We’ll get to the question above shortly.

In the popular Blog of ‘November Learning’ there’s an illuminating article about ‘Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing’.

The story leads with the experiences of an ISD superintendent, who had spent the past month reviewing one-to-one computing programs in various school districts. He was trying to decide whether his own district should commit to the enormous expense of a one-to-one program at a time of declining resources.

To quote the Blog (click to open), the conclusion from his visits did not leave much room for interpretation.

“Horrible, horrible, horrible implementation from every program I visited,” he said. “All of them were about the stuff, with a total lack of vision.”
His research convinced him not to move forward with one-to-one computing.’

I empathized with his experiences and decided to post a contribution to the Blog based on my own experiences as well as my despair at how computerized beginning reading programs are promoted, and indeed accepted, in our school system.

Here’s what I said.

How I see it!
As you know I am a kindergarten teacher.
I got so fed up with the boring resources my school provided, I created my own program called Jazzles ELA

I wanted to use technology but in tandem with a well rounded, scaffolded, creative learning pedagogy that includes developing vital non-cognitive skills. (Discussion, sharing, problem solving etc.)

Jazzles ELA is blended learning with a very clear and ambitious vision about enabling every child, irrespective of social status, to become at least a proficient but preferably advanced reader and writer.

At the very center of Jazzles 21st Century Engaging Pedagogy is developing vocabulary (linked with knowledge), the single very best predictor of success in all school subject areas.

However, if you look at commercial PreK – K technology-based literacy learning programs that claim to teach children everything they need to know to read, their focus leads with ‘phonics’ and effectively rote learning of words, the latter justified by research that shows if you repeat a word 16 times, you know the word.

Can you imagine the computer programmers when they heard that statistic?? Ecstatic!

As NIFL’s Advisory Board Member, Dr. Richard Wagner, says “Vocabulary knowledge is really knowledge distributed across multiple sets of words rather than an individual word alone. Acquiring a new word or refining knowledge of one word can improve understanding of related words and concepts.”
It takes more than a computer program to do that.
That’s why the Jazzles interactive ELA pedagogy employs social interaction and group work, etc.

When I tried to license Jazzles ELA to the big publishers, even though one valued the program at $4.0m, unanimously their vision was for something teachers could set the kids could do all by themselves – enabling teachers to focus on those children requiring more one-to-one.

All of this came into focus this week, when I looked at the website of ‘StudyDog’ – claiming to be “the fastest growing children’s reading program for kids ages 4-9.

Here’s the StudyDog claim:
“StudyDog Reading provides a complete, research based, rigorous curriculum. Study Dog is aligned with Common Core and state standards and systematically develops skills with explicit instruction. StudyDog is the only online solution that delivers all the components for effectively developing essential skills for early elementary readers.”

Mmmm! We shall see!

Now read their fine print!
Here’s the very small footnote in a pdf entitled ‘Texas Language Arts Literacy Standards PreK – 1st Grade’. To save you clicking the link and looking at the very bottom of the last page, here is what it says:

“StudyDog is a supplemental, computer-based reading program and, as such, cannot meet those standards that can only be met by human teachers. Those standards are not shown.
So please, what’s the point of the program???

Love your thoughts on that!
And look, with Jazzles ELA there is no small print. I stand by everything I claim – and just for the record, Jazzles ELA meets/exceeds Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten ELA – and yes, it is designed for human teachers (weird StudyDog description!!) and delivers in such a way as to minimize classroom management and create maximum quality teaching time!

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