The Role of Technology in Supporting the Learning and Teaching of Word Study Skills
Kara-Soteriou, Julia, New England Reading Association Journal
The number of websites and computer software programs has increased dramatically over the last two decades, with hundreds of software titles and new websites being developed and released every year. As of July 2006, for example, there were more than 439 million web hosts (Zakon, 2006) ready to share information with Internet users. Among the new titles of computer software and websites are many that are developed specifically for educational purposes, targeting teachers of different grade levels and subject areas. Fortunately, many teachers have recognized the potential of Internet and other computer technologies to enrich classroom instruction and advance student learning and have integrated them in their instruction (Karchmer, Mallette, Kara-Soteriou, &. Leu, 2005).
Word study is one of the areas of literacy instruction that, I believe, has benefited tremendously with the introduction of computer technologies in the classroom and at home. Many software titles are available to parents, for example, whose objective is to offer early literacy experiences to their young children and familiarize them with letters, sounds, and the spelling of short words. These same software titles, as well as others that are offered as supplementary materials to a school's published reading program, are also marketed to teachers of students in the primary grades or older students with poor word study skills. Likewise, parents and teachers have access to a substantial number of websites that provide a wealth of information, resources, and activities for word study instruction and learning. From phonological awareness, to word identification, spelling, and vocabulary, these websites offer their users a lot of options, which, if used wisely, have the potential to enhance instruction and foster learning.
In my teaching of college level literacy classes, I aim to familiarize my preservice teachers with computer technologies that could support the development of word study skills, if teachers use these technologies within their instructional frameworks. That is why when I introduce my preservice teachers to certain websites on word study, I do so within Internet-based instructional frameworks, such as the Internet Workshop (Leu, 2002) which includes specific directions on how to navigate the website and what links to explore more than others. I follow a similar approach when I ask my college students to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of software that claim to promote word study skills. I do so because I believe that it is more likely for Internet and computer software to support the development of word study skills if teachers use these technologies as part of student instruction that addresses specific learning needs with the use of specific learning activities.
In this column I share information about websites and computer software that can be used to enhance instruction and learning in word study. While I find all these word study resources to be useful to a classroom teacher, I do not claim that these resources are the best a teacher can use. How useful a technology resource is should be judged by the extent it helps a teacher meet her instructional objectives and address her students' learning needs. I conclude this column with five questions/guidelines teachers could find handy in the process of deciding what word study software and/or Internet resource to choose among the so many that are available to them.
How to Choose Technology Resources for Word Study
As mentioned earlier, the number of Internet and other computer technologies has grown exponentially. As a result, it is a laborious and time-consuming task for teachers to choose websites and software that will best support their instruction. Below are some guidelines that, I believe, will make the teachers' task easier. I present the guidelines in the form of questions that encourage teachers to reflect on the integration of technology with word study instruction. …