Effectiveness of Reading Comprehension Programs

“To help close this research gap, Mathematica Policy Research conducted a study supported by the Institute of Education Sciences in the US Department of Education over the course of two school years evaluating the effectiveness of four supplemental reading comprehension programs in helping disadvantaged fifth graders improve their reading comprehension. The study used an experimental design, in which schools were randomly assigned to use an intervention or not …

The study found positive impacts for one of the four curricula. In particular, when teachers had one prior year of experience using the ReadAbout curriculum, students scored higher on a reading comprehension assessment. The score improvement is equivalent to moving from the 50th to the 59th percentile on a standardized test. The study found no improvement in reading comprehension scores for students using the other three curricula.”

Read the summary here.

The role of technology in writing

New report on the role of technology and its impact on young people’s writing … from the UK National Literacy Trust:

Most young people write regularly and young people write technology-based
materials, such as text and instant messages, most frequently. While owning a mobile phone
does not appear to alter young people’s writing behaviour, having a profile on a social
networking site or having a blog is connected to enjoyment of writing and confidence in writing.
Young people today use computers regularly and believe that computers are beneficial to their

We believe it is paramount that the school curriculum reflects and utilises writing forms that
young people enjoy and engage with, in order to demonstrate that writing is more than a
compulsory task: it is an essential life skill.

Full report (pdf): Young people and writing: Attitudes, behavior and the role of technology
Executive summary (pdf): Young people and writing: Executive summary

Will the Kindle Change Education?



From Scholastic Administr@tor:

Some educators say they are already convinced that e-book readers are what schools need. “For the longest time, distribution of reading materials has been highly inefficient in getting the right material to the right student at the right moment,” says Daniel Witz, a language arts teacher at Lake Bluff Middle School, near Chicago. “You have maybe four books of a fiction title; if a fifth kid wants to be part of that circle, you don’t have that copy,” he says.

Students provided with Kindles, which can hold some 1,500 digital books, can simply download the copies they need, without burdening a school’s media center, Witz says.

With access to the vast bookshelf of titles, teachers could tempt reluctant readers with high-interest magazines and nonfiction, or they could feed their voracious readers with popular series.

Kindles stocked with well-chosen e-books would also allow teachers to flex new teaching strategies, according to Cornelia Brunner, the deputy  director at the Center for Children and Technology in New York City. “You could have a very nicely selected group of readings. . . . Kids could read, annotate, and actually clip and be asked to make connections among those clippings,” says Brunner.

Other possible benefits include providing students with more books electronically than is practical in print, reducing photocopying, relieving the unhealthy weight of student backpacks, and—though this case is far from proven—saving school districts money on textbooks.

Read the entire article here.

A Better Pencil

A Better Pencil

A Better Pencil

From A Better Pencil, by Dennis E. Baron:

I start with Plato’s critique of writing where he says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember things. Our memory will become weak. And he also criticizes writing because the written text is not interactive in the way spoken communication is. He also says that written words are essentially shadows of the things they represent. They’re not the thing itself. Of course we remember all this because Plato wrote it down — the ultimate irony.

We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won’t have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there’s no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant — it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of “this is going to revolutionize everything” versus “this is going to destroy everything.”

More than a little food for thought …

New Literacy … writing is alive and well

Clive Thompson writes about the Stanford Study of Writing – one of the first research-based arguments that student writing is in actual fact, alive, well, and thriving in the digital age:

… young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.

Read the rest of the Wired article here.

Mixed Ink

Really interesting idea – takes collaborative writing a bit further than the tools we’ve become familiar with (like google docs or wikispaces).

With Mixed Ink, writers can participate in a group with the goal of producing a single, final document. Writers can draft their ideas individually or on smaller teams. Individuals and teams write and read each others’ work, borrowing when they find strong ideas (always giving the originator credit) and re-drafting at will. Group members continuously rate the submissions until one final document emerges.

According to the folks at Mixed Ink, the tool has been used by the White HouseCongressional offices, and news publishers. It looks to have great potential for classroom use, giving a whole new meaning to peer review and the concept of editing and revision. Mixed Ink suggests applications such as:

  • persuasive writing
  • vision statements
  • word problems
  • letters to editor / public officials
  • how-to writing
  • film/literature analysis

I’m sure teachers could think of many more uses. Here’s a descriptive video:

MixedInk Demo from MixedInk on Vimeo.