Will computer based learning programs help develop literary skills in struggling students?

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015

23 Pages

Free online reading


Review of the Literature

Works of Technology

Computer Learning Base programs



Demographic Data

Proposed Action

Data collection

Ideas for Sharing Findings



Will Implementing Computer Based Learning Programs, Develops Literary Skills In Struggling Students?

Children in the United States and around the world are facing issues with literacy (Murnane, Sawhill, & Snow, 2012, p. 2). When children cannot read it affects their writing skills, retention, and self-esteem (Toppo, 2009, para. 4). Furthermore, Toppo (2009) stated that this is an escalating problem that is affecting students and something has to be done to help those children become productive members of society (para. 5).

Reading disability is a term that is vaguely used to describe exactly of what some students are facing today (Hudson, n.d., p. 2). There are many reasons why a student will suffer from reading difficulties. Some of those reasons may include students who lack education, lack resources, have a Speech Impairment, have Dyslexia, or are affected by multiple levels of Autism (Hudson, n.d., p.2). Some of the stumbling blocks that students may encounter are “difficulty learning to read words accurately and fluently, insufficient vocabulary, general knowledge, and reasoning skills to support comprehension of written language. Absence or loss of initial motivation to read, or failure to develop a mature appreciation of the rewards of reading” (Hudson, n.d, p. 1).

This literature review will focus on learning with computer base programs and how it provides the support that struggling students need. Since the early 1980s, computers were introduced to students in schools and since then, computers have proven to be popular with students. These programs were structured to increase literacy in all students including those with disabilities. Now, computer applications are available in all grade levels so a student who maybe in fifth grade can use a second grade application if needed. With technology making increasing developments with computer base learning programs innovators are making them even more user friendly for students (Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012, p. 154). There are several types of tools used to help students improve reading skills. Researchers Biancarosa and Griffiths (2012) showed that since 2007 e- readers have launch its way into the lives of students and teachers. Through e-readers, such as Kindle by Amazon, IPad with iBook application, and various amounts of tablets, more educational materials are available to students. Biancarosa and Griffiths (2012) also stated that “Analysts forecast that 89.5 million units, including both tablets and e-readers, will sell worldwide in 2014 (p. 140).

Review of the Literature

Teale and Sulzby (1986) found that “access to a variety of texts at any age is a critical component of reading because a range of literary experiences exposes a student to the sounds, rhymes, rhythms, and meanings of words of a language and provides new information about the world around them” (p. 3). Computer base learning programs has exhibited positive, long lasting effects on developing reading skill in readers of all age and abilities (Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012, p. 143). Castles and Nation (2006) believed that “reading acquisition is thought to involve two key processes: (1) Developing alphabetic knowledge for decoding unfamiliar word forms (2) Establishing orthographic, whole-word, recognition skills that enable familiar words to be recognized rapidly” (p. 153).

Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998) stated that “recent advances in computer technology offer new support for reading instruction” (p. 264). Computer technology has developed programs that are using graphics speech recording and animation that capture the student’s attention. These programs focus on letter recognitions, phonological decoding, spelling, comprehension of text after reading. These programs are designed to provide additional support to motivate students to learn how to read.

In 1994, Bartram discovered that programs that aid students with literacy problems have grown in the area of cognitive psychology and education. Creating learning environments that provides support for students is imperative. Teachers must be aware that they are accountable for students using not computers according to curriculum approved by the state. Teachers must establish standards so students will receive the full learning experience using computer based learning programs (Silver & Ruedel, 2004, p. 13). According to Hudson (2004), “Providing oral support, modeling for readers, using assisted reading, choral reading, paired reading, audiotapes, and computer programs will increase literacy” (p. 708).

Educators are now finding ways to include computer based learning programs in their curricular (Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012, p. 143). Educators are using computers to add to the content that is being taught in class. For example, teachers are using YouTube, National Geographic, and PBS to “build knowledge background” (Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012, p. 145) of students. Jitendra, Edward, Sacks, and Jacobson (2004) stated that “studies indicate the benefits of increased instructional intensity and duration for children who struggle with emerging reading skills” (p. 421).

