How can digital tools be used to develop reading skills?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 | education, technology

Teachers lament the fact that learners can’t read anymore.  Education authorities are in agony over the low literacy rate of learners.  These concerns are justifiable.  Many learners simply can’t read with understanding; they can’t write; their spelling is atrocious; their understanding of grammar rules non-existing.

Not only is their reading and writing poor – they can’t speak.  Have you tried to count how many times a teenager uses the world ‘like’ in one sentence?  They use it as a verb, a noun, an adjective, adverb, preposition and general filler. 

The number of learners who fail basic literacy tests is astounding.  But those same children are hammering away on computer keyboards and cell phone keypads at great speed.  Technology puts power in their hands, but not necessarily knowledge in their heads.  It’s the same as giving sledge hammers to a troupe of monkeys to crack nuts – one fears the damage they can do to themselves. 

You can use the magnetic pull of technology on learners to their advantage.  Think about a few possibilities:

Send an e-mail to your learners and ask for a response.  Encourage learners to communicate with each other via e-mail and teach them how to use proper language, spelling and grammar.

Write a blog posting and ask learners to respond by means of comments; in turn you can correct their mistakes through your comments.  In this way you’re using technology to help them acquire basic literacy skills.

Allow learners to browse the internet and ask them to report on what they’ve read.

Many educational software programs geared towards the development of reading skills include enjoyable activities – learners develop literacy skills while having fun.

A useful tool for developing reading with comprehension skills is talking stories.  Books are digitized and displayed on a computer screen or through a data projector.  Learners read the words, hear the words and engage with the material through interactions.

These are just a few examples of the many ways in which you can use available technology to solve one of your biggest problems – helping learners to improve their literacy skills.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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1 Comment to How can digital tools be used to develop reading skills?

Mark C
Wednesday, 5 January, 2011

This is the one area I fully agree with you Kobus. I am ashamed to say that many do not use the simplest of tools to get learners to communicate and use their literacy skills. There is however, one group of teachers who are getting learners into the lab using ICT and they are the LO teachers. Their focus is geared towards writing CVs, doing research for studying opportunities, filling out application forms and so forth. I commend them for it because they are fulfilling a part of literacy too.

I have also seen a drama educator (from Zimbabwe) at an Arts and Culture school getting learners involved with using ICT with Drama. There are generic skills which are common through all subjects and they involve using language.

As I follow a few scientists on twitter it becomes apparent that it is not only science skills that makes one a well-rounded scientist. The person should be able to communicate using all forms of communication available, having accounting skills as well as organisational skills. Where better to learn about these than on electronic media?

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