I was talking with my wife about some of her work with her English learner students. She was sharing all the assessments that they incorporate into their daily instruction and their practice for encouraging and modeling strong reading skills. I began thinking about the types of software that have been promoted to help students with their language arts, specifically reading skills. Scholastic's Read 180, Accelerated Reading, and Auto Skills came to mind. I was wondering how well those current software tools promote students to critically evaluate and think about their own reading skills? How many of these tools really get students to think about their reading?
These ponderings then turned to other thoughts as to what the ideal activity, or activities are to encourage students to think about their reading skills? Would an activity that promotes students thoughts about their reading skills even in the most basic activity fosters the needed attention to improve their reading abilities? What would those activities look like and what software tools are there that provide this instructional strategy without direct teacher participation? I could not think of one software tool that would promote this type of self-directed learning strategy that was simple to use, and could be started and completed in it's entirety in a 15-20 minute block of time, and provide the teacher with a record of the student's work.
The previous two paragraphs essentially defined the question or the task. Since I could not think of a software solution currently available, I decided to just create one myself. Granted I am not a classically trained software programmer. I'm what's referred to as a hack. Somebody who can get the computer to do what they need it to by "hook or by crook" at least in regards to software programming. My passion for technology in education began in the mid 1980s when I was introduced to the MacPlus and a new program on it called HyperCard. I fondly remember learning the trick to unlock the HyperCard Player so that it would divulge it's hidden software authoring tools. Though HyperCard is no longer being developed, there are a number of tools that have have picked up where HyperCard had left off. One such application, and my current favorite is Revolution by RunRev. This application is very similar to HyperCard. It is event driven and utilizes standard English resembling code. Many people earn their living developing in Revolution. One of the nicest features of Revolution is that you can develop on one platform and deploy on Macintosh, Windows, and Linux platforms. Soon RunRev has claimed you'll be able to deploy on the iPhone/iPad and Windows Mobile too. If you are interested in learning more about Revolution, they have a free version you can download called RevMedia.
Now that I had defined what I needed, an application focusing on reading that fosters students self assessment and analysis of their own reading, I set out to define the components.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ricardojesusflores/)