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Paul Ruth

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The Problem: Students don't read enough, and don't write well enough. The solutions: Practice

The first one uses Blogger. Allow students to write blogs detailing everything from assignments, to finding pen pals from across the world, to creative writing. They would get badges for different projects they make. I would call them school journals. It makes online portfolios much quicker for teachers and schools to use. Imagine a child having 12 years of development to donate for educational research.To help fund the project google could run ads about living good life styles sponsored by other non-profit groups. Like eating healthy, tolerance, world hunger support, and so on. The idea being that it helps to motivate the youth to create a society that thinks and cares about others.

The second idea is to use google books. There are many free books, and stories out there and they can be set up for age groups. You may be able to get poets and writers to write exclusive content for students to read. To keep students coming back, the program would use variable reinforcement. This would get kids almost addicted to reading. Every so often the student will be prompted to write so many words abut what they read. The program would detect keywords and sentence structure to award points The opportunities to fill out the form would be random. This is the same kind of reinforcement that slot machines use to keep people playing, but in this example people just win.

The last one is to have the books read by people, so that the students can follow along. Organize this the same way you are organizing the translation on Khan. As the material increases in difficulty parts of the book would be read, then the student will have to read the rest. 5 pages are listened to, then 5 pages are read. This cuts down on reading exhaustion, and helps with language development. This program would also help people to learn written language if they have a simple knowledge of the spoken word. Even poets and wuthors could read their work. Publisger would help support the site buy selling books.

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  • Mar 25 2011: Leveraging technology alone to spur students into reading and writing more clearly won't be enough. Many young folks (particularly in our area) already have access to blogger, google books, and an array of other communication (reading and writing) tools online, but they don't learn (or demonstrate that they've learned) how to write properly. It would be easy for a teacher to implement an online journal requirement for their class, but I fear the problem would lie in the politics. While the majority of students (in our area) have access to computers, and the internet outside of school, I imagine some don't.

    I have to admit that when I was new to the internet, and younger, I thought it was cool to write in the shortened internet style of writing that we see from young folks. It's accepted as a norm among their peers, so what motivation could they have to write correctly? It takes longer to learn how to write correctly. It also takes longer to type "you" than it does to type "u". I think the general consensus among young people is that proper writing isn't necessary and is a waste of time. They're able to communicate without what they see as overheard. They seem to remain content in that notion until they realize that being cool isn't as important as being smart, and writing like that makes them look dumb. I think this transition comes when they leave their more childish peer group behind and begin to venture into more mature communities.

    Creating a mature community like TED for young people, students, would be ideal. Somewhere that writing is corrected when done improperly, questions are answered and teaching occurs naturally. Somewhere that teachers, professionals and students intermingle somewhat casually, but with the mentor/mentoree attitude consistently present. Having role models that they can look up to and learn from is perhaps the single best catalyst to push them toward greatness.
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    Mar 25 2011: The idea is to find new ways to motivate students to do things more. Like the Khan Academy. People have been able to find reference to learning Calculus on the internet for a long time, but the videos and interaction make it more engaging. Technology is the medium in which this could happen. This is not a replacement, but something to be added on. Instead of just having silent reading, students can work on reading with a program that help to get them over the no read attitude.

    The program that I envision for reading is one that will help identify setance structure like a grammer check does in a word processor. This is not to teach good writing, but it serves as a private practice. Even if student are only give 20 min. a day to read, it will make a huge difference in their reading development. The point I want to bring up is that students are in an increasing world of stimulus. Students do not read well enough for it to be stimulating, so there needs to be extra stimulus to get them more engaged early in their reading development. Plus the more a student reads, the better the writer they become.

    These ideas can be used in school or libraries, where students have access to computers. This way each student can work at their own pace. You are right that technology is not going to fix the reading and writing problem we face as a population. What it can do is make books more alive. Hearing someone read as you follow along is a huge developmental tool for students, but how is a teacher to read to each stundent to a book that might be at their level?

    Role models are the best way to push students like you said, but some students do not have acess to those either. The mentor program is again political becasue how the site would be regulated to keep kids safe.

    I have also notice with text messaging that when QWERTY keyboards became more popular people started to tend away from short hand writing.

    Thanks for commenting
    • Mar 28 2011: Sure, text messages sent by adults that used to be shorthand are now being given real sentence structure and proper words. But internet forums, where kids spend their time such as this one http://www.gaiaonline.com/forum/chatterbox/f.23/ paint a different picture. On these forums, kids are at computers, they're typing on full keyboard (assumedly) and they're talking to their peers. Now, on that site, there is a group of young people who use proper sentence structure, full words, and punctuation. But, the majority of the kids there do not.

      That site in particular is interesting. I've been paying attention to it since my younger cousins starting chatting there 7 years ago. Earlier off, the site was more littered with incoherent writing than it is now. My assumption has been that the same group of kids who started out there earlier off when the site was first becoming popular has stuck around, and as they've aged and matured, so has their writing style. I wish I had been gathering statistics and samples from that site over the past 7 years, but I haven't been. It's an interesting community of younger people, quite a peer group to observe.

      I really think the best way to teach young people is to do so in a way that they feel they're among peers. They listen to peers more willingly than they do authority figures, and their attention is on what they're doing at that time. Learning doesn't work well when it's forced. Sitting kids down at a computer so they can read along with a voice in the computer is so shallow compared to a real person reading and interacting with the kid. When did we abandon teaching from parents exactly? Why isn't more emphasis put on parents and their teaching role in their children's' lives?
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        Mar 28 2011: Like you said, parenting is the most important role for kids to do well in school. Pure human interaction is the best, and forcing all students to learn at the same rates is not productive either.

        I checked out the website you provided, and i see what you mean. My experience in the classroom as an English teacher has showed me that when students are given the tools to write well, they write well. The problem that I bring up is that those tools needed to be practiced in a structured setting. If as a nation we are waitng for all parents to take deep active roles in their children, then it is a failed path. There are just some bad parents, and some parents have it harder than others for poverty reasons.

        My original idea is not perfect, which is why I posted it here. A computer program is shallow compared to a person reading with them on eon one, but this just does not happen. They are one of 30 students in classroom, and some parents just don't care.

        I would like to think that my idea is a step up from having students struggle through a book completely on their own, and then give up because of frustration. Apporaching reading in new ways will engage students for a short while just becasue it is new. It happens with all educational tech. Hopefully it engages them long enough for the book to catch on.

        For people to write well, they need to read well, and to read well, they write well. It is a cycle. Adding in a novel idea may help get the ball rolling down the hill for some students. I have met many student that work really hard at school, but just need a new dynamic. Maybe we should send many novel structures at student to see if they pick up one a role with it. Tech based or not.

        Technology does not replace, but it can supplement. Sometimes all a students needs is just a small shallow supplement to open up new worlds.