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Photo: Tim Mossholder
Although it’s going to date me, I’m going to say it – for me it started out with “Dick and Jane”, the predominant first-level reader throughout North America way back then. I can’t overemphasize how excited I was to learn to read on my own and that feeling of confidence has stayed with me to this day.
Kid’s today need more engaging content than the antics of Dick and Jane. Their digital world is as natural an environment to them as their physical one is. Teaching literacy to children has taken on a whole new meaning for this generation of tech savvy students. Not only do the concepts and skills of reading and writing need to be taught in the classroom, they need to be presented in ways that give kids from early childhood to K-12 the foundation for learning in this world of technology.
Using Tech in the Classroom
In the past few years there’s been a lot of emphasis on digital literacy and preparing students for education and careers in a technology driven world. And while being technically proficient is crucial for students in today’s digital world, so is being able to read and write. You can’t have one without the other.
We already know that technology keeps kids engaged. This is why schools across Canada are using a variety of different tech devices and software in the classroom to enhance the learning experience for students. This includes text-to-speech software and interactive white boards. Using these types of tools is proving to be beneficial to students of all ages, providing them with a unique learning experience that supports technology.1
Educational technology can be effectively used to encourage and support literacy for all children, including those children where English is not their first language. Or for those children who struggle a bit more than others when it comes to reading and writing.
Assisted Educational Technology
Bridges-Canada, a technology and software company based out of Ontario, provides a wide variety of reading and writing tools for the classroom. Their Snap & Read and Co:Writer Universal provides text-to-speech for students of any age and also offers second language support. Students can build on their literacy skills by writing and reading anything they want.
Quillsoft is another company offering software that helps students read and write better. Their assisted technology tools are aimed not just towards children, but also for post-secondary and adult students.
WordQ 5 is just one of Quillsoft’s products. This software application was originally developed to assist those with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, but is now used for all learners including ESL students. The software has a variety of features, such as word prediction for spelling and grammar, speech feedback, and proofreading after writing.
We can never underestimate the importance of writing skills. Not only is writing an important communication tool on its own, being able to write is a key component of education. They’re not just fundamental skills in the classroom – both writing and reading skills stay with kids throughout their life.
There have been numerous studies done on the importance of teaching writing to young children. The results of these studies show that kids who master writing skills in the early grades have less difficulty when it comes to overall communication and literacy. It’s not just good penmanship that’s imperative – being able to write helps students learn how to organize and plan – and to have the confidence to communicate.2
Premier Literacy is an International company that provides literacy software to teach and inspire children. They have several software tools that offer reading and writing assistance and learning for students. Used across multiple computing devices, they have talking dictionaries, text-to-audio, and e-text readers. Their Scan and Read Pro assists students in reading and comprehension by highlighting each word as it’s read out loud.
Elementary, high school, and post-secondary schools across both Canada and the US are using these software tools, giving students a hands-on experience as they practice and build their literacy skills.
Edtech Meeting the Needs of Students
The software mentioned here is just the tip of the iceberg. Edtech companies across the globe are developing platforms and tools that support and teach reading and writing to students of all ages. It will be interesting to watch the competition between these companies as they come up with new content and fresh ways to keep kids engaged and involved in learning.
Educational technology gives students, particularly those who need it most, the independence to learn at their own pace using fun and exciting software. And not only can technology support fluent reading and writing, it can also help kids develop a variety of related skills such as an increased proficiency in digital literacy and the ability to organize the information they’re learning.
Learning is a life-long experience – we never stop. And in order to learn effectively and with confidence, literacy skills are crucial. Technology is a great launching pad and tool for kids today, with new and innovative reading and writing apps and software making their way into the classroom every year.
1Sider, S. & Maich, K. (2014). Assistive Technology Tools: Supporting Literacy Learning for All Learners. Retrieved on May 22, 2019 from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/WW_TechnologyTools.pdf
2National Institute for Literacy. (2008). Developing Early Literacy. Retrieved on May 22, 2019 from https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/NELPReport09.pdf