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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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