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The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures.


Dan Roam

I like graphic organizers--the invention to represent ideas in picture form. Most teacher-librarians know and use Inspiration or Kidspiration and teach young people how to organize their thoughts and ideas from what they read, but if you don't know about those packages or cannot afford them, then Roam's system is interesting. Essentially, Roam shows how they created a system of pictures that represented ideas--a picture shorthand of sorts. For example, a rectangle represents a "what" problem to solve. Two arrows pointing the same way with a question mark means a "when" problem. His scribbles help him attack who, what, when, where, and how problems, and the more he uses them, the more complex they become as he thinks through the symbols. So, what does this have to do with teacher-librarians? I think the discovery here is that we give a gift to learners who embrace graphic organizers. It is a gift of thinking, analysis, synthesis, and seeing the big picture. While a computer program may be quite helpful to a novice learner, we can encourage learners to go beyond what a computer is doing for them to invent systems that stimulate their own thinking. It is the push a piano teacher gives the student at the point where it is time to take flight: "You don't need me as your teacher any more. You are a performer (information literate)." Perhaps that is why this book appeals to me--it represents a challenge every teacher-librarian faces. How many of our students become independent learners because of us? Read a bit in this book. It may stimulate your own thinking about problem solving through graphic organizers. I'm talking about personal and professional ones as well as what we can do for our students. (Portfolio [Penguin Group], 2008. 278 pp. $24.95. 978-1-59184-199-9.)

Bottom line: Recommended.

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Title Annotation:tools for learning
Author:Loertscher, David
Publication:Teacher Librarian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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