up gradually as you get closer to your actual birth.

· In a group class, you will meet and hear from women/couples at your same stage of pregnancy. Even if you don't become lifelong friends, you might benefit from hearing their questions or stories.

· Classes can help partners — who don't have the constant physical reminder of pregnancy — focus on the upcoming birth and life changes. This is especially helpful for partners who don't attend prenatal visits. And a good class will teach specifics about how partners can help.

That said, not all birth classes are ideal. For one thing, teachers are people and they have opinions. When these opinions don't connect with your own, it can be uncomfortable, or add anxiety. And if you do end up having some reactions or procedures that were presented negatively, you might feel more stressed out by them, or feel bad afterwards. This may be what people are thinking when they warn you away from childbirth education.

Another reason lessons from childbirth ed get tossed aside at the first contraction is that the skills taught in the class weren't applicable to the birth that ended up happening. Birth is unpredictable. The usefulness of a class depends on the teacher's ability to show the huge range of possibilities and different options for dealing with them.

Generally, a class in the hospital will present the birth experience as it's managed medically (including medical pain relief options). A class in a yoga center will be more likely to encourage managing pain naturally through position, breath and sound. Lamaze teaches breathing techniques for natural labor, Bradley emphasizes a "husband-coached birth." Birthing From Within is a more spiritual approach using visualization and imagery, among other things. "Hypnobirthing" is a technique for reducing stress and trying to reframe the idea of pain. Each of these techniques has lots of fans, but they're not all for everyone.

Luckily, there are classes out there that teach more than one approach to coping with pain in labor. To find a class that will work well for you, ask friends for recommendations, or take a look at any local centers or groups that sound appealing. You can always ask the teacher questions before signing up for the class to try to gauge the philosophy and techniques that will be taught.

There is a deeper, perhaps more existential, aspect to your question: Is birth actually something you can "prepare" for? A really good class will help give you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions, help you keep an open mind, prepare for the unpredictable, and give you a number of tools to pull out depending on how you feel at the time. Because what you need more than anything, going into your birth, is permission to react to the situation in the way you, personally, see fit at the time — not what Dr. Lamaze, Dr. Bradley, your yoga teacher, the Church of Scientology, the lady down the street or any other childbirth instructor believes is best.

Vicks Vapo Rub can lead to infants having a breathing problem

Washington Post is reporting that Vicks can lead to infants having a breathing problem.

The popular cold remedy Vicks VapoRub may cause airway inflammation that can restrict breathing in infants and toddlers, a new study says.

Doctors at Wake Forest University started their study after treating an 18-month-old girl who had developed severe respiratory distress after the salve had been put directly under her nose to relieve cold symptoms.

"The company is really clear that you don't put it in the nose, and you never use it in kids under 2," said lead researcher Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, professor and vice chair for research at Wake Forest's Department of Pediatrics. "Sure enough, when we stopped all the medicine, the child got much better very quickly."

Rubin's experience prompted him to see if there had been other similar cases. "We encountered a few others that appeared to develop problems after using Vicks VapoRub. Parents never volunteered it, because they always thought it is just something you buy over-the-counter, and it's not a real medicine, because you just rub it on, after all," he said.

Rubin said Vicks VapoRub can make some adults feel better without really making them better. "For kids, because it can induce some inflammation, even a little bit, that little bit might be enough to tip over a child to having problems," he said.

The findings were published in the January issue of the journal Chest.

To test whether Vicks VapoRub could cause respiratory distress, the researchers conducted experiments with ferrets. The animals were chosen because they have airways similar to human airways, Rubin said.

The researchers found that Vicks VapoRub increased mucus production by up to 59 percent; the ability to clear mucus was reduced by 36 percent.

David Bernens, a spokesman for Proctor & Gamble, the makers of Vicks VapoRub, doesn't think one incident involving one child means that the product is unsafe.

"The product is safe and effective when used as directed," he said. "To say it was the Vicks VapoRub that caused the respiratory distress -- I'm not sure we have made that link yet."

Dr. James A. L. Mathers Jr., president of the American College of Chest Physicians, said in an association news release: "Parents should consult with a physician before administering any over-the-counter medicine to infants and young children. Furthermore, the American College of Chest Physicians and several other health-care organizations have concluded that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines can be harmful for infants and young children and are, therefore, not recommended."

In October, major manufacturers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be used by children younger than 4 years old.

Dr. Daniel Craven, a pediatric pulmonologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, said parents shouldn't use Vicks VapoRub, because it has no medicinal value and may even be dangerous.

"Previous research has failed to demonstrate any respiratory benefits of VapoRub, and conscientious pediatricians have thus usually tried to dissuade families from spending money on this and similarly ineffective therapies," Craven said. "Although the findings are someone limited, this study raises the possibility that this product may not just be ineffective, but possibly might have adverse respiratory consequences -- particularly if there is an intense exposure -- as when it is applied directly under the nostrils."

the corruption of priviledge

David Cameron