Over the history of early childhood education, the methods used to help children learn to read have evolved greatly. For many years now, literacy skills have been taught using different types of technology. Technology has helped teachers to overcome one of their biggest hurdles: the fact that children learn at different rates and in different ways. Technology provides ways for individuals to learn to read at their own pace and to grasp the concepts involved in reading by using multiple senses.
Technology can help to motivate children to learn to use letters and words, and it can help to provide skills such as:
• Learning to use the different sounds in a language (phonemic awareness)
According to the National Reading Panel, these are the five most important elements of literacy. Any technology used to teach literacy must teach these things. In order to be able to read, children must be able to use all of the above skills.
What Students Get From Reading Education Technology
The technology can assess the child’s input and determine if it was correct. This helps teachers and parents to see where a child needs help.
Technology that is able to provide hints or corrections immediately can also help to improve a child’s reading skills. There are programs that can correct mispronunciations when reading out loud and analyze those mispronunciations to determine which letter sounds the child has yet to master.
• The Framework for Successful Reading
In order for a child to learn to read successfully, they will have to get all five main elements of reading education working together and complementing each other. Technology can teach all of those elements simultaneously, from learning to use sounds in language to text comprehension.
Different Types of Technology for Reading Education
• Text-to-Speech Software
This is software that converts text to speech, enabling the student to hear the text spoken aloud. Some software will highlight the text as it is spoken so that the student can follow along. In many cases, this type of software is web-based and is accessed with an Internet connection and a browser.
• Phonics Games
There are games that can help children to acquire phonetic awareness and to identify letter sounds; there are also games that can help them to build their vocabulary. Word games can also teach them to match words and pictures and to complete words that have been partially spelled.
There is a vast range of audiobooks for children available online. There is also a vast range of technological devices that may be used to play those audiobooks. These include tablet computers, cell phones and car stereos. These give a child a chance to listen to fluent readers practicing the skill.
Many online dictionaries will allow a student to not only see a definition of the word but to hear it spoken as well. Online dictionaries and thesauri can improve vocabulary and instruct children in the common usage of words in addition to providing them with lists of synonyms.
• Touchscreen Technology
This technology has become widely used in tablet computers and smartphones. It allows students to touch pictures of words and hear sounds associated with them. This makes reading books a more interactive and exciting experience. There are a number of touchscreen devices that are dedicated to reading education as well as apps that may be used to provide a similar experience when installed on multipurpose devices.
Tips For Choosing Technology to Teach Reading
• For technology to be effective at helping students learn to read, it should fit well with the teacher’s approach to education. It should complement their teaching method.
• The technology should address the most important elements of literacy education. Each technology option should be assessed with its value to the students in mind.
• Those who want to use technology to teach literacy skills should make their choices based on the experience of experts in the reading instruction field. In an institutional setting, it is a good idea to test technology on a smaller number of students before adopting it in multiple classrooms.
While technology will never replace the value of a live human teacher in a classroom, it is clear that it will continue to play an important role in the way that reading is taught. These days, children need to be familiar with reading as well as to be comfortable with the practice of reading on a screen. Technology is therefore an essential part of providing children with a modern literacy education.
Racheal Tighe, an Australian primary school teacher has a passion for helping teach your child to read through Little Learning Planet. Find Racheal on Google+!