Reformed Luddite, I should say.
I come from a family of old-school intellectuals who think progressively about everything except technology: we think that typewriters are beautiful and screens are cold ... you know the type. In this light, I often found myself resenting new technologies and dismissing them as inconsequential playthings.
But then I started working in children's EdTech, and I've had some revelations:
- My dislike of modern technology was often more habitual than it was informed.
- Carefully designed new technologies used along with classical methods and tools can produce far more than either alone—especially in education.
That's where Squiggle Park comes in.
Right now, there are 24 million children in North America learning to read. Of these, 30 percent will be well below expected literacy levels by third grade. Simultaneously, kids are spending 10,000 hours playing online games by the age of 21—the same amount of time spent in perfect school attendance! So, why can't we harness the power of games to teach kids to become confident, successful readers through play?
Squiggle Park is an adaptive app developed by parents and educators that uses bite-sized games to teach foundational reading skills to kids PreK – Grade 2 and English language learners. Squiggle Park also publishes a series of beautiful picture books aligned with that game content, bringing those learned skills off-screen and giving kids the chance to practice fluency and comprehension. This kind of technological integration with more traditional teaching methods is called "blended learning," and it is the present—and future—of education.
Some teachers have said to me that learning is like eating: we all need to do it to live successfully, but there is a big difference between health food and junk. The same can be said about the ubiquity of tech in young students' lives: kids are going to spend time on games, so why not make sure they are research-based apps like Squiggle Park, proven to really help kids learn? Finding a balance between old ways and new means giving kids the best shot they have at learning (and making it fun too!).
I have a 100-year-old Underwood typewriter on my desk at home, but I wrote this article on my laptop. The future really doesn't seem so bad.
Sierra Weiner is a writer working at Squiggle Park in her hometown of Toronto, Canada. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Literature and Language from the University of British Columbia. She is a cheerful neurotic, and an incorrigible bibliophile.