From drawings to becoming actual language is seen in the Phoenician's taking the Sumerian Cuneiform – circa 3400 BC to the beginning of a true alphabet circa 1000 BC. Eventually these efforts evolve to the Greek's (750 BC) further refinement and then to Latin in 250 BC. As the ability in written communication and oral tradition developed, the need to record the history or stories that evolved eventually fell mostly to the monks of the ensuing ages.
Fast forward then to 1439 AD to find a revelation heretofore unknown, the movable type capability of the Gutenberg Press. And for the first time, the world found that it didn't need to carve its thoughts in stone, or rely on the use of oral tradition to record their thoughts and writings on different subjects. Nor did they need to rely on the laborious artistry of the monks for a select audience. That existing world - just 500 years ago – found it could reach an entire population. However abhorrent this crude execution as it was first perceived compared to the beauteous renditions of the monks and other artists, it most decidedly proved to be the beginning of available and open communication for everyone to access.
Until then, the assimilation of these differences in how we viewed communication between us and the various stages of the development of language from art to hieroglyphics to printing, allowed a lengthy time between those milestones and the audiences it could reach. It allowed society a thoughtful assimilation into the lives of all. Therefore their culture was enhanced, not disturbed.
Fast forward again to the year 2014 and I suggest we recognize that so much technological advancement in society has transpired since the invention of the Gutenberg Press to the latest tech achievements in this 21st century and with such alacrity, that humankind is almost at a loss in its ability to fully absorb its effects into our lives, much less thoughtfully and artfully integrate them. Indeed, it is leaving us like passengers on Apollo's chariot, blinded by our own technological brilliance, deafened by the roar of our rushing speed.
And so we find ourselves today in the most important transition period in mankind's history. And that leaves us with all the adjustments to the changes needed to be made in this new and ever-evolving digitizing of every aspect of our lives with what that demands of us. It is perhaps the most challenging psychological phenomenon humans have faced to date.
Given the unknown effect the speed of technological changes is having on our very well being going forward, it would seem that ultimately a collaborative, more reflective integration needs to be put forth among the social media digital devices, eBooks and education. If we don't address this issue, I fear we face not only unknown consequences, but their unknown ripple-effects on all of society in every part of the world.
Thinking about who might attempt solutions, it naturally led to where it most logically should begin. And that's when the obvious place to begin this integration, became clearly apparent to me. Reading needed to be the underlying base of any effort. That of course, would include language arts and curriculum. And so, they needed to be connected.
But who would connect the dots?
Further pondering concluded that marrying the dialectic of techies and readers would be the real challenge. I finally realized that if a trade book was published with its own Website to further explore the theme of that book and there, an online community of Child, Parent, Teacher and Librarian was also created, the classroom or homeschool teacher could be offered an in-depth Teacher Guide to use with each book. These Guides would be according to the New York State Language Arts Standards which are among the highest standards nationally and therefore easily adapted to other state's standards in the US.
All I had read and/or heard about the publishing world at that time was they were running from the Internet. Complicating any thought of presenting an innovative proposal to them was the fact that the major publishers had become so conglomerated that their infrastructures were too convoluted to allow for any novel approach to publishing, at least in the short term. And, as far as the K-12 market in education at that time, any efforts to really combine the Internet in the K-12 education market place were non-existent. Stilted and non-interactive software was all that was available.
To cut a long story short, I felt with so much at risk and no one giving it the due-diligence needed, much less the attention it required, I made the decision to attempt a solution to the formidable task ahead and initiate a new and exciting approach that would benefit all involved.
And so to begin this daunting venture, Winslow Press (now Read&Click and Read&Click&Learn) was created. The long journey of connecting the magic of a book with the wonder of the Web with Teacher Guides for each title was set in motion with its now patented concept* in 1996.
Placing the reading experience in the 21st century
In the Fall of 1998 against all odds, we published and successfully launched the first (of 41) trade books to further explore a book's theme through their own interactive Web pages at www.readandclick.com. Each title not only had its own Website, but also an in-depth Teacher Guide in the Teacher Section of the online Community of Child, Parent, Teacher and Librarian. We started with pre- K-12, but this concept adapts to consumers of any age-group and all publishers' titles, how-to-manuals, etc. worldwide to live on the Read&Click site, thus allowing the thoughtful integration of reading and the Internet to grow with the reader and the latest technologies.
The Home Page for each title features the cover of the book, a brief synopsis and access to:
- Internet Links, Games and Activities all related to the theme of that particular book.
- Further information about the book's Author and/or Illustrator.
- Reviews, news, events and signings for the Read&Click branded books.
- Ability to purchase all of the books on the R&C Online Bookstore to receive discounts for Teachers, Librarians, Distributors, etc. as consistent with the industry.
- E-newsletter and blog (in progress).
For the past twelve years these books have won numerous awards and rave reviews from the American Library Association, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, The New York Times, to name a few and many have been translated into Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Swedish languages. Requests for catalogs, sales and domestic and foreign rights continue to come in via the Read&Click Website from all over the world, including Europe, Afghanistan, Australia, China, Indonesia, The Philippines, Madagascar, Malaysia, and Zimbabwe - without any new advertising or titles.
