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Reading Software Takes a New Role in the Classroom

by Anne-Evan Williams, LGL Director of Educational Development

An article in Education Week, "Computer Software Helping Students' Reading," focuses on the benefits of computer-based educational programs as supplemental instruction inside the classroom and out.  Citing advantages such as differentiated instruction, age-appropriate interfaces, and the ability to align computer programs to traditional curriculum and state standards, the article highlights the growing popularity of computer programs as supplemental classroom instruction.

Computer-based instruction is finding a growing value among educators.  It allows teachers to target certain skills for individual students, providing individualized instruction for a whole classroom simultaneously.  But as the article points out, computer instruction should not take the place of qualified teachers or personal attention.  These programs must find a place within the curriculum instead of becoming the curriculum.  When properly coupled with good classroom practices and strong reading pedagogy, computer-based learning can provide supplemental instruction to those students who require remediation and enrichment to those who are already thriving in the classroom.

While this article focuses primarily on software that is designed to accompany complete reading curricula, creating an integrated program, that is not to say that independent reading software may not meet student needs, too.  Many software programs can be aligned to local or state standards or even to various textbooks, producing the same kind of integrated program as an end result.  It is important for teachers to become familiar with the materials their students are using.

According to one source in the article, a senior literacy associate at an education research and policy organization, "‘Teachers don't have time to sit and explore all the features of a particular software program.'"  While time may indeed be a constraint, it is important for teachers to know how their software works and understand the features their students will be using.  Teachers should approach reading software just as they would approach any other classroom resource.  A teacher would never assign a novel for students to read that she had not first thoroughly read herself.  The same principle should apply to classroom software.

Tags: reading software, classroom reading, reading instruction

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