In the hands of great teachers, we certainly see how technology can transform learning for students. It has never been about technology in and of itself; rather how teachers can personalize instruction for each learner and transform learning.
With that said, at no point, should technology completely REPLACE text reading. Whether we are assigning reading for instructional purposes or for pleasure reading, time must be provided to put a book in the hands of a student or to listen to a teacher read from an actual book. I encourage all of our teachers to make ample time for text reading, teacher directed comprehension strategies, and collaborative discussions about the text with peers.
We can never lose track of the importance of devoting time to actual text reading, learning from informational texts, discussing and writing about what students have read and learned. Strategies such as giving students a choice of text to read, providing selections that ensure appropriate degree of difficulty, and allowing time for multiple readings to attain greater fluency and comprehension set the stage for higher level thinking skills and increased literacy motivation.
After guided practice, provide time to talk about the reading, whether it’s an informational text or fictional piece. The best way to teach comprehension strategies is to model in a metacognitive way. Engage students in a dialogue about the reading, teach strategies that engage students in reciprocal teaching models where students are engaging with their peers as well as the teacher in dialogue about the reading. Opportunities to read, to talk and to write about the reading, can never become a lost art. Comprehension must be taught and a love for reading can be cultivated when students are encouraged and shown how to express ideas, formulate opinions based on moral and ethical codes, and accept personal interpretations and reactions of others. Maryann Eeds wrote about grand conversations that describe literature discussions where the teacher’s role is to prompt and facilitate student dialogue about the text rather than that of a “gentle inquisition”. “Student engagement increases when students are given opportunities to think deeply, articulate their reasoning and listen with purpose in conversations about issues that are important to them.”
In this national literacy month, take the time to read to your students. Albert Einstein, celebrated quintessential genius, is credited to sharing with a mother who asked him how her child might grow to be as intelligent as Einstein himself, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Creative imagination is the essential element in the intellectual equipment of the true scientist and fairy tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality.
Don’t replace books with technology; don’t replace a teacher with a computer… technology and computers have their place in today’s classrooms, but can never take the place of a truly great teacher who brings a passion for reading and learning to the classroom dynamic, and multiple opportunities for students to read and develop a deep love for reading and learning!
Valerie Mara Assistant
Superintendent of Academics
Archdiocese of Hartford