Article 1: MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach: Does It Affect Reading Fluency in Elementary School?
Kloos, et al. present a study of MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC) as a reading fluency program compared against “instruction as usual” and alternative digital reading tools. The goal of the tool is to increase reading fluency by focusing on the mastery of basic reading skills rather than motivating young readers. The tool does this through three automated instructional methods: an initial diagnostic, lesson/practice pairing to identify and calibrate for gaps in learning, and assigning activities to build fluency in those areas. The study found that MVRC improved the reading fluency of the students involved in the study compared against other programs, but that teachers were wary of adopting the tool.
MindPlay, a virtual reading coach, combines pedagogies into a single online tool, but these are only applications of teaching methods that could be done with a myriad of other tools. As the article explains, their methods consist of a pre-assessment, practice to assess proficiency gaps, and an assigned series of activities to address these gaps. These methods are not exclusive to MindPlay and could be done by a physical teacher in a physical classroom. While the tool may increase efficiencies, we cannot confuse efficiency with a change in the cause of the learning. The study contrasts the virtual reading coach against “instruction as usual,” but the method of this instruction is never fully explicated. Unless the study compared similar methods, the findings do not create an accurate portrayal of potential improvements in the cause of the students’ learning.
This coaching software introduces a new media for students to advance in reading fluency, an area where skill and motivation are key to student success. Following this virtual coach, the students are able to interact one on one with the tool, helping retain the attention needed for success at the basic level of reading (young kids here). The virtual coach is replacing the human coach as it is more streamlined for teaching young minds, it also customized the learning pathway of an individual student and enhances the student’s listening vocabulary. Virtual reading tools like this create powerful new learning environments that improve upon traditional reading education for children by allowing for new pedagogies, thereby enhancing learning potential while reducing the workload of traditional educators.
Article 2: Why hasn’t digital learning lived up to its promise?
Author Tom Adams, the founding CEO of Rosetta Stone Ltd., offers the argument that 20 years ago teachers and technologists were hard at work creating “immersive learning experiences” but that today’s online education looks as though it has not progressed beyond video lectures. Adams claims that, despite billions being invested in edtech, institutions have focused primarily on scaling learning rather than advancing the pedagogy of learning and that this has led to an outdated use of materials and pedagogical approaches. He cites examples of Coursera and Quizlet as being merely lectures and flashcards and advises that, because “we now understand about how the mind works and how students learn” that we should be creating digital learning tools that allow us to move beyond the pedagogical approaches of two decades ago.
Tools can be developed, but they won’t result in a fundamental impact in the learning of these students. The issues Adams described relate to problematic pedagogical approaches and the introduction of a new tool will not vastly impact the instruction given by a teacher who only knows how to administer lectures. If a new tool is developed that forces a teacher to use a new method, what has been changed is simply the ability of the teacher to use their outdated approach. If that teacher had chosen to select that method from the beginning, would the development of the new tool still be required? The necessary method remains the same and the tool merely provides increase efficiency. There may be limitations of equipment that students would otherwise have had in classroom environments, but the creation of new tools to address this issue still do not change the method, merely the efficiency of the teaching.
Rosetta Stone software will build for the student the human equivalent of a database for situational-based prior knowledge. While the students are prepared to learn a new language, the software prepares the brain to learn in a new fashion. Without human instruction, the students can grasp a new language if only at a conversational level. With a perfunctory ability to recall the training to speak a second language, the onset of new cognitive skills builds towards success of learning the language to an advanced proficiency. Human instruction would challenge the students to accept any training characteristics of the teacher. This software promotes the student to an interactive participant, not just some generic student in a class. This participation can be adjusted faster or slower to attend the needs of the individual student. Another Ed-tech based solution to promote digital learning is video communication. While alleviating the need for classroom interaction, video conferences change the life of students and teachers alike. Discovery of a process that allows the student/teacher interaction (at an economic value) is a world changer for students in remote locations. EdTech drives learning to new and exciting levels. Video game simulations that can both show the student the problem and resolution, allowing for student educational achievement. EdTech is built around the needs of the students while encouraging educators to learn new pedagogical pathways.
Adams, T. (2020, September 17). Why hasn’t digital learning lived up to its promise? TechCrunch. https://social.techcrunch.com/2020/09/17/why-hasnt-digital-learning-lived-up-to-its-promise/
Kloos, H., Sliemers, S., Cartwright, M., Mano, Q., & Stage, S. (2019). MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach: Does It Affect Reading Fluency in Elementary School? Frontiers in Education, 4, 67. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2019.00067