Software encourages reluctant readers

Learning and technology have become more intertwined and software companies are designing programs that adapt to a student’s learning

Ray Hoppins

Learning and technology have become more intertwined and software companies are designing programs that adapt to a student’s learning needs.

During Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) and Central Alberta Regional Consortium second 21st Century Technology & Learning Symposium Sept. 21 at Terrace Ridge School in Lacombe, educators and administrators had a chance to see different programs at work. One of those was called Imagine Learning, a media-based program to help students with reading, and to learn English.

Originally designed for students learning English as a Second Language, it also helps reluctant readers, explained Mark McWhinnie, assistant superintendent of technology services with WCPS.

“It uses technology and adjusts to their needs,” he said.

As the program adjusts to a student’s needs, some might use it for a few weeks, whereas others could use if for a matter of months. “It’s just good teaching.”

Presenting the program to teachers was Lisa Barragan, support and training specialist, and Lori Burns, curriculum specialist. They gave educators a chance to use Imagine Learning to see how it works.

“It’s very media intensive and grabs the student’s interest immediately,” stated Barragan.

It provides teachers with detailed reporting on the class and an individual’s performance. This helps the teacher decide where to go with the lesson and to determine if some one-on-one time is needed, or if there is something the entire class can learn.

Supporting 14 languages, generally students who do not speak English can receive support from the program. For those who don’t speak one of the other languages, the program also has visual clues to assist a student, explained Burns.

A pre-test is conducted usually on grades 1 to 6 students to find the their skill level. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students are given the opportunity to try out the program, which will adjust to their level of learning.

It starts with emerging literacy skills and ends “with an independent reader.”

There are several tools Imagine Learning uses to help a student with the language:

• Phonemic awareness: Students learn how a word sounds and looks as a mouth verbalizes the word.

• Fluency: Users will listen to a sentence and can then read and record the sentence to listen to themselves. Recordings are saved and students are able to review their first recording to their latest.

• Vocabulary: Students can see many samples of Software adapts to learning how words sound or what the definition is.

• Comprehension: The program gives questions and tips to see how a student understood the lesson.

If there is a challenge in an area, the software gives tips to guide a student to an answer.

Lois Spate, principal of Ponoka Elementary School, feels programs such as Imagine Learning will be an asset to teachers.

“To me this is cutting edge. We need to keep up-to-date as teachers, especially how to infuse technology into the curriculum, how to engage our students using technology. These kind of symposiums are key for teachers,” she said.

She feels teachers are not as familiar with technology as students. “I’ve seen kids on this program for example, they just go in and click.”

With symposiums such as this, she hopes to take back lessons and apply them to her school. She enjoyed seeing teachers presenting what worked for them in their classes.

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