However, teachers are using computers for further detail of instruction but still feel uneasy with computer based programs for the students. Crawford and Torgesen (2015) believe that with small groups between three to six students, reformatting the lesson plans to an easier pace while focusing on phonics, letter, and word recognition would be the first steps of developing a student’s literacy skills (para. 3). Furthermore, the researchers stated that re- teaching and supervised teaching will increase the intensity in the classroom (Crawford & Torgesen, 2015, para. 5).

Works of Technology

Using technology in schools has shown that children are excelling at a higher pace than those without access to a computer or tablet. Biancarosa and Griffith’s (2012) research demonstrated promising results, that using e-reading technology tools provides practice opportunities and individualized feedback for struggling and impaired readers (p. 148). Studies from Biancarosa and Griffiths (2015), continued to show that technological support allowed students to make improvements in phonological awareness, reading, and vocabulary in students who are in kindergarten. If computer based learning programs are applied in all schools as a part of instructional activity then the adult illiteracy percentage in the US will reduce tremendously (Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012, p. 148). Reflecting on the study from 2010 through 2012 with adults who could not read, Biancarosa and Griffiths (2012) displayed when young adults include computer based learning programs in their education it helped increased their level of literacy. Biancarosa and Griffiths (2012) stated that “In young adult readers improvements were positive in many areas of e-reading technology; for a range of reading skills, including fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension because of the additional assistance of these technological devices” (p. 150).

Some of the features that are presented in computer based learning programs is text to speech, front enlargements, voice recognition, and many other accommodations that helps students who may have a disability. Teachers are “teaching students in an increasingly digital world, this has opened an entire new realm of pedagogical techniques for reaching students of all ability levels” (Albaugh, 2013, p. 6).

Magnan and Ecalle (2006) performed three experiments in three different environments (p. 417). Magnan and Ecalle (2006) have observed the student’s interaction with the computer based learning program. The first experiment was with children who may have dyslexia. The second was children who were diagnosed with dyslexia but both experiments focused on phonological skills. The third experiment used word recognition training program on dyslexic children who regularly using a computer at home (p. 417). Magnan and Ecalle’s (2006) results revealed that the students did well with the program. Globally, the results show the impact of the audio visual training about voicing on performances of reading disabled children (p. 418). Exposing students to this type of training with computer based programs leads children to connect print and phonology (Magnan & Ecalle, 2006, p. 218).

Worldwide, computer base learning programs are showing positive impact on audio-visual training and voicing on performances of reading with children who has special needs. The need to train children how to connect print and phonology in computer based learning programs is the main goal (Magnan & Ecalle, 2006, p. 219). Having computer based programs in the classroom gives teacher several options. Teachers can work in groups or one on one with students, while others are still on the program (Prete, 1991, para. 3). Researchers Sirajul and Andersson (2016) said computers in schools “creates the potential for a new phase in the evolution of technology-enhanced learning” (p. 818). The tools that makes it possible for computer based programs to be in the schools is microcomputer, text, sound, graphics, and videos, this creates a managed learning environment (Prete, 1991, para. 5). Another branch of computer based learning program used in schools is called Game Based Learning (Ucus, 2015, p. 401). Computerized learning based programs helps students increase their problem solving skills (Ucus, 2015, p. 401). Studies performed by Ucus (2015) revealed that students who play with these gaming learning programs learn how to deal with challenging problems with a combination of educational instructions (p. 402). The game learning based program was created to motivate the students to learn. Some of the benefits of the program included “developing knowledge, skills, and values, to be an active member in the classroom. It also, helps students transfer their knowledge to real life situations” (Ucus, 2015, p. 402).

Some of the teachers and parents are convinced of the way their children interacted with the computer assisted instruction as part of their normal classroom routine. Having technology in schools is essential to the students receiving a proper education but a student will excel more if parents are more involved (Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012, p. 224). Biancarosa and Griffiths (2012) found that today’s parents are the fastest-growing population of consumers purchasing e-reading technology (p. 224). Parents are increasing the use of technology to provide their children with more learning and reading opportunities.

