What I Learned at NCTE 2011

My stay at NCTE 2011 was uncharacteristically brief–only two days at a conference that lasts almost a week. Still, I attended some valuable sessions, networked with friends, and got a better idea of how to pitch a new book I’m working on. A few random observations from my experience at the centennial convention:

  • Graphic novels are here to stay. Ten years ago, I would have been hard-pressed to find graphic novels at the NCTE Convention. Then, graphics novels (except perhaps for Maus) were not really a part of English language arts teaching. This time, all of the big publishers had their imprint of graphic novels, and many of the featured authors were actually illustrators. I picked up a few new titles, including a graphic take on Anne Frank–the The Anne Frank Authorized Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon, the creative pair that gave us the graphic version of the 9/11 Commission Report. I also picked up a new graphic adaptation of The Odyssey by the artist Gareth Hinds, who was kind enough to sign my book. There were dozens of sessions on graphic novels, too, along with practitioner texts on how to teach them. And here’s a quick plug for a course I’m offering this spring–if you want to learn more about graphic novels, consider taking my English 624: The Graphic Novel in Contemporary Culture. Undergraduates are welcome.
  • The 2.0 revolution is over . . . and we’ve won. Digital technology has become transparent in the ELA classroom, at least for the most part. Teachers are using 2.0 tools galore–podcasts, blogs, wikis, social networks, social bookmarking sites, photo sharing, and even Twitter have become commonplace. Second Life, alas, has not. But English teachers everywhere know that they must use digital tools in their literature and writing classroom. In 2011, it is unthinkable not to.
  • Tablets are not here yet. I looked in vain for good sessions on tablets. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. But I think only the really cutting edge people are using them right now. They are still very expensive for what they offer (as laptops were in 2000 or so), and no one can really figure out how to write on them. As keyboards improve and tablet prices decrease, we’ll see a steady flow of tablets into schools, so that by 2015 or so, they will be just as commonplace as laptops are today. But for now, we are still waiting. Someone needs to write the book on using tablets in ELA.
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About RR

Assistant Professor of English Education at Grand Valley State University.
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