Oct 24 2022
How Can You Affordably Offer a Reading Tutor for All Students?
Recently, we hosted a webinar with a panel focusing on how to offer affordable personalized reading support for all students. The goal of the discussion was to discuss reading practice opportunities for students. Our panel consisted of educators and technology innovators.
Tracy: One thing we have noticed is that teachers are working from a science of reading lens in recent years. We do know from more contemporary research that there is a real important focus on having students make those connections of letter sounds. When we talk about a skill, in this case, knowing your letters and sounds, it does not have a metacognition portion. What that means is that students then retrieve that information. The way a student knows letter sounds is because they were taught it and practiced it. It is a key skill that requires memorization. Grouping those letters is essential as this is part of the mechanics of reading. So, in summary, any skill kids need practice. This typically is five to seven minimum practice sessions to start attaining that skill. They have to be perfect practice sessions with meaningful outcomes. We now know that teaching students connections is key. It goes a lot further than what we knew in prior research. