Why Technology Can Make all the Difference To Improving Reading

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Today I bought a simple learning device for a young learner (aged 4). He comes from a family background which does not speak English, much less read and write it. They support and encourage his learning, but are unable to instruct or correct him and are dependent on him paying attention to what is taught in the class. His grandmother spoke to me about listening to him read, so that I would be able to tell if he was reading right or not.

The device was a very simple digital book reader, which on touching various pictures on the screen would give the English word for the letter or word. In addition to the ABCs, the book had pages for animals, vegetables, fruits, common ABC words (Like A for Apple, B for Ball, etc.)  numbers, and counting. This was pretty much similar to the content that was being covered in his Kindergarten school.

For ESL teachers and students, technology can be a real boon to reading and writing. Here are some of the ways in which today’s devices, learning technologies and ebooks can help early readers:

LEARNING THROUGH IMITATION

Listening to the correct pronunciation is important when learning how to read. We learn languages by imitating how others speak. Students need to hear the correct pronunciation of a word, and usage of a phrase or sentence to be able to connect this puzzle within the broader context of language..

Phonetic Assistance: Technology today provides students with a wide range of tools that can help them listen to how a word or phrase is said. Technologies like audio references, such as read aloud books (that highlight the words being read), or audio dictionaries that enable students to look up words for meaning, pronunciation and usage help students get immediate feedback.

Reading Fluency: Constant reading practice is what makes readers fluent. In order to improve fluency, students need access to reading material and be able to read aloud without error or missteps. Additionally fluency is measured by correct pause and emphasis in the reading. This comes from listening to how experienced readers read long passages.

Read along digital books with the flexibility to replay text at the paragraph, sentence and word level, can help encourage self-learning amongst students who require frequent assistance. Another tool would be a digital recorder that allows a student to record their own reading practice for an adult or teacher to later listen and review.

LEARNING THROUGH FEEDBACK

While learning to read, the importance of immediate feedback is critical. Especially a teacher with a number of is unable to give enough focused attention on each and every student, technology can help support those learning moments in the following ways:

Comprehension: Embedded tools which enable a student to know and learn the meaning and usage of a word such as a dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus, etc., all help provide quick access at the time when the student is actively seeking information.

Usage: Exercises and activities which require the student to drag and drop words, match words with meaning, etc., can all serve to provide feedback to the student. Incorrect answers followed with correct answers and reference to reading material can all serve to reinforce learning and provide feedback to teachers on which aspects of reading require more attention.

LEARNING THROUGH GAMES

Vocabulary: A critical component to good literacy is a measure of the vocabulary a student has. This is defined by word lists. Assuming young learners have sets of word lists which they need to know to master the reading level, an excellent way to help them learn these words is through repetition. Repetition in the form of flash cards and gaming activities can help children familiarize themselves with words while competing for high scores or badges.

Word Recognition: Games like flashcards, crosswords, hangman can help a student recognize new words and reinforce meaning. When these games and interactive exercises are used in coordination with a digital reading program, they can help bring valuable attention to specific words from a grade level list.

Comprehension: Inference exercises, summaries and questions are all ways educators determine the comprehension levels of student. Interactive exercises such as fill-in-the-blanks, word maps, choosing the correct central idea in a para, etc., all serve as indicators of comprehension.