Is technology the answer to creating more confident readers?

When it comes to improving children’s reading skills, technology can play a fascinating role. Indeed, the gains in literacy became particularly evident during the pandemic, when classrooms and their books were largely unavailable and screen learning took center stage.

Take the practice of teachers recording themselves by reading stories for their classes to watch at home, for example. This is something teachers at the Greenwood Academies Trust in Nottingham did during the pandemic, with overwhelmingly positive results, said Natasha Epton, a computer programs advisor. Teachers created a “bedtime reading channel” using an app called Flipgrid, she explains, where they would post videos of themselves reading stories the kids could enjoy. at home with their parents.

“Having the ability to watch a teacher read a story means there’s always access,” says Epton. “It doesn’t always have to be the kid reading. They’re accessing that language and that modeling, and they’re still hearing all of that vocabulary and also improving their skills in that way. It can have a huge impact.”

The response from families has been “really positive,” she says, and children have also gotten into the habit of registering by reading stories for other age groups.

How technology can help literacy

Schools in the trust have also been involved in the Reading Progress pilot, a new application in Microsoft Teams that allows students to record themselves reading aloud in an environment that is comfortable for them – by eliminating much of the from the stress of reading difficulties in public – and getting private and personal feedback (both automatically in the app and from staff) as well as targeted support.

“They can see where they’re going wrong and practice,” says Epton. “It builds their self-confidence, especially if they have low self-esteem or don’t always want to ask the teacher where they went wrong.

All of these things that we keep telling kids to do and work they can see for themselves and it’s really powerful. They know their goals and can monitor their own progress very independently. They can also work on it themselves. Rather than just being something that is in school, they can also go and do it independently at home. We’ve found that adoption is huge because it’s a less threatening environment, and it’s easier for them to access it, and it’s easier for them to do it independently. “

At Portsmouth Academy, staff used Reading Progress to get an accurate picture of the current state of their students’ reading skills after the pandemic disruption, says England associate chief Chiara Fraser.

“They’ve had almost two years of disruption in their education, so the need is higher than ever,” she says. “Whereas in previous years it took us about 45 minutes to do a one-on-one reading test, now [with Reading Progress] we can do the same test in 20 minutes on 250 children. “

This key reading fluency data is now readily available and comprehensively presented, says Fraser, which is a relief at a time when school has “never seen the number of children in need. additional learning we have had this year “.

The school launched an Individual Device Program for Grade 7 in September, ensuring that every student in the age group had their own device to use in school – and this has a major impact on how the reading takes place, says Fraser. “There is a misconception that reading is just part of English lessons. The devices have enabled us to overcome these barriers to make reading a whole school strategy. They allow us to use accessibility tools to ensure that every child can access text in different ways. . So as a school we are able to build reading into every lesson, so it’s something that happens five times a day. “

These accessibility adjustments include things like font size, text type, and translation, she says. Once these have been put in place to meet the specific needs of the learner, they stay in place, saving teachers valuable time on creating differentiating resources and facilitating “consistent practice.” reading, constant reinforcement ”.

Meanwhile, Epton adds, staff continue to find new and inventive ways to use technology to address reading confidence issues, including using Microsoft Forms for reading comprehension exercises, where excerpts can be displayed. above questions which can be easily marked and assembled. “It’s much faster for staff to assess and it’s also easier for students to access,” she explains.

For Fraser, the increasing use of technology in schools offers new hope to bridge the literacy gap for good. “I’ve never felt so upbeat and excited and really sure about the potential for change before,” she says. “The need has grown huge, but we have the resources to think about how we can address it. People are excited to use the devices to do something that we have been doing the same way for years and not. not get the results we want. “

Find more information about reading progress at aka.ms/ReadingProgressMSUK

Dwight E. Schulz