When someone uses the term “reading” it is likely that an image of a book comes to mind. However, with the technological advances over the past few years, reading skills are now needed to participate in an ever increasing amount of mediums outside that of books. Technology has undoubtedly changed what people read, how they read, and when they read. The internet provides a gateway to almost every type of information at anytime and with immediate access.
With such a large impact on reading, it is interesting to consider the influence technology plays in the reading development of students learning to read or working to improve reading. Children use technology from a young age, frequently before they even enter school, and this can have both a positive and negative impact on reading development.
Today I read an article from the Washington Post which said that 2/3’s of students do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade. If that statistic is accurate it is obvious that reading instruction is lacking and is in need of improvement. One way to improve instruction is by applying relevant technologies.
One must be careful when incorporating technology into the classroom because many technologies excuse and almost embrace poor spelling and grammar, such as: text messaging, social media, and video games. However, there are also several technologies that work to enhance learning. There have been several products released recently that work to specifically help students enhance reading abilities. These technologies offer unique benefits and can easily find a fitting place in the classroom.
One of the benefits I have seen students have with the software component of Reading Horizons is that of independence. Independence is a motivating emotion that provides students with self esteem and self worth. By learning from a software program rather than by an instructor, students feel they have learned something on their own and without help. This is especially beneficial to older students and adult learners that may feel instruction from others is condescending.
Software instruction can also be beneficial because of its ability to cater to each individual student. By tracking progress Reading Horizons reading program can instantly adjust to student ability.
Another technology that can be used to enhance classroom instruction is the Intel Reader®, used to assist those with visual and learning disabilities on reading tasks. With the use of earphones the student can listen to printed instructions and test questions being read to them. However, it does not help students overcome reading difficulties. I think it’s a perfect resource for students which are blind and cannot read the material on their own but I don't agree with its use by dyslexic students.
Dyslexic students can overcome reading difficulties so I think it is important for them to receive proper instruction and overcome that difficulty rather than rely on a gadget to assist them and never gain reading skills for themselves.
Amazon.com recently released the Kindle reading device. The Kindle allows users to have texts read to them, read books and texts, and take digital notes on reading materials. I read an article of a teacher who incorporated the Kindle into her reading instruction for struggling readers and she liked the note taking capabilities because it helped her know if students truly understood what they were reading and helped her get a glimpse into their thinking processes.
It will also be interesting to see if the iPad increases reading rates with its larger screen, ease of use, and access to reading material.
There is clearly room for technology in the classroom but teachers need to carefully decide on options that will enhance reading instruction, not distract from it.
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