Brain & learning

Teacher question:

Do we read digitally as well as we read paper texts? 

Shanahan's response:

I’ve been asked this provocative question three times in three weeks. Once I was presenting a workshop on how to teach college-bound high-schoolers to handle complex text on tests like the ACT. This group wanted to know if it mattered whether students were tested digitally or with paper (studies estimate significant differences in performance favoring paper). 

Teacher question:

 A colleague asked me about using e-books in high school science classes instead of textbooks. I like the idea that e-books might be more current and kids would likely read outside of class if they didn’t have to lug a huge book home. However, I remember reading something about the brain processing the reading of e-books differently than traditional texts. Do you know of any sound research on that?

Someone put a bug in my ear, and I started writing, and by the time I was done, I had two blogs rather than one. I'll set the table with this one, and bring it to conclusion next time.

One of the best things about research is that it can let the wind out of windbags and force some hard thinking. Our field suffers fatuous pronouncements as much as any. An example?

How about the constant drumbeat concerning the failure of “one size fits all” instructional approaches? Seemingly, everybody agrees with that one.

Summer can provide the time to read that lots of kids need to strengthen skills. But summer also offers other warm-weather distractions that have more kid appeal than books.

A few months ago, I read Mark Seidenberg’s Language at the Speed of Sight. Seidenberg is a psychologist who studies reading, and his book is remarkably intelligent, frank, and witty. I think there is an occasional mistake or ambiguity here and there, but overall I was mesmerized.

Teacher question:

What makes good readers? What are kids lacking making them not so good readers?

Shanahan's response:

Guest post by Ian Moore, AIM-VA

Have you ever tried to read a phone number that was written as a single stream of text and struggled to retain the information or even quickly comprehend it? As an example, my phone number at AIM-VA training and technical assistance is: 17039935578.

How quickly could you read that number? Would you remember it if someone asked to dial it? If someone asked, how quickly could you identify the position of the second three.

Now try it with additional spacing: 1 703 993 5578.

Guest post by Stacie Brady, AIM-VA

A well-designed summer program can help low-income students read and do math better. In fact, attending a summer program regularly for as little as five weeks for two years in a row could result in about a quarter of a year’s gain in both reading and math for students from low-income families.

When our son was young, a special holiday treat was an outing to see a live performance. Theater, dance, symphony — we tried it all. And during his time off from school, we’d visit art museums all over town. It certainly had an impact on our son but far too many children don’t have easy access to the arts or arts programs for any number of reasons.

So let’s integrate the arts into a child’s daily life, and where better to start — with potentially profound outcomes — than in schools.

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"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." — Walt Disney