Ask Reading Kingdom

How do we leverage the immense power and potential of the Internet, digital tools and social media to enable learners and teachers to connect in purposeful ways across borders and boundaries to contribute to making the world a safer, saner and more just place?

internet-graphic

 

The high tech age represents a phenomenal revolution that is affecting every aspect of our lives. This power has led, not surprisingly, to an overestimation of what the digital world can accomplish. For example, it is responsible for the growing feeling that the high tech world holds the answers to the problems of poor school performance that pervade the educational scene. The devices have been deemed to be so appealing that they will automatically generate the kind of engagement that will lead to effective learning and thereby eliminate, or significantly lessen, the problems. As the data comes in, this is proving not to be the case. Children are not learning more effectively—a finding that should not be surprising. The content being transmitted on the devices is largely the same as the same poorly constructed materials that marked the pre-computer age.

A similar situation holds for the far more ambitious goal of “enabling learners and teachers to connect” so as to make “the world a safer, saner and more just place.” The high tech world provides the means for cutting across boundaries and allowing instant communication and access to ideas and information. But it is the content of what is sent across those boundaries that is critical. Basically the curriculum has to be altered dramatically and there is little evidence that this is happening.

Consider, for example, the domain of reading. Literacy is critical to an educated population and to the kind of international exchange that you envision. Nevertheless, for decades, the United States has been living with a reading failure rate across the nation that hovers around 40% – with only 1 out of 3 achieving proficiency in this essential skill. Yet, new ideas for the effective teaching of reading are extremely rare. The vast majority of the time, money and effort goes into phonics (“sounding out”) instruction despite its very long history of proven failure. Even were that instruction effective (which it is not) it still does little for the teaching of comprehension. Despite the fact that the purpose of reading is to understand the messages being conveyed by the printed page, efforts in this area are limited and ineffective. The end result is low levels of comprehension and even lower levels of writing.

This is but one example of the inadequate curricula that pervade education. These problems can be solved –but they require major effort and commitment that currently does not exist. Only when the desire for change supersedes the inertia can we begin to meaningfully address the wonderful goals you have asked about.

 

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