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Online computer reading program vs. 6-year-old

Computer reading programs are not likely to replace real teachers anytime soon.  Unless, cities and states continue to pay and treat teachers so poorly that there are no more real people left teaching. I hope this is not the case since teachers are less likely to be fooled by 6 year olds.

At school she is signed up for an online reading program.  The kids need to read a passage in a certain amount of time and then answer questions about what they read.  If the child meets the computer's demands, the kids get some tickets which they can then use to buy electronic "prizes" to decorate their online clubhouse.  Like a 1000 ticket rocket or a 400 ticket goldfish.  If they pass one story, they go on to the next and the next and the next.

At first this was fun.  I'd sit with my daughter while she read.  The computer asked her to "whisper read" meaning read to herself.  So she did.  And then she'd answer the questions.  All was going along well, meaning she was zipping though the stories and collecting the tickets.   Then I asked her to read out loud.  Turns out she was getting a number of words wrong, but could understand the passage well enough to answer the questions right. Milwaukee, milk basket, who cares.

Then there was the problem of timing.  The computer didn't like if you read too slow or too fast.  Read too fast and the computer would, basically, call you a liar for claiming you could read so fast.  Read too slow and the computer would say, too slow, do it again.  On her own she figured out she could read it any which way she wanted on the first go around.  Then on the second go, she'd count.  She wouldn't read it again but she'd sit with it and somehow she determined how many seconds would make the computer happy.  She'd then make the computer happy and clock in the tickets.

Now I knew this but the computer didn't.  But it didn't care.  If the multiple choice answer was "A" and she got "A".  She was a brilliant reader. Being a "brilliant" reader she got enough tickets to buy what she wanted for her online clubhouse.  All too soon she saw that the prizes were absolutely boring. Click on the rocket and it goes up!  Click on the flag and it waves!  She may have become a "better" reader that week but she wasn't learning to love to read.

Maybe one day, computers will be able to listen to students read and be gently correcting and encouraging at all the rights times, fostering betterment and love.  

That computer will be plain creepy and weird.  When a computer says "Good for you" it lacks sincerity. 

Has she become a better reader?  Who knows.  I make her read to me out of real books almost everyday.  She also reads menus and the warning signs at the zoo.  Personally, I don't care how she learns to read as long as she doesn't order chicken when she's looking for chowder and can correctly read the word "venomous."

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