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EdTech Update




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It's not the program, but how you use it


Questions about the merits or lack of them of Accelerated Reader surfaced again on our state's media specialist listserve this week. After all these years, the debate is still whether to use such programs or whether not to use them.

The discussion needs to be re-framed from yeah or nay, to how to use any tool well.

These have been my questions/guidleines about any reward-based reading program originally published in a 10-year-old column, Creating Fat Kids Who Don’t Like to Read:

  1. Does my reading promotion program stress personal accomplishment and individual accomplishment? Do students have the ability to set their own reading goals? Can students at a variety of reading levels and abilities meet target goals or will only the very best readers be recognized? Are only set percentage of students recognized for their accomplishments or will all students who reach a goal be acknowledged?
  2. Does my reading promotion program set goals that promote collaborative work? Are only individuals recognized for the amounts they have read, or can small groups or classes collaborate?
  3. Is my reading promotion program only part of my total reading program? Do I still emphasize books, magazines and other reading materials that may not “count” in the promotional reading program? Are my students also reading books because of hearing exciting booktalks, listening to enthusiastic peer recommendations, and being given well-constructed classroom bibliographies tied to content areas?
  4. Is my reading promotion program available to my students for only a limited duration during the school year? Do my students get the chance to read for the sake of reading after the promotion is over, to really experience the true, intrinsic rewards that come from being lost in a story or learning interesting facts? Have I tried to determine whether my program really leads to life-long reading behaviors?
  5. Does my reading promotion program stay away from material rewards like food, stickers, or parties? Are students or groups recognized for meeting their goals through public announcements and certificates? If I have to give out some physical reward, is it at least a book? (Or low-fat, sugar-free!)

So, what are your ways to build an intrinsic love of reading through programs designed to stress the extrinsic rewards?

Greetings from snowy St. Charles, MO, and the METC conference. I am looking forward to seeing Meg Ormiston's keynote this morning. I hope the weather is good enough for people to attend. And for me to get home tonight!

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Reader Comments (4)

Doug- these are important questions to consider. In a time where time is precious and standards are high, we have to think careful how students are spending time in reading class. Programs like Accelerated reader take up a great deal of time( and cost a great deal of money) and these questions are rarely discussed.

A few questions I would add to the dialogue:

Does the program mirror the behaviors, decisions, and actions of real readers?
Does the program develop students ability to make wise books selections, understand and explore multiple genres, and engage in though provoking discussions because of their choices?
Do students strive to archive because of the challenge and exciting that comes from being a part of a literate community of readers or because they need to get the points necessary for a treat or party?

Intrinsic motivation comes from being supported, challenged, and immersed in a community and culture of literacy. One where the reader, not the colored dots on the book, are the focus of the teaching and learning conversations. Classrooms that breed lifelong readers have three things in common - CHOICE, ACCESS, and CONVERSATION.

January 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Maiers

Perhaps this is irrelevant to the point of this post but I couldn't resist...

For technology coordinators/admin trying to help move a school to a FOSS platform, Accelerated Reader is an obstacle. The only thing it "accelerates" in this regard is vendor lock-in. If your school doesn't currently use AR but wishes to use, for example, GNU/Linux, then an alternative should be sought.

January 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Hi Angela,

Your questions are fantastic additions to be asking. Thanks for sharing.

All the best,


Thanks, Peter. How many big software producers create products to run on open source servers?


February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I'm not sure I understand the question. Do you mean, how many producers of widely used proprietary applications allow those applications to run on FOSS platforms?

If so, I have no specific number but can name some examples. Adobe has some popular applications that run on FOSS platforms. Flash is one. AIR is another. Reader is another. But Shockwave is a proprietary Adobe application that locks users into a proprietary platform.

Skype is a popular proprietary application that is platform independent. There's a whole slew of "educational" crap that can be found through Scholastic that only runs on proprietary Windows/Mac. Some of it can run through WINE, some can't.

While I don't like proprietary applications at all, I do have a tendency to not sharply criticize apps that are platform independent. I do want all software to be free, but pragmatically, I understand that freedom at the lower level (i.e. BIOS/OS and up) is significantly better than having freedom with one's applications yet be shackled by the foundation. Proprietary apps that keep users away from a free foundation are a significant obstacle. I tend to focus more on those than things like Flash.

Microsoft understands this too. Their short-term plan will be to support "open source" at the higher levels and keep control over the platform as long as possible. What they will do is try their best to promote "open source" applications that only run on Windows. This way they can appear to support "open source" yet encourage people to become dependent upon Windows.

February 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

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