Nonfiction November Photo Prompt: Dedication

For some reason, the first thing that came to mind when I saw today’s photo challenge prompt was how much I value the autographed copies of my books, especially those with the dedication, “To Michelle.” Here are the stories behind the encounters with some of my favorite authors.

I had the opportunity to meet Sir Ken Robinson at an extremely difficult time in my life. He was the keynote speaker at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Conference and Expo (PETE&C), and I would have backed out if I didn’t want to hear him speak so badly. When it was my turn at the autograph table, I thanked him for his work and told him that my students always love his TED Talk, “Schools Kill Creativity.” He treated me like the most important person he’d ever met, had me sit beside him, and picked my brain about how I was using his work in my classes. It was a moment I’ll never forget, and it was exactly what I needed to bring me out of the funk I had been in.

In 2019, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi spoke at the Harrisburg Book Festival, so of course, I HAD to be there. He was speaking with Dr. Imani Perry, whom I had never heard of. I purchased a copy of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, to familiarize myself with her work, and I was mesmerized by the brilliance of her writing. On the day of their talk, I was set on making myself look like the biggest dork in the world. On my way into The Midtown Scholar, I walked in front of a car and almost got myself run over. I was mortified when Dr. Kendi got out. He was very nice and held the door open for me, so I guess he wasn’t judging me too harshly! Then, when I was in the signing line, I was fangirling over Dr. Perry’s writing. Dr. Kendi laughed and told me that he felt the same way the first time he read her work. They were both so gracious and wonderful to talk to.

Dan Pink and Guy Kawasaki were also keynote speakers at PETE&C. I don’t have a funny story about Dan Pink, because I didn’t have a lot of time to interact with him. Guy Kawasaki was Apple’s Chief Evangelist, and I was trying to hide all my Windows devices from him during the smaller breakout discussion after his keynote. I remember joking with him about the Borg and Star Trek, which led to what he wrote on the cover of his book.

Another highlight of my life was getting to have lunch with an astronaut at Kennedy Space Center. As soon as I told Tom Jones I was a teacher, he treated me like a total rockstar. I kept thinking, “YOU’VE BEEN TO SPACE FOUR TIMES!!!” as we were talking.

It has been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to see an author speak and then meet them. I need to work on that.  As much as I appreciate interacting with authors on Zoom, I’d love to have more in person experiences. That may be a good reading goal for 2024! 

Book Review: Verified by Mike Caulfield & Sam Wineburg

Today, I finished reading Verified: How to Think Straight, Get Duped Less, and Make Better Decisions about What to Believe Online by Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg for Nonfiction November’s “Web” prompt.

I consider myself a very savvy person when it comes to navigating information online. I’ve been teaching high school English for almost 24 years, and I have master’s degrees in Classroom Technology and Library and Information Science. I love teaching research skills, especially evaluating information for credibility and bias, mostly because I’ve seen so many people I care about get sucked into misinformation and easily debunked conspiracy theories. Because I know the information landscape is constantly changing, I do my best to keep up. When I saw that Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg were releasing a book, I knew I had to have it immediately, because I’ve used their work with my students and when preparing professional development for my colleagues. 

I’m familiar with Caulfield’s SIFT method, and Verified provides many examples of how to use it in different contexts. As a longtime fan of the CRAAP test, I appreciated learning why checklists don’t hold up, and why the SIFT method is a faster and more reliable alternative. I may be most grateful for the chapter on Wikipedia because so many of my students and colleagues are not aware of how far it has come or what a valuable tool it can be. As I was reading, I kept marking pages with ideas that could be turned into activities for students (and possibly colleagues), and I see myself sitting with this book as I revise and update my research lessons. I learned a lot from the chapter on advertising because I found out that there’s so much I didn’t know about online advertising, especially native advertising. Caulfield and Wineburg also address AI in the postscript and explain how the SIFT method holds up in the face of AI generated disinformation. 

This book is extremely accessible and would be valuable for anyone who wants to be smarter in how they approach the information they encounter online. For those of us who teach research, it’s a must read.

Nonfiction November

I’m a sucker for creative reading challenges, so when I saw posts about Nonfiction November on Instagram yesterday, I immediately scrambled to figure out what I wanted to read. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the daily photo challenge, but I should be able to read four books based on the prompts. I love that the prompts are single words that participants can interpret however they want. Here are my selections.

Fraud — This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman

Web — Verified: How to Think Straight, Get Duped Less, and Make Better Decisions about what to Believe Online by Mike Caulfield & Sam Wineburg

Capital — How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

Display — The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

Now I need to finish Underdogs tonight, so I can start Verified tomorrow.