Monday, November 28, 2011

Pasadena Library - Guest View: Can computers replace a tutor?

Guest View: Can computers replace a tutor?
SGV Tribune: 11.23.2011 by Robert Lang

As a longstanding Pasadena Library volunteer, I have a bone to pick. I have chosen to do so publicly because I believe the issues involved go to the core of the "what, me worry?" attitude that is turning many of our public service employees into work-to-rule adversaries instead of the helpful civil servants we pay them to be.

A few months ago, the Pasadena Library system disbanded its group of 30-odd adult literacy tutors and replaced them with computer terminals. Disbelieving, I contacted the Pasadena Reads program coordinator and learned, not surprisingly, that the decision was budget-driven. Fair enough, I thought, we all have to deal with limited resources these days, but what if I were to volunteer my services on a 20-hour-a-week basis as the new administrator for the program? I put the offer in writing and asked that it be forwarded to the library's decision maker.

Having worked with several adult literacy students over the years, my wife and I have learned many lessons. First is the fact that men and women brave enough to do something about their illiteracy need and deserve a living, breathing teacher to provide the skills, feedback, praise and encouragement they must have to succeed. For all the good a completely computer-based literacy program will do them, they might just as well be tossed into a pit of vipers. You think you have a fear of computers? Try using one without being able to read the words in front of you.

Over the years, Pasadena Reads has had a dramatic impact on the lives of many our educational system has left behind. A shocking number of learners have completed junior high; some have high school diplomas. In less than 30 months, one student progressed from stumbling over a first-grade workbook to actively participating in a group discussions sponsored by Pasadena's One City, One Story program. Another student swelled with pride when two years of hard work paid off with a 50 per centage point improvement in his civil service test score. READ MORE !

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