Technology Won’t Teach Without YOU!

sesame street

Pre-K Lessons Linked to TV Produce Gains in Literacy (but with a big caveat!)  This summary is from an article Education Week, Oct 21, 2009.

A new study has found that low-income pre-schoolers made significant gains in acquiring skills such as naming letters and knowing the sounds associated with these letters, and understanding concepts about stories and printed words.  These gains were found after children participated in a technology-supported literacy curriculum that used videos from “Super Why”, “Sesame Street”, and “Between the Lions” (PBS) as part of the Education Department’s “Ready to Learn Initiative”.

But the program used what they called ENGAGED VIEWING.

It’s engaged viewing that counts, said Shelley Pasnik, the director of the Center for Children and Technology of the EDC.  “It’s not simply turning on a video and letting it go on the screen unattended, but pausing the video and asking questions.”  The teachers in the study got 8 on-site coaching lessons on how to reinforce lessons, such as pointing to objects in the classroom that begin with a particular sound after the TV character has talked about that sound or its corresponding letter. The teachers also had access to a coach throughout the intervention.

A previous review of 15 randomized control studies of pre-school curricula found that only two, Bright Beginnings and DLM Early Childhood Express, had a significant effect on student achievement.  Only one of these studies included a technology-supported curriculum and it had no positive effect.  These studies do not necessarily reflect the value of the curricula, because so much depends on the way the curriculum is supported by the teacher or parent.

I strongly concur, whether the child is watching TV or using software, or hearing a story.  The most important thing is interacting with children to allow them to express what they have learned, to generalize from a particular item (for example, about the beginning sound in APPLE) and discern that it is a pattern or rule (ANTS, ACROBAT, AXE, etc).  Passive watching or listening must be accompanied by active response, especially with very young children.  Learning is like breathing—there has to be an IN and an OUT.


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