This provocatively titled post finds very little wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos website but asks that we all consider why we are using technology.
One of the great innovators in our profession is Russell Stannard. Given the awards he’s received and his widespread presence in the online world, you probably don’t need me to tell you this. If you haven’t visited his site Teacher Training Videos, I urge you to do so immediately. He unearths some fantastic resources and explains how to use them clearly and succinctly. It’s not without reason that Scott ‘Grrr… technology’ Thornbury describes him as ‘the voice of reason and common sense.’
You are probably wondering at this point why I’ve named this post as I have, but there is a reason. I can perhaps best illustrate it by discussing one of my students and a problem she’d identified in her own learning. Gizem is one of those students which we as teachers – subjectively – describe as being a joy to teach. She asked pertinent questions in class when she needed clarification, she went home and reviewed what we’d done that day, and she would identify areas in her learning that she felt she needed to work on. I’d regarded Gizem as being quite a strong reader, this observation was based on her ability to read a number of texts and extract information from them to support her ideas in an essay. So well had she done this that I felt moved to show her work to other teachers, who all agreed that her ability to read to a level whereby she could understand and extract ideas, in this particular instance at least, was fantastic. Consequently, I was somewhat surprised when she performed relatively poorly in reading exams. We discussed this problem in some detail.
She told me that she didn’t feel that she had problems understanding the exam text, but that she didn’t feel she could read it quickly enough to be able to answer the accompanying comprehension questions. I suggested that we work on her reading speed, as reading quickly is a different skill to reading for understanding. In order to help her, I also had to find out what she should be aiming for. When we think about increasing reading speed, what do we actually mean? How fast should she be trying to read? Consider this famous quote:
‘I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.’
Obviously, just reading faster and faster can defeat the purpose of the reading. In Woody’s case, the extremely superficial level of understanding is not what people aim for when reading a novel. Knowing what level of understanding we are aiming for is absolutely key to matching it with an appropriate reading speed. One writer whose work with reading speed is not as well known as it should be is Ron Carver. Carver (1990) proposed five reading processes, each with a typical reading rate.
|Reading process||Processing components||Target words per minute|
When I was looking into the notion of increasing reading speed I was surprised to come across the term ‘rauding’ as I’d never heard of it before. Carver coined this term describing it as, ‘comprehension of all or almost all of the consecutively encountered thoughts during reading; comprehending about 75% or more of the complete thoughts encountered during the operation of the rauding process.’ When I looked through the suggested WPMs in the table above and thought about what Gizem and my other students need to do when answering comprehension questions during an exam. So, how to go about achieving 300 words per minute?
One application I discovered is CuePrompter. I’ve prepared a short video clip to show how to use this website.
This application allowed me to upload relevant texts and control the speed at which they would be read. I introduced this in class and recommended that my students use it in their free time. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start. You can imagine how delighted I was when Russell introduced Eyercize on his website. This application takes things a lot further and gives the user much more control over the development of their reading speed. Russell’s video clips explain exactly how to use this great tool and I can’t recommend watching this enough if you want to help your learners improve their reading rate.
So, what exactly is my problem? Quite simply, telling us how to use a resource is only part of what teachers need to know; equally important is why we should be using it. I know I’m nitpicking here, but if we’re to make a case for the use of technology in our teaching we have to consistently think about what we’re trying to achieve through its use.
Carver, R. (1990) Reading rate: A review of research and theory, Academic Press