In CyberSlate, “Fluencies” means one-minute timings in which the student sees or hears a prompt and responds by typing or saying a response. The student selects the item from his custom menu, and in most exercises, is shown an Instructions panel. Clicking a button or pressing the space bar starts a one-minute timing. The student is presented a prompt and responds by pressing a selected key or saying the answer to the coach. If the response is correct, a check mark appears and CyberSlate advances to the next prompt. If his response is not correct, CyberSlate marks it with a small “x” and he can try again. After two incorrect responses the learner is shown the correct answer. The prompts are randomly presented, consisting of already mastered items and the new “fact” At the end of the minute, the learner is presented a summary of his scores. If he met a criterion score, he is passed to the next level which presents a new, slightly more difficult prompt.
The chart is updated after each one-minute fluency. The Sessions chart shows the most recent score. (The Daily chart shows the best score for the day.) Through studying the charts, students learn their unique patterns for acquiring new facts. Some students advance with each session, while others find a that it is better to leave a session and come back later. When you practice the same exercise repeatedly, your score improves. This may be because you remember the answer quicker, or in exercises in which you are pressing a key, it may be because you have developed a faster muscle response.
There is no conclusive research about whether one minute is the ideal length of time for a fluency. Morningside Academy often inserts an “endurance” timing of five minutes or more in their fluencies, theorizing that the longer timings bring about mastery. Some more advanced CyberSlate fluencies have a longer time. Typing Paragraphs requires the learner to complete the paragraph and then records how long it took. CyberSlate’s Reading Comprehension is 7 or more minutes. Power Writer is up to ten minutes.
There is more research about repeated timings and the frequency of practice. Timings of any length can be practiced daily, or several times per day, depending on the availability and motivation of the student or his “manager.” CyberSlate makes the management part easier.
The first scientist to recommend repeated timings was Hermann Ebbinghaus, publishing them in a treatise “Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology” (1885). In 1978, Alan Baddeley and Longman looked at distributed practice and found that their subjects learned to type faster with shorter learning sessions spaced over more days. They called this the spacing effect. Many studies have corroborated this kind of distributed practice. The most faithful adherence to the spacing effect is to carry out this practice every day.
Daily practice is almost impossible to carry out unless the learner is dedicated to the task and can marshal the resources needed. Learners of basic skills are usually children of school age. They need a parent or teacher who can arrange and execute that daily regimen. We designed CyberSlate to make daily practice efficient. Our charts show that it is very effective.