Last spring I had a conversation on Twitter with a school administrator who told me that his struggling readers had their deficits totally made up for by technology. They had stopped struggling to teach reading because actually, it wasn’t necessary. I was quite skeptical. How could a child who can’t read well keep up in high school using only technology? After investigation, I figured out that what they were doing was using a computer that read text and spoke it aloud to the student. Angered by the decision to shortchange these young people by misinforming them that having a computer read to you is an appropriate replacement for knowing how to read, I began writing a list of why reading skills can never be replaced by technology:
1. Competent reading is a much faster way of getting information than viewing video or listening to audio. As we go on through school, speed of information gathering becomes more and more important.
2. Reading allows scanning to find information, which is almost impossible with sound or video.
3. Reading material is cheap, quick and easy to produce, like this blog. Words require minimal storage space compared with audio and video.
4. Because it is easy to produce and archive, reading is available on a diversity of topics which video and sound do not cover.
5. Because of these factors, a competent reader has huge advantages over a weak reader in the speed, location, expense, production, and range of information they can find about every topic in the world.
So there it is: As they said on TV when I was a kid, Reading is Fundamental. Don’t give up on students learning to read. And don’t ever say that reading can be replaced by technology.