Computer Learning Base programs

Star Fall is a subscription (2012) based program for students four to six years of age. This site was created by Stephen Schutz August 2002 and it is free to all public schools in the United States. Star Fall Education (2012) believes that “young children learn best when they can make connections across many disciplines” (p. 2). Subjects that are offered by this program is early literacy, math, social studies, science, social-emotional development, creative arts, physical movement, health, and technology are integrated throughout the curriculum (p. 2).

ABC Mouse (2010) is a subscription based program for students ages two through six. This site was created by the founder of NeoPets (1999), is also free to all public schools in the United States and Canada (Common Sense Media, 2015, para. 4). ABC Mouse site is designed for students who are having problems with literacy. Some of the activities that students will do on this site is puzzles, playing games, or listening to songs, learning content is clear and simple it cover various subjects. The subjects that are offer from this site are: Language and Reading: letter or word recognition, naming phonics, and reading comprehension; Math: addition, counting, measurement numbers, patterns, shapes, and subtraction; and Arts: rhythm, drawing, and music (Common Sense Media, 2015, para. 5).


Teale and Sulzby’s (1986) research indicated the best way to connect with students who lack literary skills is by introducing them to sounds, rhymes and rhythms (p. 3). Using a musical stand point with the instruction helps with retention. Other researchers like Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998) observed that using graphics and animations is the best way to capture the attention of a student who struggles with literacy (p. 264). It has been said by Ucus (2015) that gaming learning based programs adds to learning how to read but also assess ways to develop problem solving life skills that are essential for daily life (p. 401). Researchers Crawford and Torgersen (2015) portray computer based programs with little importance and feel that with appropriate traditional instruction that computer based learning programs would not be necessary. Although, statistics clearly showed that computer based learning programs are increasing the grades of students who are struggling to read, some teacher still choose to not implement them in their instruction (para. 3).

When teachers allow computer learning based programs in their classrooms, it allows them to be more hands on and active with other students (Prete, 1991, para. 4). Some researchers such as Magnan and Ecalle (2006) stated having computer access in the school is not enough that it can only be effective if students with disabilities have more access to a computer at home. Results from Magnan and Ecalle (2006) showed that the three studies they conducted demonstrated that the student with Dyslexia from all three groups did very well in the exam.

What the researchers had in common was where they addressed the three styles of learning: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Although, each applied their own version of what a computer based learning program should entail, the results were all in favor of the program. Biancarosa and Griffiths (2012) and Magnan and Ecalle (2006) focused on all types of students benefiting from using computer base learning programs. Teale and Sulzby (1986) believed that using sounds in a musical way provided support to struggling students with literacy. While Snow, Burns, and Griffin, (1998) discussed findings using bright colors and animations. Game base learning programs focuses on students interacting with the character in the game so therefore they may relate to the game (Ucus, 2015, p. 402). Teachers who are not comfortable with computer base learning programs choose to communicate with students by using different mechanics to refer to the instruction. Using internet to share additional information based on current instruction with the entire class.


All of the researchers who applied computer based learning programs had the same outcome (Biancarosa, & Griffiths, 2012; Magnan & Ecalle, 2006; Prete, 1991; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Teale & Sulzby 1986; Ucus, 2015) each observed positive results from the participants of their research, but researchers all had different opinions on how to apply the computers in the instruction. Most teachers now have made computers a part of their normal classroom routine (Magnan, & Ecalle, 2006, p. 420). The main goal of implementing computer based learning programs in schools is to get America reading. By finding ways to add computers to daily instructions in all schools will prevent students from growing up in the category that is filled with stereotype (Steele, 1997, p. 614). With the help of learning base computer programs students who face literacy problems now have a program to provide support. In today’s age technology is an important part of education and is developing literacy skills (Prete, 1991).

