Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kidnapping the #Bookaday Brainchild: Shame on @HarperCollins and @BoroughPress

I teach my students not to use someone else's idea without proper attribution, so when a top-five publishing house, via it's imprint, co-opted the #bookaday hashtag coined by Donalyn Miller--author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, and co-founder of The Nerdy Book Club blog--that got my dander up.
Donalyn Miller wearing
The Original #Bookaday Pic Badge
I learned about HC's and Borough Press's egregious kidnapping of Donalynn's #bookaday brainchild via Donalyn's facebook status update. Curious, I followed a link to Borough Press's blog "#Bookaday--a heaving shelf of bookish delights" and found a non-apology from BP: 

It’s come to our attention that there’s an amazing project in the US aimed primarily at librarians and teachers and run by Donalyn Miller, from Nerdy Book Club. She has been using #bookaday for several years. We were totally unaware of the project when we launched our #bookaday campaign – and we have been very open that we nicked the idea from #recordaday –  so we wanted to say sorry if it has caused any confusion for readers. 

Duh! Hate to break it to you, BP, but ignorance is no excuse for taking someone else's idea and claiming it as your own--even if Twitter says it isn't possible to own or copyright a hashtag. 

So up is my dander that I decided to post a comment on the Borough Press post. Here's my comment, which at this time is "awaiting moderation":

The difference between Donalyn Miller’s use of #bookaday and your co-opting of the hashtag is this: Donalyn, the Nerdy Book Club community, teachers, and librarians who use the hashtag do so in service of our students; in contrast, your use of the hashtag is in service of making a profit selling books. I find it difficult to fathom that you did not know the #bookaday hashtag was being used already since such lack of knowledge would suggest problems in your marketing plan. Rather, I suspect using the hashtag was a deliberate ploy designed to advance your market. I’m cynical like that.
As Paul St. John Mackintosh says in his post "Harper Collins imprint tries to go all Tweety and communal--with someone else's hashtag?":

Yes, it looks like #bookaday belongs to someone else. Someone who has been using it for years to build "a social event connecting readers who share book recommendations and celebrate reading."

Mackintosh goes on to say this:

See, social media has this wee little issue for marketing professionals--it's called authenticity. To quote one Huffington Post savant, "authenticity (personal truth) and sincerity (caring about and connecting with others) are required to build the kind of social media brand customers and clients are looking for these days." Sounds  like Donalyn Miller to me. But both values appear completely absent from this Borough Press initiative.

My advice to Harper Collins and to Borough Press regarding the #bookaday hashtag scandal is this: Give it back and say you're sorry. Otherwise, your just what my friend Karen labels in the new hashtag she created to describe HC's and BP's actions: #bookadaybullies. 

*Update via Donalyn on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. MST: Celebrating the news that Borough Press changed their event hashtag to @bookadayUK this morning. Thanks to everyone who supports the real‪#‎bookaday‬ challenge!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Teaching with "Newspaper Blackout" by Austin Kleon [Review]

As part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge in in April, I wrote a post about a lesson using blackout poetry that I taught in my Frankenstein unit. After teaching the lesson, I purchased Austin Kleon's book Newspaper Blackout. Reading the book has inspired me to consider additional ways to incorporate blackout poetry into my instruction. 

Kleon begins the book by narrating the inspiration leading to his composing blackout poetry using The New York Times. It's a fun story about a writer with writer's block who discovers there are million of words in the newspaper. He just needed to decide which ones to use. However, Kleon's history of blackout poetry, which has a 250 year old history, fascinates me. Among the early blackout poets, Kleon includes:
  • Caleb Whitefoord, an English merchant, read columns of newsprint from left to right after reading them from top to bottom. Noticing interesting combinations, Whitefoord recorded the most interesting, such as
    • On Tuesday both houses of Convocation met  
    • Books shut, nothing done
  • Thomas Jefferson cut up the King James Bible using a pair of scissors and published what is now known as The Jefferson Bible.
  • In 1977 poet Ronald Johnson revised--several times--and published is version of Paradise Lost by removing words, lines, and phrases he didn't like. Johnson titled his revision Radi os and said, "I composed the holes." 
Kleon gives many examples of blackout poetry, and most can be used for inspiring lessons in the classroom. Jefferson's bible resembles common found poetry. Johnson's version of Paradise Lost is similar to the technique I employed with students in my Frankenstein unit. 

The poems in Newspaper Blackout offer a fun opportunity for readers to guess which part of the newspaper a poem comes from. "In Cleveland on My Death Bed," for example, originates in the sports section (71). 

Deviating from the traditional left to right reading structure is easy when writers of blackout poetry leave a trail for readers to follow by not blacking out the "route" a reader needs to follow:
As I read both the history of blackout poetry, Kleon's poems, and the additional supplemental materials, I considered ways to use blackout poetry in the classroom:
  • As a close reading strategy in which students black out all but the most important ideas to create a "summary" of the original. This is what I had students do in my original lesson.As 
  • As a way to illustrate understanding of theme, plot, character, figurative language, etc. in a text. 
  • As a way to select short quotes for use in research projects. I plan to experiment with this by asking students as they read a short article to select short passages--5 to 10 words--they they want to use in a brief report. The idea is to take these quotes after students have blacked out the rest of the text and have them compose a summary of the article and use the short quotes in their summaries. By having students black out all by the quotes they will use, they will be less likely to plagiarize, which often happens when students don't understand that simply changing a few words and rearranging the sentence still qualifies as plagiarism. 
These are just a few of the creative uses of blackout poetry in the classroom. I'd love to hear others' ideas. For additional information on blackout poetry and for some inspiring images and video, check out Austin Kleon's blog. 

Remember: Text + permanent marker = Blackout Poem. The next time you experience a blackout, be sure it's with pen and paper in hand.