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Using the ‘Netflix’ model to improve literacy
posted by: Jill | April 20, 2011, 02:22 PM   

Why is Netflix such a success? I suggest that it comes down to the fulfillment of three desires of the consumer.

  1. On-demand availability
  2. Individualization and recommendation according to consumer preference
  3. Accessibility in a variety of digital formats
Utilizing the same consumer model, Capstone Digital, a division of Capstone Publishing, is taking a leap of faith and producing an innovative educational program called the myON Reader. Their "Netflix" style approach to reading is banking on students' interest being piqued by the same individualized approach, just substitute literature for movies.

eSchool News describes it as "a personalized digital reading environment that functions like Netflix's 'Suggested For You' section. After screening the abilities and interests of K-8 students, myON suggests titles based on the students' Lexile levels and the topics that most appeal to them—and this process is further refined each time a student rates a text he or she has read."

How many times have I talked with a student about topics that interest him and then acted as his personal "Netflix" account and suggesting literature that I think he'll enjoy? Good for me and my concern, but I am all about getting a little help when it comes to finding a book that David will enjoy reading. Enter Todd Brekhus, president of Capstone Digital, explaining the myON service. "We actually have students take an interest inventory, similar to if you were going on to an eHarmony or a Netflix and saying, 'I'm looking for a match.'" Hallelujah.

But beyond the teachers, let's focus on the real reason for the system. The students. myON is geared to meet their needs. Literature when they want it and how they want it, at a level that won't frustrate them to the point of giving up. This is differentiation. This is smart use of 21st century technology.

Brekhus understands the need to read, but also understands that it must captivate the students, and that is not happening on the large scale right now. "We want kids to find books because they're typically not looking for books—that's not their first choice [for entertainment]. The basic theory is that if you motivate kids to read, and you find them books that they're interested in and that are challenging but not too challenging, they will read more and they will continue to read ... and that's a key goal."

Providing students with their own personalized library in their pocket or PC could be the salvation of a lost art—reading. If this catches on, perhaps students will be sending links of digital books to one another sharing their latest "great read"...along with their YouTube videos of leprechauns in trees.

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