Right now, I’m certain someone is working on one of those read aloud book-apps, like the Alice in Wondeland App, but instead of just reading what you need read, it eventually prompts you to read to it. The speech to text technology already exists, sort of, (my phone misunderstands me every time I try)…so somebody is working on a comparative software that will assess the accuracy of a persons reading capability, maybe even coach inflection and articulation. By the way, if you invent it after reading this, how about some recognition, maybe a Dr. Pepper or something.
So, taking that a bit further, I was thinking that soon such a device, perhaps an interactive video, (a la the old Hypercard wonder “Animal Pathfinders“, which, by the way, I can’t believe hasn’t been reincarnated on the web with full interactivity- and again, if you do this that is a second Dr. Pepper)- would read and “listen”, and asses reading skill, but also listen for social markers. For example, I often will read “Huckleberry Finn” (the kids version) to my class – not just because it is great, but because almost every year a student will divulge their own abusive situations to me when we are reading about Huck’s dad. I’m certain this saved the life of one of my students, who was moved to another state away from her abusive step-father and enabling mother. I imagine an interactive listener reporting, when it asks about if student relates to a particular character or happening with some frequency by the way of moving through a book, that when a student says “yes- I want to escape like Huck” – that it sends a message to the teacher, a marker that indicates an anamoly to be followed up on.
Should we do this? No, We shouldn’t. Further loss of human interaction as a child learns literature – the early experience will be deprived of the subtle implicit and explicit sharing of emotion and imprinting of value hierarchies and nuance. Non-scripted questions, or reactions that fall outside of programmed algorithms will create a void of interaction, essentially teaching sociopathy. It hearkens situations much like the rules for administering standardized tests now- where teacher is replaced with monitor, who must not help, but is a mute, insane pausarius. The supplemental tool of a “listening book” under the auspices of the teacher could be a useful tool, but some Koch brother clone will see it as a grand money making scheme to replace teachers with, sure as Walmart sucks.
Then I thought of a story, which I will tell you another time.