Guide for Teachers and Parents

This site is far from complete, but there is more than enough in place to demonstrate the power of this system of computer-driven teaching. The main focus has been on literacy and numeracy to begin with, so I have made sure that the site delivers on that front. There is a complete set of interactive programs designed to teach the whole of primary school arithmetic without requiring any input from a teacher, although there is still plenty of scope for a teacher or parent to enhance the learning experience by observing, discussing the process, advising where necessary and giving lots of encouragement.
When it comes to reading, there is a single program on this site which teaches children how to decode words phonetically while at the same time working exclusively with real words - by combining phonics with the old whole-word method you can get the best of both worlds, so children can learn to recognise common words by their shape while at the same time learning how the sounds of the letters within those words are influenced by the other letters around them. Do not underestimate the power of this little program - it should be used with young children for between three and five minutes a day, and within just a few months that will bring most of them to the point where they can read fluently, completely comfortable with most of the words that populate a typical sentence and fully equipped to convert almost any new word they encounter into strings of the correct sounds. This program cannot teach by itself, but requires one-to-one input from a teacher, although that teacher can be an older child who has been given a little training in how to use the program - all that is required of the teacher is that he/she must be able to read out the commentary line in time with the changes made to each word by the program as it runs through the phonetic components, and he/she must be able to pronounce everything the way it's intended to be pronounced. Many of the older children in the school will be good at this, though many others won't, so it's a matter of finding the right ones, giving them a little training and then sending them to visit a primary one class for ten to fifteen minutes a day where they can give two or three of the children there a short session using the program (one at a time). The same system can be used with struggling readers of any age, including adults.
When it comes to writing, a lot of teacher input is required and it's going to be very hard for a computer program to make any difference there until artificial intelligence can actually make sense of what people write and to give them appropriate feedback. I'm currently working on that, but in the meantime I've tried to put something together to cover the essentials so that parents using this site for homeschooling have some idea of what they ought to be doing. Teachers can use anything they think might be useful and ignore the rest.
I would advise you to think of most of the rest of the site as being a prototype for now, and many parts of it are still woefully incomplete because of a lack of interest from all the people I thought might join in and create content for the site. The Primary Science pages are particularly good and attract a lot of Web traffic for that reason, so you would do well to make use of them, though if you can think of related experiments to do along with them, go for it - my aim has been to pitch this at the more serious children who are keen to acquire hard knowledge and who aren't scared of reading texts that lack the normal intelligence-insulting pictures that infest so many education materials where the main focus is on attempts to sugar the pill with fluffy animals and other silly diversions.
Be aware that this site was originally written for children who would like to teach themselves rather than relying on schools to do the job for them. For that reason, some parts of the site may not fit in yet with the idea of using them in schools, but I'm gradually redesigning them in such a way as to make them fully suited to use in any learning environment. If you find something that you think needs to be rewritten before it can be used in the situation where you want to use it, please e-mail me to let me know so that I can make the necessary changes.


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