Every week as the media reports on the pandemic, you can see students diligently looking at computer screens in their classrooms. But are they reading books or playing computer games?
Given that national reading scores have not improved for the last eight years as Chromebooks have poured into classrooms, (See NAEP data for more on this,) there is reason to believe technology is not leading to more reading experiences for our nation’s youngsters.
As we all know, the volume of reading students accomplish matters. Several changes could increase the volume of reading without depleting the new CARES funding that schools are receiving.
School systems could actually market individual books on their web sites. I can’t find a single recommendation for a history book at my local school district in Montgomery County Maryland. Instead the web site for social studies lists topic after topic. Can all the ninth graders even read the assigned textbooks? Should there be biographies at a variety of grade levels available? This question does not seem to interest Montgomery County administrators. There is no information about the textbooks and their grade levels online. Given that results on the state achievement tests are very weak in some of the high schools on the east and north sides of the county, you might think the quality of reading experiences might receive more attention.
Include teachers and students in these marketing efforts on the websites of school districts. Where are the testimonials from teachers about how their students responded to a print book or ebook? What did they think of “Helmet for My Pillow”? Is it too dark? What do students have to say about their reading assignments in history? Will parents ever know?
Should school buy Chromebooks which can be used as reading tablets? Are school districts buying Chromebooks which can be flipped to be used as tablets for reading ebooks at night? Or should they be buying tablets as ereaders? I don’t see any information about convertible or flip Chromebooks at the schools districts in the Washington DC metro area, or any information about tablets. I don’t love convertible Chromebooks as reading devices. The 13″ ones with large enough keyboards such as the Lenovo Flex 5 are too bulky to read on, and my 11″ Lenovo C340 has a cramped keyboard. The 8″ Amazon Fire tablet is comfortable for reading, and at $55 during sales, an amazing value.
Reduce the bureaucracy that discourages teachers from buying books. Too many levels of approval for the purchases of books are needed. See below for a look at the bureaucracy in the Montgomery County Public Schools. Source