Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reading to Learn

"I want my students to use the computers in a way that helps them learn," my teacher friend said to me this summer. "Great!" I said. "What do students need to learn in your classroom?"

So began a conversation about technology use in the classroom. This one, like many, led to exploring option together and working on what we thought might be a viable solution.

The solution: teach 3rd graders to use Word to help them with main idea. Here's how it would go...
Find some short articles from Time for Kids at the 2nd to 3rd grade reading level. Copy the article and paste it into Word, develop a question that would lead students to find information from the article that addressed the main idea, teach students to delete any text that did not address the question - in the end leaving them with the question and a list of items from the article that answered the question. This seemed to us to be a great way to get kids to use technology to help them sift through information to remove unneeded pieces of information and keep the necessary information.

But wait! It didn't work! How could such a simple strategy, such an easy way of using technology not work? Well...the technology couldn't possibly make a difference when the real problem was that students just didn't really understand what main idea meant in the first place. Interesting...because for the last two years, when we done the data analysis on our state assessments we've found that main idea and summarizing were areas of weakness from 3rd grade to 5th grade. So, if the kids don't really get it in the first place the technology doesn't matter.

We've been talking about using technology for years with our teachers. Is it possible that our teachers don't really get the concept in the first place? Do they need that concept first before the technology makes a difference? How do we best approach teaching that concept then?

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