Computer-Based Reading Programs for At-Risk Learners
Children with disabilities face a variety of challenges when learning to read. Some students experience processing disorders, some have auditory or visual deficits, still others have gross or fine motor disabilities. Computer technology is adept at addressing all of these issues by the nature of its flexible and extensible application. As a relatively low-cost solution for providing specialized instruction, integrating computer technology is a particularly attractive solution for students with dyslexia and who are at-risk for reading disorders (Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Herron, & Lindamood, 2009). Torgesen, et al. (2009) further examined the methodology for implementing CAI in the classroom with at-risk students and found that when students were prepared through teacher-led explicit instruction, they derived even greater benefit from the practice and enhanced instruction offered by computer-based programs.
A study by Campbell and Mechling (2009) contributed to the area of research on multisensory instruction by looking at the use of the SMART board technology for providing such instruction. The study targeted incidental learning relating to letter sounds and names, a foundational skill for acquiring phonological awareness and learning the alphabetic principle. Participants were primary grade students with learning disabilities. The results of the study were positive and suggest that the students were able to efficiently learn the desired information through a combination of hearing, seeing, and touching the letters on the screen (Campbell & Mechling, 2009).
Still other researchers have found that computer-assisted instruction is effective for improving learning outcomes for at-risk readers in the primary grades. I will describe a few of these studies in the next section. Computer-based reading software is most helpful for students with learning disabilities when it provides supplemental practice, applies proven reading strategies, and offers immediate and consistent feedback (Bishop, & Edwards Santoro, 2006). With these criteria in mind, computer-assisted instruction is beneficial for at-risk students by providing activities that can be motivational and provide positive reinforcement. By allowing at-risk students to work at their own pace, computer-assisted instructional software can provide the additional practice these students need to help build automaticity (Hook & McCabe, 2006).
Another use for computer-assisted instruction with exceptional learners is in the area of increasing on-task behavior. Particularly effective for students with ADHD, adding CAI elements to their reading program has been correlated to an increase in oral fluency and a decrease in off-task behavior (Clarfield, & Stoner, 2005). On-task behavior is essential for both at-risk readers and students with ADHD in order to absorb the initial skills necessary for acquiring literacy. Generally speaking, primary...