Demographic Data

The research study will be conducted at four local elementary schools in a southern rural middle class district in the United States. This study will take six weeks and will involve 28 students that are in kindergarten and first grade. From each of the four schools, 14 boys and 14 girls are selected to participate in this study. Students are five to seven years of age with African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic backgrounds. Prior to the research study, consent forms will be mailed to parents requesting their permission to allow their child to partake in research to possibly find different methods to increase the educational experience at the school.

Target Group

The students are divided in four groups, two groups of special needs students and two groups of the average student. The students who are in special education have reading disabilities, speech impairment, dyslexia or multiple levels of autisms. The average students are low performing students. The purpose of this study is to observe if computer based learning programs will help students perform better in reading. Bartram (1994) stated that it is important to include auditory and visual learning aids to children who have a disability (p. 73).

Baseline data

Students will be using the Star Fall (2012) Computerized Program by founded by Stephen Schutz. This program teaches the following literacy subjects: phonological structure, alphabets memorization, and letter cognition. After first three weeks students will then take a classroom assessment.

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The four groups are placed into two different learning environments. Group one (low performing students) and Group two (special needs students) will use the Star Fall computer program that sings the alphabets and teaches the sounds of the letters for the two weeks. Group three (Low performing students) and Group four (Special needs students) were taught by two teachers who have been teaching for the past 15 years using the traditional method of lecture and worksheets for three weeks. These teachers were allowed to use pictures, flash cards and sing the traditional ABC song. At the end of the three weeks the children will be given a test. Students will need to identify the letters and sounds, the results showed:Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Group one: 38%

Group two: 22%

Group three: 23%

Group Four: 17%

By the end of week three I switch the students from group one and two to the teachers who taught the traditional method of lecture and worksheets. Group three and four used Star Fall computerized program. The purpose was to compare the percentage between traditional teaching and computerized teaching. During the switch, the students will then be introduced to sight words for the next three weeks. On week six children were assess to see how many words they remembered the results showed:

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Group 1: 31%

Group 2: 25%

Group 3: 23%

Group 4: 20%

Student in all group percentage increased after the use of the program. The students in group one (the average low performing students) percentage slightly decreased but not too much. Group two percentages went up from original score of 22 % and the last two group percentage increase. The results demonstrated that using Star Fall (2012) computerized learning base program helped tremendously in the classroom. Schroeder (1999) stated that implementing technology in a classroom is changing the way that teachers educate children even though the data show great progress it will still take much more to continue the learning process with computers (p. 76).

Proposed Action

The three possible solutions that I feel would be effective in reducing the problem that students are facing with literacy issues are, motivation, parent involvement, and communication. As simply as it is to say it requires a lot of work and patience to implement in a student. Motivation: All students must be motivated to learn how to read. A student who is not motivated will find it to be difficult to learn Barberos, Gozalo, and Padayogdog’s (2015) research showed “When students are motivated, then learning will easily take place. However, motivating students to learn requires a very challenging role on the part of the teacher” (para. 1). Motivation requires a variety of teaching styles or techniques just to get the student interested completing a tasked.

Parent involvement: It is important that parents help their children with technological devices and supply them with the internet. Parent’s jobs are to enforce what is being taught at school. Unfortunately, some parents are unable to manually teach their child or enforce what is being taught because a lack of education on their part. Supplying their children with internet would be convenient for both student and parent because the learning would never stop.

Communication: When students are not using the computer, teacher should ask the student to discuss the information that they learned from the computer program. This is done so as the researcher and teacher would be able to identify those students who are behind and in need of more assistance prior to an assessment. Efron and David (2003) stated "As a classroom teacher, you are responsible for continuously assessing your students by using a variety of formal and informal means.” (p. 139). Communicating with the students will also allow the teacher to teach on the correct level or how provide additional one on one support.

Data collection

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To answer my research question the research must be clear and concise with the steps that are taken to help improve student’s literacy skills. The first step is to examine the student’s existing information taken from the teacher. This will allow me to determine the student’s current reading level prior to placing them on the computer based learning program. I will be shadowing the student during reading and language arts segment in class. Observation data will be collected, while students are working on the computers. According to Efron (2013), “the act of observation provides a powerful insight into the authentic life of schools and classrooms” (p. 86). While shadowing the students, a daily journal will be kept to track how well the students are doing in areas of letter recognition, letter sounds, phonics, and reading comprehension. Efron stated “this documentation will reveal patterns in classroom interactions, illuminate constraints and possibilities unnoticed in your hectic classroom life, and allow you to monitor your subjectivity and be mindful of the different roles you take in the study” (p. 125).

