The next big thing

The other day I saw a picture on the internet with a parent reading to a child and it said “There is no App to replace your lap, read with your child” With all the technology, researched based “best practices” and of course those wonderful reading programs the best way to help kids read is still read with them.

I see products out there where kids interact with a screen, it helps them spell words and create sentences. They can plug in some ear phones sit in isolation and just learn. Teachers promote these programs and become ambassadors for them and get a little kick back to support the sale of their instructional practice for the reliance on a tech solution for a problem that didn’t need solving. Kids don’t need screens to read to they need people.

I know I am a broken record with some of this but the more I see people asking how my beloved Notice and Note strategies fit in with their Star Reading Assessment or “What great books around 3.7 AR level are out there for my students to make their points before the point party” The more I wonder if we really value reading and thinking or if the ease of just putting our kids on tech is becoming more important.

As a kid I did not grow up with tech in the classroom. I learned to read with Mr.Mugs books (some are still in my garage) I built my comprehension by sharing a book with a friend or having a reading conference with my teacher. I still remember reading my choose your own adventure books in elementary school, I wonder how many Star reading or read theory passages kids remember 10 years after taking them.

I think there is room for tech in reading and these programs that are designed to help close the gaps. The next layer of the problem is that they are used incorrectly. Putting a whole class on Lexia to work on decoding when only 2 in the class need it is malpractice, it contributes to readicide and the anger that others develop for the program will rub off on those that need them. Programs should never replace a teacher, EA or parent reading with a student. Supplement sure but replace? Never.

We owe our students the best of us, not just the next best thing. Technology can add engagement to learning but it also endangers those who are in need of the instruction that can only come from a teacher and not a screen. When teachers get too comfortable relying on the technology to solve their problems they stop having the confidence that they can solve them themselves and this will lead to students falling through the gaps.

On student success

While this quote was directed at the process of grading I think that it can also apply to how we are intervening with our students. The ones that need the most help should not be sitting in front of a screen listening to a mechanical voice. They should be sitting beside a fluent reader, asking questions and learning to be fluent themselves. We should be looking at ways to engage our at level or above level readers in ways that they are more independent, and working with our at risk students. Reading with them, joining their reading groups, guiding them in the process instead of letting a click of the mouse do it.

While we are waiting for the next best way to help our students maybe it is time to go back to the best way that still works. Just red with them.

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