Of course, this is axiomatic for most of us to fathom, but the NAEP scores continue to haunt me, and the effects of poor reading habits and abilities are beginning to take a serious toll on our competitive edge globally, our economy domestically, and our standard of living in general.
My theory may be counter intuitive for some and offensive to others, but I've been studying this reading problem for some time and it is now very common in the college classroom so it has "spilled over" from the K-12 environment. My assessment of problems of this nature take me back to the basics so we have to return to the ground level of instruction and take a hard look (in my opinion.)
I had an epiphany the other evening when I was entertaining some friends for dinner. We were discussing reading, books, and our students of today. I have conducted a survey in my classes now for the last 4 semesters on whether the students prefer laptops, notebooks, or IPads. Overwhelmingly, they vote for laptops. In fact, this past week, I asked the same basic question about preference and not one student out of 35 preferred IPads. Now keep in mind that schools throughout the U.S. are distributing IPads to their students at record-pace. It's like lemmings off the cliff. Someone had the idea that IPads would enhance education and they all followed. The research shows clearly that kids love to use IPads.... they are fun, but the educational worth has never been established. Why? Because it has limited value as far as work products. It's fantastic for graphics, arts, watching movies, playing games, gathering data and shopping at Chicos. Now those talents will probably not make you successful in your Managerial Accounting or Economics class. Besides, if you can't read at or above grade level, how can you compete? It is true that text materials can be downloaded and read on the IPad, but think how expensive a reader that becomes for the school districts who are always saying they have no funds.
My epiphany is as follows: Why don't school districts invest in Kindles? Even if you bought one directly from a retailer, it would run between $70 and $120. But look at the advantages. Every child could carry his Kindle all day at school reading whatever materials he needed in each class. Slower readers could begin to learn how to increase their reading speed with proper instruction on fixation rather than reading every word. Fonts can be adjusted for special eye variations. The temptation to be off task is less as there would not be games downloaded only texts, and other forms of literature.
When I think of the investment in Kindles as opposed to IPads, the first thing I think of is efficiency of management and productive education. I contend that reading scores would be improved and that the love of reading might actually be stimulated. It follows then that we would have a lot more students interested in science and engineering. The attrition rate for engineers is very high in part because of the complexity of the reading material.
I realize that I'm a salmon swimming upstream here, but those who know me realize this isn't the first "off the wall," or "out of the box," idea that I have had, and I certainly hope it isn't the last. One thing is evident - this idea might just stimulate the brains of many of our students who have a large part of their cerebrum laying dormant. My answer to those of you who want to add more gaming to the curriculum is that everything has a time and a place, but our U.S. students have been playing games in the classroom for years, and we are not exactly leading the charts on any of the NAEP statistics. Maybe the gaming should be held out as a carrot at the end of achievement. There can be value in a lot of the analysis of gaming and technology, but it doesn't, per se, improve our reading scores. Let's do first things first.
Just a thought. What are your thoughts on this concept?
Oh my, what a mouth full, but Karen is correct, and I know her well , so we need more of her thinking/discussion to come to an educated conclusion. Maybe high school and college facilitators should do our own survey to come to a conclusion on her theory............how about it!
Money could be saved by buying Kindles for students, and they would not have to carry around all of the text books; but could they write an essay, no. But then again, it is reading that we are talking about and not writing.
Now do we want to talk about writing at grade level? I could do a diatribe on students' grade level writing
That was my first thought too, Kingston. Kindles would alleviate the concern about students carrying heavy books in their backpacks. Don't reading and writing go hand in hand? Hmmm... this is coming from a math and science teachers so I tread lightly here. :-)
What can you tell us about students' grade level writing? I'm all ears.
Yes, Reading is holding hands with Writing, and the paramount part of teaching Writing is keyboarding it in Word. Did you know that there was a "readability" tool in Word? That's right, and I utilize it as a Writing tool. It will inform you of the grade level that your composition was written. My students always think that they are done with their three paragraph essay. I then ask to see their
"readability/writing level." If the child is in seventh grade/third month then they should be writing at a 7.3 or better level. Most of the time, they are not writing at grade level, and it is not ME who is
telling them that. It is the COMPUTER! Now how sweet is that.
You have to set up your computer to get the grade level, but that is simple. The BEST way for me to tell you to do it is to hit the “? Help” in the top right-hand corner in Word and ask for an explanation of "readability level." They will tell you where to go and what boxes to check off.
Now I want someone to attempt it and let me know what you think. The students get obsessed with this concept. They want to know how to develop their grade level to a higher standard. I tell them to take five-cent words and turn them into fifty-cent words; take two simple sentences that are related and turn them into one compound sentence with a comma and conjunction; and finally I tell them to not have any contractions in their essay.
Once we go over a paragraph and then take another readability/writing grade check, they are astonished at their new found discovery.
Let me know what you think.