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November 02, 2008

Liveblogging - LeapFrog Blogger Party "See the Learning, See the Difference!" Party

I am here at the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto at a Silicon Valley Moms Blog Event sponsored by Leapfrog. I always have my own personal debates about technology as toys, but when it comes to instructional toys - I do find them relevant and very useful. My 5 year old twins love their Leapsters, fridge phonics, Tag and my 9 year son his Didj. My 5 year old twins learned addition alittle earlier then they would have otherwise because they were intent on playing the Leapster Star Wars Jedi Math game.

I am interested to learn more about Leapfrog's new community at "community.leapfrog.com" and Learning Path. The Leapfrog website also has useful sections for product support (including downloads) and parent guides.

I will hearing a discussion on the challenging topic of children learning to read (and loving to read), led by Dr. Anne Cunningham, University of California , Berkeley Graduate School of Education.

More to come....

Dr. Anne Cunningham is talking now. The points below are from her discussion and some audience comments:

  • Her area of expertise is reading development. She looks at why people read or don't read. She also studies avid readers, she has seen that it is important to get people to read early.
  • She looks at spelling. Those that are early readers are usually good spellers.
  • She got involved with LeapFrog around the time that the LeapFrog came out. She thought it was great to have something that is a portable a device - where the book could talk to the children. That young children had books that talked to them - that they could touch words and here what it is.
  • She looked at the reciprical effects of what abilities kids need before they enter school so they are ready to take advantage of Kindergarten.  Kids should be exposed to lots of language. There is a big difference between infants that were "bathed" in language versus kids that were not. Kids with a high amount of language exposure had a huge effect on their own language. Language requires rich and varied input - even though there is "hardwiring".  The projectory "explodes" for those kids that receive a high amount of language exposure.
  • Why is language exposure important? Nursery rhymes and poetry are great to expose kids to the rhytm of language. When we do games like nursery rhymes and finger games, they move away from the meaning of language to the structure of language.  The structure of language is small pieces of language (like "go to" are two different words).
  • We should read outloud to our children every day multiple times.  Rhyming and illertation books help children grow their language.
  • Those kids that have parents that expose kids to language and those who don't should have equal chances.  For preschool and Kindergarten children should have huge exposure to language and to print.
  • K-1 it is important that children learn phonics. They usually don't teach phonics in 2nd grade. The next milestone is (3rd grade) the text they have to read changes dramatically. The words are more complicated (and rare). At that point, it is important to expose them to lots of text.
  • Kids should read at least 30 minutes a day. There are words that we don't use in spoken language - that reading will expose them to.
  • If they are avid readers, choose text that is 1-2 years ahead of them to read. Because then you are exposing them to those unique words.
  • For those in a language immersion program where the parents don't know the language, you can use books on tape or DVD to help them hear advanced books. Dual language kids - at 6th or 7th grade it will even out for their learning.
  • A good practice for parents who kids want to read to themselves is to ask their child to read at least one page out loud. You should pay attention if they are pronouncing the word correctly or not.  It is also important to see if the children are "comprehending" the story (comprehension). Are they actively processing the text?
  • Texting is a challenge because language is degraded.
  • She did a 10 year study until 11th grade as a teacher. Two things were demonstrated: For those kids that learned to decode quickly had an advantage over their piers. Quickly, fluently and automatically in 1st grade were better at reading comprehension (and read more) by 11th grade.
  • Intelligence is not what we are naturally endowed with, it is what you do with it. Readers trump the smart people.
  • While younger kids are playing parents can play CD's that have stories with complex words in the background. Literature shows that boys need to have some type of manipulative - which helps the focus.
  • A discussion took place about early readers and everyone came to a conclusion to have your kid tested in that situation and make sure there is some reading differentiation.
  • Sleeper effect that complex words are not needed K-2 - but they do need starting at 3rd grade.
  • A discussion took place about equality of education of varying income levels. The 8 year old kids that need to take two buses to get to school, then home afterschool to bake dinner for their families should have the same educational opportunities.
  • A teacher from the audience discussed that because of the testing requirements, teachers need to "teach" to No Child Left Behind.
  • Researchers are saying we can't do this ourselves, but technology can help make up the difference - to help provide them an interactive experience at their level. Suggestion was made to donate old computers to the low income schools.

A fun time was had by all, and the best part was getting a wonderful LeapFrog swag bag.


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Thanks, Beth! I can't wait to hear more about the parties.

People can donate old PC for refurbishing through http://www.techsoup.org/mar/marList.aspx

I believe teaching to test robs our kids of he full educational experience!

Great Blog

What a great event. Didn't expect to learn so much. I'm hoping to get LF to donate all this cool technology to my school :) And another plug for donations of old computers for EPA schools - contact me to find out how. Here's an article on how puppy linux can be used to make even old computers useful.

BTW Apple has amazing customer service, bring in any old apple and they will install the latest OS, free of charge no questions asked.

To Frank's comment, while I'm not a big fan of NCLB I was happy to hear a teacher's positive response, as the purpose of my question was not to diss testing, as much as it saddens me to see all but the most educational field trips eliminated, I did want to know whether the tests/teaching was helping.

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