Aug 27 2021

Three Tech Tools for Teaching Literacy

As students return to school this year, their reading skills may not measure up. These tech solutions can help improve student literacy.

Despite kindergarten being a crucial time for literacy development, those classes saw an average 16 percent drop in enrollment nationwide in 2020, according to a report from NPR. Teachers have found it particularly difficult to teach early reading skills virtually. Add in the number of kindergarteners whose parents have opted to hold them out this fall, and it’s no wonder experts are concerned about young learners’ reading skills heading into the 2021-2022 school year.

Literacy is foundational to childhood education. In fact, one study suggests that literacy in early childhood directly correlates to a student’s success in their academic career. “A long-term study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who were not proficient in reading by the end of third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers,” notes the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Alabama, a new law, the 2019 Alabama Literacy Act, requires students to read at a third-grade level before progressing to fourth grade. The law goes into effect at the end of this school year.

Many challenges hindered students’ ability to learn during the pandemic, despite the best efforts of districts to provide meaningful learning opportunities. Unreliable network connectivity, a lack of one-to-one devices and insufficient funding plagued schools last year. Now, districts must find a way to help struggling students achieve meaningful and grade-level appropriate learning. Here are three solutions to consider:

1. Microsoft’s Reading Progress Tool

Earlier this year, Microsoft released Reading Progress, an application that integrates with Microsoft Teams to teach students to read. The program records students reading aloud and pinpoints where they’re struggling. This gives educators actionable focus areas to work on with young learners to help bring them up to the appropriate reading level.

2. Gamified Reading Programs and Applications

Game-based learning makes class activities fun for students. There are many gamified reading programs, such as those from LeapFrog, that engage students in spelling and vocabulary lessons. When students participate in game-based learning, they’re more likely to remain engaged with the material for longer amounts of time, according to SKO Learning.

3. Tablets with Interactive Reading Material

As schools move to one-to-one (and, in some places, two-to-one) models for instruction, IT leaders should consider the benefits of tablets for students learning to read. These devices, which offer benefits in the classroom as well as while learning virtually, open students to the auditory, visual and tactile-kinetic experiences that are necessary when learning to read.

Students can trace letters on the screen and follow along with their finger as they would with a traditional book. The tablet, however, provides access to a wider variety of reading material than students might find on a typical classroom shelf. With tablets, students have entire digital libraries at their fingertips, giving them a chance to engage more deeply with topics that interest them.

LEARN MORE: Why does digital equity still matter for students in online environments?

Keeping students engaged and using data to focus instruction where their skills are lacking will be crucial to getting young learners on track this year. IT leaders and educators working directly with students can collaborate to find the right tech solutions for schools to help students succeed.

Tetiana Soares/Getty Images

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