Inspiring imagination and creativity for the teacher and learner
While Read&Click was leading the way for other publishers in integrating print publishing with today's digital technology, the Teacher Guide began to take on a life of its own and has since evolved into a full blown Knowledge & Curriculum Management System, needing only an Internet connection to be accessed from anywhere in the world.
The Read&Click&Learn Curriculum & Knowledge Management System (RCL) is now a comprehensive, cost-effective, turn-key management system written entirely in HTML. It starts with the pre-K-12 learning environment with now solutions for today's challenges, while it sets a solid foundation for the needs of the 21st century classroom and homeschools of tomorrow worldwide.
Some highlights of the RCL System are:
- Fosters the development of the creative thought process in curriculum – creative problem solving and critical thinking skills for the teacher and learner.
- One curriculum can be customized for every student in the class because of embedded assistive technology for learners' special needs and/or styles.
- Can be paired with a trade or text book, (print or digital) magazine or newspaper article, how-to-manual or simply a topic for flexible content management.
- Allows for Cross-disciplining of Subjects/Standards (National).
- Creates an Online Community of Parent, Teacher, Librarian and Child for effective communication and networking among them.
- Attracts the millennial teacher, while it supports the veteran teacher and can retain them both.
- Enables the growth of the learner and teacher starting with pre-K-12 all the way through Under-graduate, Graduate, Continuing ED, Corporate or Military Training.
- Needs Internet access only.
Most notably, the RCL system's embedded assistive technology enables the teacher to fully customize one curriculum with assignments and assessments for every student's learning style, as well as each student's learning needs. And this will include the physically and cognitively challenged - without having anyone leave the classroom for special outside help. It also has the flexibility for managing content to allow more up-to-date resources for the classroom or homeschool teacher, keeping all content current. And teachers can share their customized offerings with other teachers in classrooms worldwide, or just next door, through the built-in virtual Teachers' Exchange Forum (currently being updated). And so it will continue to expand and adapt to the never-ending growth of social networking technologies as it is positioned for global classroom-to-classroom interaction.
During the RCL's development stages we entered into a strategic partnership with Marywood University, Scranton, PA, whereby MU wrote RCL's curriculum content for each of our previously published books. The curriculum connected to these titles not only gives a teacher a place to easily begin using the system if they so choose, but it also serves as a model or template for any publisher's title they may prefer to use.
The RCL System was designed with the new Universal Design for Learning criteria in mind and is initially targeted for the pre-K-12 market, but can expand to every level of academic learning as well as corporate or military training. It will also allow for administrative re-structuring in 21st century's schools as changes for teacher accreditation requirements inevitably occur. The endless expansion and assimilation of new technology capabilities speak to an envisioned collaborative virtual learning and teaching environment of a global tomorrow.
Not one of us could have known then how very relevant these first steps in preserving the reading experience, not replacing it in the 21st century would become now. For an instance, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "Blowing Up the Book" depicts a young adult book in eBook form that seems at first glance the "new" rendition (music playing as the reader turns the page, etc.) delightfully captive, but a second glance leaves one to wonder if it isn't frightfully interruptive of our intellectual and/or emotional growth experience between the author who is telling a story, and the reader who can interpret the author's words using their own experiences to imagine how the characters and their settings, etc. look. That kind of experience pushes one's own creative thought process in ways that are so complex it makes for a truly unique and wondrous experience for each individual who connects with the story teller.
By blowing up the book are we really making a better read?
I suggest we are confusing the reading experience depicted, with seeing a movie or a play, where you expect to see a story line acted out in an appropriate setting with good actors. The story is imagined by someone else and put before you by others for you to drink in and be entertained. It is expected that you absorb and be delighted (or not) by another's creativity. And by so doing, actually thwarting a precious inner resource by substituting someone else's creativity for our own. And thereby to the very young saying that they could never imagine anything as great as someone else can, simply because the message sent is: it had to be imagined for them, not by them.
Another reflection on the thoughtful management of technology in our lives is that it gives us, as never before, the ability for these devices to explore not the differences in our cultures, but that which makes us uniquely connected in our alikeness. For language either written, or artistically expressed through paintings, music, photography, dance, theatre, etc. is truly at the very core of our being able to express who we are to one another. Not only to our immediate neighbor next door, but to our neighboring countries around the world. For that similarity in each of us is most conceivably to be found in the very core of our being: our creative thought process.
Yes, the tidal wave of social media and digital devices, running rampant and unchecked, has started to wear away the very shores of our minds, but the big question is, will we let it continue that way, or make the effort to harness it and treat these inventions as the tools they were meant to be. The way we communicate and interact with one another has never before in the history of mankind been more critical as to the choices we make today.
Luckily, the choices are still ours.
*Us Patents Numbers, 6,034,680; 7,155,677B2; 7,251,784B2