An iPad away from..

One of the things that Helena liked about school is the iPads. She has used an iPad more in the last week than in the rest of her life. She has been using a programme called reading eggpress (sic) which has these little bits of text, maybe they are short stories (the one I read over her shoulder was unrewarding as a story) that you read then answer comprehension questions, they are multi choice. When you get enough right you move on to the next level, can explore more and you you get a prize – not a real prize just a thing in the game, like a pokemon card. When you answer a question it tells you if you are right straight away and does a chearful bing.

With this programme you can redo the task “that’s what I put last time” if it is wrong… I’m not sure if that kind of self correcting fosters an increase in comprehension or maybe statistics or a knowledge of the testers agenda? Reading eggpress also has a dictionary task, you explore certain words from the text. Helena likes this… she likes it all, even the computerised book of haiku (trying hard with her spelling has given her an interest in syllables).

My question is “does this quick return, a bing, and a “prize” do the same thing in your brain as what self motivation gives you?” My instinct says no, that there is some dopamine pat on the back with a bing, the kind of hit that you don’t get from perserverance. The questions are of those testing kind, like the ones we ask very little children all the time when we know the answer.

I think read because you like it, have conversations about books and read bits to each other because that is fun, learn facts about stuff you like, accidentally learn facts about stuff because it is relevant to your life or someone you are hanging out with is into it …

Reading eggpress is helping her maths as it has her noticing percent, this is as it tells her what percentage she gets right in her comprehension tests…. I wonder if she would still notice this if she was getting more than the odd one wrong? How would that feel?

Because I am practicing to be a real teacher I practiced doing a Probe on Helena, I paid her a dollar a test. Probe has specific short texts in fiction and non-fiction for the child to read to themselves and then out loud and the teacher has a duplicate set that you mark as the child reads, noting when they hesitate, self correct any mistakes, etc. After they read you follow up with comprehension questions – literal, inference, reorganisation, vocab, evaluation and reaction questions and this gives you a standardised reading age. It is to see if the child is comprehending what they read or just saying the words. According to Probe Helena has a reading age of over 13.5 – 14.5, our photocopier ran out of ink. This is totally made up. Helena is 9, she likes books (particularly anything by Enid Blyton). If she had been at school she would have been in reading recovery as Helena didn’t read until she was 7. She reads like she does because “I taught myself, I enjoy reading, I read lots -some over and over and some just once” Helena is interested in the world around her and the people around her use big words and talk to her. “Mostly it’s because I read” Helena says. Possibly her extensive vocabulary is because of the volume of audio books we listen to together?

Is reading eggpress just doing reading to test her comprehension? It is in our interests to comprehend things, so is comprehension a natural process?……. I think we should find ways in which having comprehension is useful, has a practical purpose which is what I think children naturally do, especially when they talk to each other. Comprehension comes from conversation and we are not having a conversation while we are interacting with a device.

Later: I heard this on Radio New Zealand.

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