Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Fighting High School Illiteracy: The PALS Project in Brooklyn

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Fighting High School Illiteracy: The PALS Project in Brooklyn

Article excerpt

Fighting High School Illiteracy: The PALS Project in Brooklyn

The cost of illiteracy in today's society is staggering. It is glaringly apparent in the inner-city high school. Adolescene is a time of introspection and choices; the illiterate adolescent rarely sees anything off worth in himself and this influences his choices in a negative way. The standard programs used to teach remedial reading at the high school level are viewed by the studen as more of what didn't work in the first place. In addressing these issues, Dr. John Henry Martin and IBM Corp. devised a high-technology approach to the improvement of reading and writing. This program is called Principles of the Alphabet Literacy System, or PALS. Martin is an independent programmer who also developed IBM's Writing to Read program.

PALS is a structured, 20-week program in which the mastery of one segment in the sequence prepares the student for the next step. The main focus is on reading and writing, with touch-typing providing a strong backup. The program is based on Martin's rationale that the root of most illiteracy is the inability to understand the basic relationship betwee sounds and their written symbols.

The PALS lab at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., does not look like an ordinary classroom. Visitors often comment that it looks like a futuristic office. There are 12 IBM computers of various types; four videodisc players; racks of shiny, metallic-looking videodiscs; four printers; typewriters; headphones; and tape recorders.

The lab is divided into four separate workstations: the InfoWindow station, the word processing station, the typewriter station, and the writing and recording station. The class is divided in half, with one group working at the InfoWindow station and the other at the word processing station. At the halfway mark of each class period, the groups switch stations.

The InfoWindow station consists of an IBM XT computer with 640K of memory, a 20MB hard drive, a 101-key enhanced keyboard, an InfoWindow display monitor with touch-sensitive screen, headphones, and a videodisc player.

The word processing station includes word processors (we have 128K PCjr's), printers, word processing software, typing manuals and touch-typing software.

The typing station provides typewriters and typing manuals, and the recording and writing table is set up with paper, pens, pencils, tape recorders, blank cassettes and headphones.

Teenagers Avert War

The student begins the course at the InfoWindow by watching a video cartoon wherein a multi-ethnic group of teenagers in ancient times prevent a war by inventing a written alphabet. The association between the sound of each letter and its written symbol is stressed, as the teenage characters develop the alphabet letters needed to write messages between the rulers of the two countries. The student interacts with the program by means of the touch-sensitive screen. The simple touch of a finger to one of the control icons on the screen will backspace, advance or stop the video program. Students complete this phase of the program in three to five weeks.

The second stage at the InfoWindow includes the completion of a work journal. During this phase, scenes from the story are shown both on the screen and in a 110-page workbook. Students work in pairs, taking turns writing computer-dictated sentences both on the keyboard and in the printed work journal. The computer offers both prompts and correction when necessary. This phase takes from four to five games to complete.

Students spend one-half of the class period at the InfoWindow. The other half period is spent at the word processing station learning to touch-type. The touch-typing begins with exercises from a linguistically oriented typing manual. The student learns the keyboard by tuyping word families and related sentences. When the typing manual is completed, a software program, Touch Typing for Beginners, is used to strengthen and reinforce both speed and accuracy. …

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