Are Electronic Books Effective in Teaching Young Children Reading and Comprehension?

By Grant, Jamillah M. A. | International Journal of Instructional Media, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Are Electronic Books Effective in Teaching Young Children Reading and Comprehension?


Grant, Jamillah M. A., International Journal of Instructional Media


Can we use technology to teach children the basics of literacy, to read and to write? Are electronic books valuable in teaching reading? What characteristics of electronic books are beneficial to reading programs? Whether electronic books, CD-ROM'S, or interactive media are beneficial in teaching reading should be determined on evidence that they aid reading comprehension. Reading is worthless unless one comprehends. In order to examine the effectiveness of electronic books in a reading program, the characteristics and attributes of how computer-based-instruction facilitates the learning process were investigated. Since technology is increasingly integrated into the curriculum, it is important to question whether this tool can be used to teach reading and increase reading comprehension?

MAGNITUDE OF READING TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENT

The popular belief outside of education has been that computer-based-instruction increases student achievement and improves student attitudes toward learning. The federal government in August 1999 awarded approximately three hundred and thirty million dollars in Reading Excellence Program grants (Available online: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/REA/index.html). (1) The use of researched based methods designed to improve reading; provide skills and support for reading readiness; and teach every child to read by the third grade were the objectives of the program. Federal programs to develop the use of technology in schools have cost taxpayers as much as three billion dollars per year just in providing access to telecommunications (Available online: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/OES/ed_reform.html#tech_chali). (2)

Technology grants by the federal government are specifically aimed at funding new applications and creative ways to use technology for learning. School districts across America are engaged in conversations of using technology to meet student educational needs under the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant Projects (Available online: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/PES/g2K-case-studies.html). (4) Technology corporations such as Apple Computers, Microsoft Corporation, and IBM offer grants to assist schools in integrating technology.

In addition to monetary considerations for integrating technology, educational policymakers are currently debating the question of making technology availability a required accommodation for learning diversities (Available online: http://www.ATAcess.org) (5). Under Title III.4 of the American Disability Act, software, hardware, and computer adaptations are already mandated for disabled students. Groups such as CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) are rallying for the inclusion of digital curricula in the classroom using the universal design for learning (Meyer & Rose, 2000) (6).

The degree of change that technology has impacted our lives has been immeasurable and unforeseeable. However, since we are spending large sums of money and proposing mandates to integrate technology into the reading curriculum, we should review whether doing so affects reading comprehension.

CIRCUMSTANCES OF EFFECTIVENESS

Electronic books technological precursors were visual methods employed to help poor readers or below average readers improve their reading. These were on-line monitors that used the flashcard approach to word and letter recognition. A projector would project the image of words or numbers on a white screen. Teachers would call out the word or spell it aloud before clicking upon the next word in the projectors carousel. To increase the speed of the reader, words would be expanded to phrases and the appearance of each phrase appeared at increased speed. These projections were not written as text with any specific meaning, nor were they available as books. Technology has advanced through telecommunications to reading on line, digital texts, and/or electronic books with interactive capabilities. Today's technologies provide colorful multimedia electronic books. …

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Are Electronic Books Effective in Teaching Young Children Reading and Comprehension?
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