Friday, January 4, 2013

App Review: MyOn Reader

This year, our school district purchased the online reading program called MyON Reader. Basically, it's a database of electronic books that students can read online or download to a mobile device to read locally. Students are loaded into classes and teachers can assign books, create book groups, and monitor reading activity. In theory, it's a really nice setup. I say "in theory" because we are just starting to learn how to use it. But I'm only going to focus on the iPad app for this post.

So let's just assume that a teacher is a MyON expert. He or she has all students enrolled in the class, book groups are created based on reading ability, and book sets are created to assign to specific book groups based on interest and levels. Students log in to a computer and can access the content that is designated for them. So it only stands to reason that when a student picks up an iPad to access the app, he or she would be able to do the same. Wrong.

There is none of the functionality you would expect in the app. You can access thousands of books through the app. But students won't see their reading groups, don't have access to assigned book sets, and worst of all, have no good way to search for books that are suited to their instructional level. Inside the app, you find and download books based on a "visual search". You choose a category, such as animals, then choose from more specific categories. Once the books are found, you choose the book that most interests you. Except you don't know the reading level until you choose the book. And as a parent of a kindergartner in the district, I find it a bit annoying that I have to continually hunt to find a book that would fit his needs. 

Now, my favorite media specialist/English teacher who sits behind me would argue that those features don't matter. All that matters is the access to reading materials. We are going to agree to disagree on this one. In my elementary world, it's important that I direct students to reading materials that are developmentally and instructionally appropriate. Right now, the MyON app doesn't do it for me. 

I can only imagine that MyON is currently working on this issue. I find it almost unbelievable that they would have so much functionality on their website, but not on the app. With so much computing going to the tablet format, MyON really needs to get these changes applied so they can continue to serve the needs of students and teachers. 

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