Adolescents in the Internet Age: Teaching and Learning from Them (2nd ed.)
reviewed by Bob Fecho - April 22, 2016
Title: Adolescents in the Internet Age: Teaching and Learning from Them (2nd ed.)
Author(s): Paris S. Strom, Robert D. Strom
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1607521180, Pages: 642, Year: 2009
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I believe that the characteristics that are our greatest virtues are often the same ones that limit our vision and undermine our possibilities. That which we do well often propels us forward, but frequently obscures other intriguing but less developed talents. A quality that works well in one aspect of our lives, like a single-minded pursuit of excellence in the workplace, might fare less well if we apply the same to raising a family.
I also believe that we all read the world from a range of positions that have been in dialogue across our lives. For example, I have spent nearly equal portions of forty years of my life either directly teaching adolescents about the wonder and complexities of reading and writing, or teaching pre-service and in-service teachers how to do the same. My work has been influenced by the critical pedagogy of Paulo Freire (1970), the transactional theories of Louise Rosenblatt (1995), and the dialogical theories of Mikhail Bakhtin (1981), all of which have swirled through my myriad experiences within and outside classrooms.
In seeking understanding, we approach new texts from [our] own already formed world view, from [our] own viewpoint, from [our] own position (Bakhtin, 1986, p. 142). My viewpoint is that of an educator long-immersed in critical inquiry and engaged dialogical pedagogy within literacy classrooms. This body of experience is both a strength and a limitation I bring when reading Adolescents in the Internet Age: Teaching and Learning from Them. Authors Paris S. Strom and Robert D. Strom are equally immersed in, strengthened from, and limited by educational psychologys literature and their experiences within this discipline, particularly as it applies to adolescents. Bakhtin also importantly suggests that such positional gaps can be places where a struggle occurs that results in mutual change and enrichment (1986, p. 142).
Continuing along this vein of strengths and limitations, what might first strike a reader of this text is its sheer breadth and scope. The book dips into broad perspectives on adolescence through its division into four major foci, Identity Expectations, Cognitive Expectations, Social Expectations, and Health Expectations, which are in turn divided into three lengthy chapters apiece. An example of the range that the book covers is evident in Chapter Fours focus on mental abilities and achievement. Within the 30-odd pages of this chapter, the authors move from early perspectives on education through formal operational thinking, expanded perspectives on intelligence brought about by more recent educational and technological movements, current contributions from neuroscience, and studies of attention and distraction.
Herein lies both the strength and limitation of the text. This chapter is comprehensive in covering major areas that contribute to the understanding of cognitive expectations for adolescents, but each of those areas receives approximately a page of attention. Therefore, whether or not this book is useful to you as a reader or instructor considering it as a text for your class has much to do with your intent. If the idea is to gain a broad sense of adolescents and their approaches to life and learning through a filter of educational psychology, then this book offers that breadth with readability and authority. However, if you want a great deal of depth, you may not necessarily find it.
Beginning my academic career as a teacher researching my own practice, I was both pleased and puzzled by the section in the first chapter devoted to teacher research as a means for understanding and contributing to the research literature on adolescents. On the positive side, it was encouraging to see this nod to the knowledge constructed by teachers; knowledge that is frequently downplayed or even ignored by the academic community. On the negative side, theoretical advocacy by academics such as Dixie Goswami and Peter Stillman (1986), Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan Lytle (1993), and others, is not mentioned. Nor is the fine work on adolescents, which teacher researchers such as Greg Michie (1998), Jeff Wilhelm (1996), Jennifer Obidah and Karen Teel (2001), to name but a small few, researched. This omission underlines the fact that we bring a range of positions to a text; ones that often, but not always, overlap with those of others. The willingness of Strom and Strom to acknowledge teacher research is to be applauded, but the examples they provide seem to be drawn from areas beyond what I consider to be the center of teacher research literature.
As I read through Adolescents in the Internet Age, many structural aspects of the text appealed to me. For example, each chapter except the introductory one contains a section devoted to classroom applications. Key terms are defined and major points summarized. In a nod to the ever-changing online world, the print version not only mentions websites, but they are also available on an updated website. In addition, the authors support teachers understanding and implementation of collaboration integration theory via a series of supportive exercises they call CLEAR (Cooperative Learning Exercises and Roles). CLEAR enables students to collaborate with the intent of increasing motivation, participation, and a range of perspectives. CLEAR is explained in detail in Chapter One, and follow-up exercises are suggested throughout the book.
Early in Adolescents in the Internet Age, Strom and Strom state that there is an academic consensus that a universal adolescent experience, emotionally, does not exist (p. 6). Barely a page later, they assert that society is faced with the threat of rapid change and adolescents will be hit particularly hard as they try to construct an adult identity. The authors position their text at this complexity. Readers of this book should leave feeling that they have been given a broad platform from which to more deeply delve into the important questions about practice that this text will raise.
Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. (Original work published 1975)
Bakhtin, M. (1986). Speech genres & other late essays (V. W. McGee, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (1993). Inside/outside: Teacher research and knowledge. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.). New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Company.
Goswami, D., & Stillman, P. (1986). Reclaiming the classroom: Teacher research as an agency for change. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Michie, G. (1998). Holler if you hear me: The education of a teacher and his students. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Obidah, J., & Teel, K. (2001). Because of the kids: Facing racial and cultural differences in schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Rosenblatt, L. (1995). Literature as exploration (5th ed.). New York, NY: Modern Language Association.
Wilhelm, J. (1996). You gotta be the book: Teaching engaged and reflective reading with adolescents. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.