Blind Date with a Book

I’ve been seeing this promotion in Media Centers around our district lately.  Its a fun play on Valentine’s Day and the kids and the teachers have been having a BLAST with it.  The table is filled with books, selected by the Media Specialist, wrapped in paper.  The kids select a book, without any information than the size and shape of the book.  Everything else about the book is concealed by the wrapping paper.  You get what you get.  They check out the book, presumably read the book, and return.

This is a fantastic way to help some of our voracious readers expand their horizons and possibly read something they would not have selected otherwise.  The students in each of the schools where I’ve seen this have been lining up to choose a book.  And they have willingly checked out the book they’ve gotten.  The excitement has been palpable and infectious.  I wanted to choose a blind-date book myself!!

I don’t want to rain on this parade, but I have some concerns for many of our young readers.  Young readers are notorious for choosing and then abandoning books.  I have shocked many a class by talking about the few books that I have EVER abandoned as a reader and the process that I have undertaken in that abandonment.  And I have spent many hours helping students understand how to go about choosing a book that truly fits them (beyond the “just right reading level” notion).  When readers make informed decisions about books, they are more likely to stick with books.  They are more likely to gain something from reading that book.  And they are more likely to become more powerful readers as a result of that experience.  When students make ill-informed choices or poorly suited choices, they become serial book abandoners.  They reinforce quitting.  This is NOT a habit that I want to support and sustain in the children that I teach.

So while the Blind Date with a Book promotion is fantastic in terms of the energy level, the excitement, and the fun, like all other fun events in schools, it has the danger of an unintended message — that how we choose books is unimportant.  And it is always the unintended consequences that are the most dangerous — because they blind-side us.  So, I’m participating in the Blind Date with a Book, and I’m enjoying the excitement and the fun.  But I’m also remembering to keep my eye open for those students who hear that unintended message.  So that I’m ready to correct the mis-interpretation and help them to enjoy the Blind Date experience too.   

Ipads in Kindergarten

As I move around our district, I’m noticing a trend.  We have a 1:1 environment, with every student having his/her own ipad for learning purposes, but our kindergarteners don’t seem to be getting the same utilization out of this environment.  At first, I wasn’t certain how much of this difference was about the children and their skill or readiness for the digital medium, and how much was about the teachers of kindergarten and THEIR skill or readiness for the digital medium.  As I’ve watched and listened, I’ve begun to think that it is NEITHER of these.  Rather it seems to be more about the ability of the Ipad to add value to the kindergarten classroom.

Any digital medium is only of value in an educational setting if it:

  • does something that a non-digital medium CANNOT do
  • assists the teacher in personalizing instruction to meet individual  needs
  • saves time
  • provides access for students who might not otherwise have access (differently abled students, reluctant students, etc)

Too often, especially in kindergarten, the device is merely doing something that can already be done with paper and pencil (or crayon) with no value added.  And while I understand the SAMR model and that substitution is often the entry point for any teacher, without a value added, there is no incentive for the teacher to continue to use the digital medium.  There is certainly no incentive for the teacher to expand digital options.  And frankly, there is little or no teaching required to utilize the paper/pencil version of a task, while the device often requires some instruction and support.  So, there is actually a dis-incentive to the digital medium.

But the digital experience is essential for our current kindergarteners.  They are a generation that was BORN in the digital age.  In their lifetimes, the digital will become far more powerful and ubiquitous than the analog.  We must provide them with appropriate digital experiences, experiences that are developmentally appropriate for young children, educationally sound for the standards they are expected to master, and frankly, fun and motivating for their young minds.

So, I’m paying special attention in my kindergarten classrooms to find ideas that fit my criteria.  I’ll let you know what I find.