Computer-based reading tools, not magic bullet

Worth a read, even if you don’t agree. Peter DeWitt’s post on The Myth About Computer-Based Reading Software?

One point that struck out: Every child talks with peers about reading and writing.

Talking! Even while reading?

This is where technology can fail, especially when we put too much emphasis on the words on screen, and too little emphasis of the words (stories) in their head. I know most software tries to solve this by asking the online reader in an intervention program to ‘re-tell the story’. But I have a huge problem with that. Typing ain’t talking. Processing words through your fingers involves a separate part of your brain. Speech involves the frontal lobe, the Broca area— that we teachers sometimes suppress just for the sake of keeping the room quiet!

But re-telling a story to an inanimate screen is like getting someone to have a conversion with Siri, just because one can.  (Siri in the classroom is a whole new topic!)

SproutsMontessori_IMThink of why we read and what we do after we finish a book. We talk about it. For weeks, sometimes! By re-constructing the story, we revisit and embed some of the best parts of the writer’s craft – the grammar, the turns of phrase,  and of course stock our reservoir with a new vocabulary. I see this happen, almost in real time, at my wife’s Momntessori school, when 4-year olds pick up a book to ‘discuss’ it!

I’m not against digital books. I’m in fact a  big supporter of ePub, and am a heavy user of a Kindle. But it does not replace my belief that the mastery of reading comes from flipping pages (not screens) and talking about the content.


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