A recent link in the NCLE SmartBrief took me to a newspaper report about a summer camp, a very different kind of summer camp: a vocabulary camp intended to raise test scores. You can read the article here: http://tn.chalkbeat.org/2014/06/19/vocabulary-camp-at-sharpe-elementary-keeps-students-focused-on-reading-this-summer/#.U7BBcV5FEdt. I feel so sorry for these kids. Instead of perhaps enjoying time reading for pleasure, they endure vocabulary lessons, read from CCSS books, and basically engage in skill and drill for 6 hours.
All of this teaching in isolation, parsing out words and skills, will not have the same effect if these kids were instead sent home with stacks of books, driven to the public library for story times (they are elementary kids), or had the chances to be in a summer book club where they could read books of interest to them and talk about their reading with others. And just placing the letter "i" in front of a new computer program does not mean that kids are engaged, motivated, or learning.
This morning at the Scholastic Literary Brunch, one of the authors spoke of writing her new novel which she termed as a dytopian novel of the present. I believe that programs like this are that dystopian. Set kids up with programs that track them, drill them with vocabulary out of context. Measure progress on these drills using a computer program and it might appear that there is progress made at least temporarily.
But what happens next? What happens when these kids begin to hate reading even with the bells and whistles of the computer? What happens when next year and the year after that? Are these kids who will develop a love of reading? Kids who will read a book for pleasure? Kids who will get excited about a new book? Somehow I doubt it. In the meantime, monies that could have been spent i=on books, on author visits, on home libraries, on a myriad of things is instead spent doing the same old skill-drill-kill.