When I was a kid, I didn’t do too well with eating my vegetables. My mom, wanting to see some eaten, offered me plenty of salad dressing to eat with the vegetables I wouldn’t, and I got awfully fond of salad dressing.
But not so much the vegetables. I was in my twenties before I discovered that broccoli actually tastes pretty good. All by itself. No sauce necessary.
I wonder some days if the “innovations” folks fawn so much over in the educational technology space are actually helping us to eat our academic vegetables, or if they’re really just helping us to develop a taste for the thing that these innovations use as a distraction from the essential work of learning.
We need our schools to develop strong readers and writers and thinkers, folks who aren’t led along the road of citizenship by badges or points or a snazzy UI. It might be that many of the “innovations” steering students into devices and apps and gamified almost-learning experiences are nothing more than Thousand Island or Ranch in shiny packages.
When someone comes to you and says “Here’s a better way to teach reading,” look carefully. If the “better way” doesn’t actually involve any time spent reading, then that’s not innovation. It’s salad dressing.
Reading and writing are learned through doing them. Just as I learned, over a long time, to like and to choose the broccoli that wasn’t slathered in sauce, children can learn, and often do, that books and reading and the written word are choices that are worth choosing. But only if they actually experience them.
So let’s minimize the salad dressing, okay?