The Electronic Journal of e-Learning provides perspectives on topics relevant to the study, implementation and management of e-Learning initiatives
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Journal Article

Reinventing Papert's Constructionism — Boosting Young Children's Writing Skills with e‑Learning Designed for Dyslexics  pp227-234

Karin Tweddell Levinsen

© Nov 2008 Volume 6 Issue 3, Editor: Shirley Williams, Laura Czerniewicz, pp161 - 254

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Abstract

Since the consent to the Salamanca Statement on special needs education from 1994, e‑learning developers have focused on tools aimed to support dyslexic learners. The importance of these efforts is on display every year in the Special Aids exhibition area at the BETT‑event in London. ICT and e‑learning is now widely used in the special needs education for dyslexics. However, the Salamanca Statement also inspired the vision of The Spacious School and the idea that children with learning disabilities should be transferred from special classes and included in the ordinary classes in primary schools. In the beginning of this process, the children with special needs were present in the classroom with their compensational aid, e.g. e‑learning, ICT and special teacher support, and they were rarely included in the socially organised learning activities. Consequently, class teachers and subject teachers were not aware of the existence and potentials of the special compensational e‑learning and ICT tools. In recent years in Denmark, ICT has changed from being present in schools to becoming an available, everyday resource. That is, ICT and computers move out of the computer rooms and into every school room. I.e. most pupils use ICT, e‑learning and computers in various contexts whenever it seems convenient. The increasing use of ICT in schools has paved the way for new ways of including the children with special educational needs and while knowledge of dyslexic compensational e‑learning and ICT tools was earlier restricted to the special teachers, teachers in general have now become aware of the existence of these tools. Within the frame of a large scale research project in primary schools in Denmark (Project IT and Learning — PIL), this change of awareness led to teacher‑initiated experiments with the Danish e‑learning special needs‑software CD Ord in first and second grades. The teachers wanted to see whether these tools could inspire normal children as well as children with special educational needs to start writing their own stories. The paper presents the research findings from the empirical studies of experiments in Second grade. The paper concludes that most children in the experiments wrote longer and more complex stories than normally expected from this age‑group. The children with a visual learning style in particular demonstrated a significant progress.

 

Keywords: e-learning, writing skills, reading skills, storytelling, dyslexics, special needs, constructionism

 

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Journal Article

Technology‑Assisted Reading for Improving Reading Skills for young South African Learners  pp245-254

Gerda van Wyk, Arno Louw

© Nov 2008 Volume 6 Issue 3, Editor: Shirley Williams, Laura Czerniewicz, pp161 - 254

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Abstract

This paper addresses the controversial issues of improving the reading skills of young learners through technology‑assisted reading programmes. On reporting the results of primary school learners from grade 2 to grade 7 who participated in a computer‑based reading programme for seven months, we try to answer the critical questions of whether computer‑assisted reading programmes should be embraced or avoided. We also have looked at the possible benefits of such an intervention apart from the improvement of reading skills. The poorly developed reading skills of South African learners slowly became evident over the last couple of years as teachers, parents, employers and professionals were confronted with this ongoing crisis. The Department of Education (DoE) stated that the South African youth do not read as well as their foreign counterparts and actions were put in place to address the growing problem. However, despite this acknowledgement, decision makers are still indecisive in effectively addressing the problem. Many theories exist on why children are reading impaired and who should accept responsibility for it. Data of the findings in this paper was collected over a period of seven months and reflects the reading results of learners who followed a combination of a computer‑based reading programme, visual accuracy and visual memory computer exercises as well as the application of specific paper‑based activities. Groups were small, with continuous personal intervention and communication from the facilitator with each learner. This paper also qualitatively reflects on the additional benefits or negative experiences of learners who participated in the electronic reading programme. The qualitative data was accumulated from interviews with learners and teachers involved. The efficacy of the reading programme was evaluated through continuous assessment of learners' performance on different aspects of reading, including reading speed, reading comprehension, spelling and language. The reading results obtained were compared with the initial reading assessment before implementing the programme. The overall experience of learners who participated in this programme provided valuable information in evaluating the reading programme as a whole. Results obtained from this study indicate that improvement in reading speed, comprehension and spelling was unique to every learner individually. The benefits beyond the improvement of reading skills obtained as a result of the programme encompass many areas of the learners' development, such as social learning, collaborative learning, finer perceptual motor skills, confidence and a general improvement in marks in other subjects. This paper attempts to provide insights into the value and challenges of computer‑assisted reading for primary school learners and into the importance of adapting teaching methods in response to a crisis.

 

Keywords: computer-assisted reading programmes, improvement of reading skills, evaluation, assessment, primary school learners, reading comprehension, mastering of reading skills

 

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