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EdTech Update





Cell phones and the benefit of the doubt

I really dislike cell phones. They seem to have enabled a good many people a convenient way of letting other people know they will be late along with other ways of passing problems on. This is why I never give my cell phone number out - I only use the phone to harass others.

A cell phone rings during nearly every workshop or presentation I do. Despite the admonitions and the availability of phones that vibrate rather than ring, at least one person either accidentally or purposefully leaves the phone on and off it goes.

Yeah, such interruptions are annoying, but an incident a few years ago changed the way I react them. The session was rolling, the phone warbled, and an embarrassed looking lady scrambled for the device deep in her purse then quickly hurried from the room. My standard quip in such cases, which on reflection probably sounded pretty darned sarcastic, was, “Hmmm, must be a very important person.” And then went on with the talk.

After the session appeared, the lady came up and apologized. As it turns out, her husband was having serious health problems and she was scared to death it was him (or the hospital calling.) On hearing this and remembering my snide comment, I shrunk from 6’ 3” to about 2” in a heartbeat.

Since that time, I’ve decided to give people the benefit of the doubt regarding calls received in public. Doubtless there are plenty of bores out there who receive calls that no sane person would regard as important or urgent, But I guess we all gave different measures of important and urgent.

This afternoon outside Baltimore, a phone rang in the session I was going for BCPS librarians (who are about as nice, dedicated, smart and involved group as anyone hope to work – led by the very able Della Curtis.) The lady apologized, It was her son. His pet hamster had died and he needed to talk to his mom about it. In the greater scheme of things, whatever that mom said, I’m sure, were more important that I had said all day.


David Warlick’s Back to School Letter

I would encourage you to read David Warlick’s

Our Schools Are Leaking

Very thoughtful stuff.


Whip Me, Beat Me, Make Me Use a Computer to Improve My Reading

With federal reading improvement dollars flowing into some of our Title One schools, there’s been an increase in the use of computerized reading programs. Our district uses Read Naturally. Its website claims: Read Naturally continues to provide teachers with all of the tools they need to address the fluency needs of their students.

I sincerely hope not.

Granted, I am not a struggling reader or an ESL student. But I practiced with this computer-based reading tutorial last week. It had been a while since I had used such a creature and was expecting some dramatic improvements in machine-based reading instruction from what I had experienced four or five years ago. I was set up as a 5th grade, high-achieving student, and worked on a lesson about Daniel Boone – one of my favorite historical characters. The program made me review vocabulary, read the very dull story about three times, have the very dull story read to me three times (couldn’t skip), and gave me a low level quiz on my comprehension. I did a small amount of writing to summarize the content. I spent about an hour on a single passage of about 500 words. Boring, boring, boring.

You want to kill a kid’s love of reading quicker than Dan’l could kill a b’ar, this is the product to use. I ruefully reflected on how much better giving a kid James Daugherty’s fine book Daniel Boone would be and sit with him and read along.

I suppose in their place - in schools with sub par teachers, and with a very select number of students - programs like Read Naturally may do some good. But for the vast majority of kids, using these expensive basal-readers-on-a-disk run the real chance of creating negative associations with both reading and computer use.

All media specialists should be promoting another means of building student reading skills – Personal Voluntary Reading. It’s effective and builds not just reading skills, but the desire to read. Please purchase, read and share Stephen Krashen’s book The Power of Reading with your teachers and reading specialists. My review.

To me it seems the logical sequence in working with kids and reading is to instill the desire to read long before trying to teach reading skills. Good stories, good storytellers, and lots of exposure to books will do this; computers don’t.

Your experiences with online reading systems?