Today we were lucky enough to have an afternoon talking to Wendy Rundle about how the teaching of reading works at Stonefields. Both Marc and I came out of the conversation, once again, with a spinning brain and a head full of ideas, Stonefields amazed us at how ahead of the game they are. Wendy’s expertise on reading, particularly digital reading, really opened our eyes to the possibilities that are available to us in the 21st century.
The importance of being able to navigate online texts is a skill that we as teachers are constantly drawing upon and something that children will need in the future too; to be able to locate, reflect and evaluate online is an essential skill to have. We also discussed the importance of building stamina when reading onlineÂ -Â it is so easy to begin reading an article then flick to the next or change windows/tabs without completing the text. This really made me think about the skills that children will require as they continue their studies. Â Yes, being able to read a text and enjoy a book is essential, but does that prepare children for using the internet to maximise their learning? It goes back to learning to read then reading to learn.
I know that digital readingÂ can sometimes be a controversial topic as the value of reading a physical book is, of course, indisputable. However, the world of learning opportunities available for schools online that Wendy shared with us really is astounding, it is clear as well that although New Zealand is, once again, ahead of the game with this (a lot of the sites are New Zealand based) the UK companies are following suit as the potential for this is huge.
One of the sites they use at StonefieldsÂ is calledÂ Lesson-Zone. (https://lessonzonekids.co.nz)Â This was probably the site which impressed me the most. For $99, 35 children can access up to 80,000 pages of text, some of these are non-fiction one page texts, some are full online, interactive e-books, and all can be allocated to children online in order to personalise the reading experience or, as Stonefields do, give them the tools to work on a particular progression. The books are banded by colour, reading age and subject so that they can be used across the curriculum. They even have a range of high interest low reading age texts, something I know that as a school we are looking at in particular. I am aware at this point I sound like I am working on commission – I am not, I was just impressed and it really made me question the opportunities that are already available because of technology. There were so many positives of this particular site; teachers can see what children are reading, it suggests recommendations for texts they may like to read next, texts also have an audio option so that children can access a more challenging text and it also provides tools such as graphical organisers to help with different skill developments.Â I can really see how much this could provide for a school and, although I see the value of physical text, this certainly opens a new window. Particularly as it can be so cost effective. For example, if aÂ set of lower priced tablets were purchased solely for reading these can be aroundÂ Â£50 so a class set would be e.g. 30×50= Â£1500 that would mean that that set, if timetabled well, would provide thousands of high-quality, constantly updating books for all ages across school, as well as resources to draw upon for guided reading based activities. Maybe I am slightly biased coming from a digitally minded point of view, but that seemsÂ quite reasonable particularly as the quality of the texts seem to be of such a high standard.
A second resource we looked at wasÂ Junior Journals (http://literacyonline.tki.org.nz/Literacy-Online/Teacher-needs/Instructional-Series/Junior-Journal)Â This is a free library of e-books starting with ‘ready to read’, then ‘junior journal’ then ‘school journal’ as children progress in their reading.Â
The thing that struck me the most about this use of digital technology to support reading was the way that Stonefields use it to really personalise the reading experience for children, it is not simply a case of ‘setting them off’ using a particular tool. These resources are used carefully to structure and personalise learning so that it is, in their terms, getting the most ‘brain juice’ out of the time they spend on learning.