Friday, January 29, 2010

Discussing Little Brother with Cory Doctorow

Anne Smith and Maura Moritz's ninth graders are currently finishing up reading Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. Previously they read 1984 and their task is to look at both books and answer the questions:
What have we learned - or what have we not learned - over the past 60 years [from Orwell's time to the present]? What does our future hold for us?
This has been a fascinating unit to observe. Anne and Maura have brought in additional folks to speak to different aspects of each novel. They brought in our Western Civilization teachers to help our students understand what was going on in the 1930's - 1950's that Orwell was reacting to and that influenced 1984.

As they moved on to Little Brother, they invited in different social studies teachers to talk to the students about 9/11 and The Patriot Act. They also invited in myself, Mike Porter (our district's Assistant Director of Instructional Technology), and Ben Horblit (a knowledgeable former student of Anne's who's now a senior) to talk about the technology in Little Brother and its ramifications. Then earlier this week Mike Porter, along with Dan Maas (our district CIO) visited to talk about rights and responsibilities surrounding technology use and school law, which was a very interesting discussion.

Now as they are finishing up Little Brother, the students will have the opportunity to question the author, Cory Doctorow, himself. As you may recall, I blogged last spring that some students who had chosen to read Little Brother on their own contacted him with questions, and that they then ended up with an hour long Skype conversation with Cory. He agreed to Skype again this year, this time with students from all four sections gathered together in our Forum to ask questions and listen.

Cory will be joining us for about an hour again via Skype and, if all the tech goes as planned, you are welcome to watch via ustream. We will be broadcasting from approximately 8:25 - 9:25 am MST (UTC/GMT -7) on Tuesday, February 2nd. Some of the students will also live blog over on Anne's class blog. As always, our focus will be on making the learning happen for our students, so if we have any technical difficulties, the ustream will not be our first priority.


  1. The RSS feed to your post started me googling, and I was soon reading Little Brother in ePub version. I was intrigued with Cory's take on digital publishing, and how he encouraged readers to post his work in every imaginable online format. I loved his chapter dedications to bookstores. As I began reading it on my laptop, I found myself googling gait recognition, The Onion Router, w1n5ston's instructables, Harajuku, and microwaving grapes. After a few chapters, I had to visit my high school librarian colleague, share my excitement, and check out the print version. You know I'll buy one or more copies and pass them along to my fellow instructional tech teachers. Looking forward to watching the ustream discussion with the author.

  2. I am following this blog as an assignment for my EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I just wanted to say that I think it is amazing how much the teacher did with these two books. It is definitely important to understand what was going on in history during the time a book is written. It helps the reader better understands the circumstances in which a work was written. I also love the fact that the students had a chance to interact with the author. That is awesome!