Digital Learning Material

One of the great challenges for teachers teaching Danish, is to develop children’s reading abilities, so children are not only able to decode a text, but also to understand a text on a deeper level. In this study, researchers are taking up the challenge by using the computer as a learning tool, and they find positive results.    

Time period:

2015 (September to December).

Target group:

Children in second grade.    

Number of participants:

1013 pupils, divided between 47 class rooms.    

Intervention:

The pupils tested a newly designed digital learning material, where children sit in front of a computer and read texts they have not read before. Prior to the reading tasks, the teacher explains about reading strategies and concepts related to the text.

The computer can present the text in three different ways – with decreasing levels of help:

In version C, which is only intended for pupils with difficulties in reading words, the text is read aloud by a computer. Meanwhile, the pupil listens to the voice and pays attention to the screen, where each word is highlighted when read aloud by the computer. Afterwards, the pupil is tested to see, if he or she really was paying attention. This is done by asking the pupil to identify and click on certain words in the text.

In version B, the text is not read aloud, and the pupil tries to read the text on his or her own. If there is a word that the pupil cannot read, he or she can receive help. The help differs from word to word: Difficult words can be divided into smaller parts and in some cases be read aloud. With other words, the pupil can have a rhyming word read aloud. And some words can only be read aloud, after the pupil has identified the word among other words. After reading the text, pupils are asked some questions regarding the text.

Version A is not used until the following lesson. Here, the pupils receive no help – only the most difficult words can be read aloud. Thereafter, the teacher talks with the pupils about what the text is about.

The teacher was told to use the learning material in at least five lessons (á 45 minutes) each week during the 13 weeks the intervention lasted.

Watch this video for a short turtorial.

Research:

The participating classes are randomly assigned to either receive the intervention with digital learning material or the active control group. The randomization allows researchers to conclude with a greater certainty that the results were caused by the intervention and not other differences between the classes.

The control group was “active”, which means that it also received an intervention with chosen learning material. Control classes used a method that research so far has found to be the most effective in teaching children to decode texts.

The effects of the intervention were measured on two parameters: The pupils’ decoding (to be able to read the individual word) and reading comprehension. Reading comprehension was divided into two:

  • Literal comprehension: To understand, what is going on in a texts’ story (factual information, course of events and characters).
  • Inferential comprehension: To be able to derive what the text is really about (the deeper meaning of a story – things that are not mentioned directly in the text).    
 

Results:

Compared with the control group, the pupils in the intervention group become significantly better to comprehend a text. Both the pupils’ literal and inferential reading comprehension are significantly higher in intervention classes.

Since intervention classes were compared with control classes that received a method that has been found to be the most effective in increasing pupils’ decoding, the risk was that control classes would be better on this point. However, this is not the case: There is no significant difference between the two groups of classes in regard of being able to decode texts.     

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