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Using ICTS to address reading problems

Hayden Rooks, Memorial University of Newfoundland


Reading is an important life skill all students must learn that is taught formally at all public schools (Van Daal & Reitsma, 2000). Reading is very important and has been linked to school achievement, graduation rates, and a country’s overall economic success (Lysenko & Abrami, 2014). Many children struggle with reading in today’s schools (Lysenko & Abrami, 2014). “Significant numbers of children (6% of 11-year-olds) have difficulties learning to read” (Holmes, 2010, p. 5) Wyk & Louw (2008) claimed, “Most of the schools’ and teachers’ problems are rooted in the fact that learners cannot read” (p. 246). Ciampa (2012a) stressed, the importance of reading in early grades and identified reading as a cornerstone for later success.

Helping students select reading material at an appropriate level is important for motivation and can be a time consuming obstacle for teachers (Anderson, 2003). Ciampa (2012a) identified a decline in reading motivation and behavior as perceived obstacles to success in developing as a reader. Teachers need to find ways to motivate students to read as motivation for reading in young children is a strong predictor of later reading skills (Ciampa, 2012a).

If students are motivated reading skills will also develop because there is a strong relationship between reading motivation and reading skill (Mcgeown, Norgate, & Warhurst, 2012). Mcgeown et al. (2012) identify two types of motivation for readers, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is when a reader chooses to read because it is enjoyable or interesting. Extrinsic motivation is when a reader chooses to read to receive a reward. Motivation to read is an obstacle that needs to be overcome. The results of their study imply that the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and reading skill is a complicated one that needs to be considered and balanced (Mcgeown et al., 2012).

Role of ICTs

“Computer-assisted reading programmes offer learners the opportunity that we as educationalists should embrace” (Wyk & Louw, 2008, p.253). Students need to read books appropriate for their skill level to stay motivated and technology enables teachers to monitor this either by simply using Microsoft Word as an assistive technology to analyze text and determine readability statistics or searching a database for the information (Anderson, 2003). Teachers also need to assess students reading skill level to ensure they are challenged appropriately and continue to be motivated and engaged and technology based assessments can provide teachers with an efficient means to gather data that will enable them to make instructional decisions that are best for each student (Retter, Anderson, & Kieran, 2012).

While technology is efficient for the teacher it is also appealing to students and it has the ability to motivate students to increase their learning and reading (Retter et al., 2012). Ciampa (2012b) found that e-books may increase comprehension and engagement for grade 1 students over traditional paper books. Van Daal and Reitsma (2000) discovered that young struggling readers showed more positive behaviour during reading practice with the computer than during the traditional classroom demonstrating how ICTs can motivate students to read. Computer based instruction can be beneficial for motivation by providing instant feedback, and adjusting the activity based on the learner’s responses to maintain at challenging level that suits the learner (Van Daal & Reitsma, 2000). Holmes (2010) discovered that game-based learning could have a positive impact for struggling learners by making it more enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding meeting the motivation challenge for readers. Ciampa (2012a) also found that online reading software could promote reading motivation among beginning readers as well as students with learning difficulties or behaviour disorders. Use of ICT’s effectively has been shown to reduce off task behaviour, noise level, and inappropriate behaviour which will effectively increase reading practice time and in turn reading skill (Retter, Anderson, Kieran, 2012). Computer-supported learning environments clearly engage students in ways that may help struggling readers (Retter et al., 2012).

Wyk and Louw (2008) found that computer-based reading programs are effective and quick in helping students to develop their reading skills. The use of ICTs will not cure or eliminate learning disabilities that may be challenging young readers, but it does help learners to reach their potential by working on their strengths (Wyk & Louw, 2008). Knezek and Christensen (2008) discovered that technology-intensive classroom learning activities were effective in fostering reading accuracy and comprehension in young students. Ponce, Mayer, and Lopez (2013) found that students made improvements in reading comprehension by using a computer-based spatial learning strategy approach. It is beneficial for readers to access books using mobile devices because having access to the device in school engages the student and the portable nature of mobile devices enables the student to access the technology at home (Retter et al., 2012). ICTs work to motivate the students and increase efficiency of the instructor not to mention the ability to use electronic texts is an important skill in itself and students need not only be able to read, but also learn, comprehend, and interact with technology (Retter et al., 2012).


