Supporting Reading Instruction with Technology

At Macquarie Primary School, technology is an important classroom tool, but it is not the sole driver for the activities that go on in the classroom. In fact, if the technology standard is what we have seen in other Canberra schools: full wireless coverage, lots of devices, etc...the school isn’t quite there yet. They are still developing their stocks of devices and they haven’t yet had their wireless upgrade. But it hasn’t stopped them using technology in the kinds of meaningful ways that are going to make a difference to students. 

One example is the teaching of reading in Sami’s year 3/4 class. 
Technology doesn’t really need to play a part in any reading lesson. There are a variety of tried and true approaches to reading skill development that work perfectly well without the introduction of any of the technologies that people might picture when we put technology together with reading instruction.

During these reading lessons, the technology is not the focus of either the instruction or the student work, but it does play a significant role in the assessment of student progress, and reporting to parents.

Sami (as with all teachers at Macquarie Primary School) uses the C.A.F.E Reading system. Students are explicitly taught (and regularly practice) skills that help them to develop the four key C.A.F.E elements: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Expand Vocabulary.

A part of this practice each morning includes a period of time when students read to a buddy. While they listen, the buddy is on the lookout for a potential area of development in one of the four elements. The buddies discuss this as part of their peer-to-peer assessment. Once they identify this area for development, the student moves their photo to that section of the classroom display and applies some of the strategies to their individual practice during other parts of the morning.

While the buddies are reading together, Sami’s first use of technology involves entering observation data for her students into a pre-prepared Google Form.

The form is set up to include content elements drawn from the Australian Curriculum, and data can be entered on any device, including a phone or iPad. It allows Sami to easily keep track of where her students are in relation to the reading outcomes for their level.
The other technology use during the lesson is by the students. As a student reads, their buddy might notice that they’ve made an improvement in a certain reading area. They then grab an iPad and film a short video explaining this improvement. This might include a short demonstration, and usually refers to their improvement goal. The video is then uploaded to the student’s Drive and added to their ePortfolio. This provides a simple but effective way for Sami and her students to share progress with parents and carers in a very tangible way.

This approach demonstrates a great use of technology: as simply another tool that supports what’s happening in the classroom. It doesn’t matter that there isn't a device for every student, all that matters is that the devices are there when they actually need them.