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IRA Technology and Reading Award Winner Brings Positive Change to Title 1 Students

by Tammy Ryan
August 1, 2014

This year’s winner of the IRA Award for Technology and Reading, Stephanie Laird from Mitchellville Elementary School in Mitchellville, IA, uses technology to “level the playing field” for her students. Most importantly, she uses it to instill a love of learning and reading in her Title 1 fourth and fifth grade students. The most significant evidence of positive change is when she walks by a classroom or library and observes a student, who previously would not go near a bookshelf or book, engrossed in a reading and rushing over to tell her all about the story.

Stephanie uses various forms of technology to encourage students to read. In the process, students are developing essential habits of effective and critical reading. Some of the technology incorporated into her teaching and learning include iPads, MacBooks, Kindle Cloud Reader, iPad applications, TodaysMeet, VoiceThread, and iMovie.

Through Kindle Cloud Reader, Laird is able to offer high-interest reading materials on students’ reading levels. After getting an account, students access books chosen by Laird based on their interests and needs. The teacher found “students enjoy the variety of books available and they are free to choose what they read without the concern of peers noticing the size of a book or amount of text on a page.” Using Cloud Reader’s read aloud features and clickable definitions, students read at their own pace and are more successful reading with accuracy and comprehension. When finished reading a novel, students then use iMovie to create a book trailer to demonstrate understanding. These trailers creatively summarize a story, offer an overview of characters and their motives, and lure peers to read the book.

Another successful use of technology is TodaysMeet, an easy-to-use back-channeling site incorporated into small and large group instruction. Stephanie finds back-channeling an important opportunity to “push students’ thinking, to encourage them to stop and review what they have read, and to analyze an author’s purpose.” She also enjoys how back-channeling involves students in “real time” discussions about what they are reading. Positive change is again evident when students who typically don’t share ideas aloud open up through technology and back-channeling.

“One of the most encouraging results I have experienced from integrating technology into my Title 1 Reading program is the motivation and love of reading my students have developed,” states Stephanie. She finds that “students no longer shy away from text, and even those who are struggling readers are able to discuss a story with a partner.” Further evidence of technology’s influence on bringing positive change to students’ learning includes increased scores on the district’s Title 1 reading test and on the Iowa Assessment. Congratulations, Stephanie, for making an outstanding and innovative contribution to the use of technology in reading!

Tammy Ryan, associate professor of reading education, is from Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL. This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

The IRA Award for Technology and Reading is designed to honor educators in grades K–12 or equivalent who are making an outstanding and innovative contribution to the use of technology in reading education. Apply for next year’s IRA Award for Technology and Reading. Submission deadline is Nov.15.

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