It is important to realize that having students use online reading software is not a satisfactory replacement for adults reading printed books to children, but rather a supplement that is part of a complete reading program (Ciampa, 2012a). In order for the use of ICT’s to be beneficial to learning readers a suitable computer program must be chosen and they are not all equal (Wyk & Louw, 2008). There needs to be a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for reading and using external rewards too much could be counter-productive and this must be considered when implementing ICT based reading programs (Hansen. Collins, & Warschauer, 2009).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both electronic and print reading formats (Huang, Chen, & Ho, 2014). Hansen et al. (2009) identify costs to use a reading management program as being prohibitively high ranging from $700 to $10,000 per year depending on the company, but a detailed cost-benefit analysis was not done and it may be a small price to pay for the benefits. It is also important to consider that some readers prefer to read from print material rather than in an electronic format (Huang et al., 2014). While ICTs typically improve efficiency for teachers there is a learning curve and using technology for instruction particularly to support self-regulation for reading is not simple, and teachers will require time and support (Lysenko & Abrami, 2014). Even once teachers master the technology web based reading instruction may result in technical frustrations like loading delays and broken links (Ciampa, 2012c). Finally, it is also important to consider the possibility of over exposure to ICTs with young children today spending on average 2 hours per day with some type of screen media (Ciampa, 2012b). Some even argue that reading on a screen is not the same as reading on paper and will not improve reading on paper (Wyk & Louw, 2008).

Works cited

Anderson, M. A. (2003). Everyday tech tools and reading. Multimedia Schools, 10(6), 21-23.

Ciampa, K. (2012a). Electronic storybooks: A Constructivist approach to improving reading motivation in grade 1 students. Canadian Journal of Education, 35(4), 92-136.

Ciampa, K. (2012b). ICANREAD: The effects of an online reading program on grade 1 students' engagement and comprehension strategy use. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 45(1), 27-59.

Ciampa, K. (2012c). Reading in the digital age: Using electronic books as a teaching tool for beginning readers. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 38(2), 1-26.

Grimshaw, S., Dungworth, N., McKnight, C., & Morris, A. (2007). Electronic books: children’s reading and comprehension. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(4), 583-599.

Hansen, L. E., Collins, P., & Warschauer, M. (2009). Reading management programs: A review of the research. Journal of Literacy & Technology, 10(3), 55-80.

Holmes, W. (2011). Using game based learning to support struggling readers at home. Learning, Media and Technology, 36(1), 5-19.

Huang, K., Chen, K., & Ho, C. (2014). Promoting in-depth reading experience and acceptance: Design and assessment of tablet reading interfaces. Behaviour & Information Technology, 33(6), 606-618.

Knezek, G., & Christensen, R. (2008). Effect of technology-based programs on first and second-grade reading achievement. Computers in the Schools, 24(3-4), 23-41.

Lysenko, L. V., & Abrami, P. C. (2014). Promoting reading comprehension with the use of technology. Computers & Education, 75, 162-172.

Mcgeown, S. P., Norgate, R., & Warhurst, A. (2012). Exploring intrinsic and extrinsic reading motivation among very good and very poor readers. Educational Research, 54(3), 309-322.

Ponce, H. R., Mayer, R. E., & Lopez, M. J. (2013). A computer-based spatial learning strategy approach that improves reading comprehension and writing. Educational Technology Research and Development, 61(5), 819-840.

Retter, S., Anderson, C., & Kieran, L. (2012). iPad use for accelerating gains in reading skills of secondary students with learning disabilities. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 22(4), 443-463.

Van Daal, V., & Reitsma, P. (2000). Computer-assisted learning to read and spell: results from two pilot studies. Journal of Research in Reading, 23(2), 181-193.

Wyk, G. v., & Louw, A. (2008). Technology assisted reading for improving reading skills for young South African learners. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 6(3), 245-254.