After children have worked on the computer based learning programs for a week to three weeks an assessment will be given to evaluate how much they have learned Unit 1 Test (APPENDIX). By testing the students will keep me abreast to whether students are ready to move up to the next level on the program or remain at the same. By creating a forum with Computer Based Learning Programs to increase literacy skills in student’s performance is what the data will show.

Ideas for Sharing Findings

I would like to start sharing my work with teachers at my local elementary school. I have a few teachers that I had the pleasure to work within the last few months. Efron (2013) stated “While it is of great importance to disseminate your study to other professionals, ultimately the purpose of action research is to take action in your own classroom or school” (p. 238). These teachers have been teaching for over 15 years and has seen education evolve. Sharing my ideas about the importance of computer based learning programs in classrooms would be something new to them. I would also like to have the opportunity to create workshops with teachers and administrators with a power point presentation to show the data that I have collected, that displays the positive impact that computer based learning program can have on students. After the workshop, I would like for the participants of the workshop to take a brief survey to provide me with a sense of where they stand with my ideas. This will provide room for improvement and will help me form other ways to meet the needs of all students.

Finally, getting parents involved is crucial because they could also have their child using the programs at home. I would do a separate workshop for those are capable of attending. During this workshop parents will see the power point presentation, receive a list of computer based learning programs that they could assess from home. After the presentation they will also take a survey. As for the parents that could not attend, I would briefly discuss the benefits of computer base learning programs during a parent teacher conference. I would continue to share my work with fellow educators, administrators, and parents who have not yet trusted that computer based learning programs can help their student develop their literacy skills.


ABC Mouse.com (1999) Retrieved from www.abcmouse.com

Albaugh, B. M. (2013). Blogging about books: What can we learn from our students? Networks : An On-line Journal for Teacher Research, 15 (2 ), 1-9. Retrieved from journals.library.wisc.edu/index.php/networks/article/download/454/

Barberos, M, Gozalo, A & Padayogdog, E (2015). The effect of teacher’s teaching style on student’s motivation retrieved from www.steinhardt.nyu.edu/teachlearn

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Castles, A and Nation, K. (2006 ). How does orthographic learning happen ? Psychology Press. London. 151-178 Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books

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Cunningham, A. E., Perry, K. E., Stanovich, K. E, & Share, D. L. (2002). Orthographic learning during reading: Examining the role of self-teaching. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82 (3), 185-199. Retrieved from www.keithstanovich.com/Site/Research_ on Reading files/RDjecp02.pdf

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Magnan, A., & Ecalle, J. (n.d.). Computers & Education Audio-visual Training in Children with Reading Disabilities. Computers & Education, 46, (4), 407–425. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.cupdx.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S036013150400123

Murnane, R., Sawhill, I., & Snow, C. (2012). Literacy Challenges for the twenty first century: Introducing the issue. 22(2), 1-164. Retrieved from www.princeton.edu/futureof the children/publications/doc/22_02_fulljournal.pdf

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Test Unit 1

Direction for Teachers: Test will be given to students individually

Part one

- strike each letter that the student recognized correctly
- Only stay 5 second max on each letter

Part two have students identify what is in the picture

- Write the first letter of the word
- Part three put a line through the word said correctly (5 seconds max on each word)

Letter Recognition

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

a b c d e f g h I j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Sounds (Identify the sound of the first letter of the picture)

[Pictures removed for publication]

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23 of 23 pages


Will computer based learning programs help develop literary skills in struggling students?
Concordia University Portland
Action Reasearch Proposal
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
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literacy, spelling, retention
Quote paper
Patricia Soulouque Castor (Author), 2015, Will computer based learning programs help develop literary skills in struggling students?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/312215


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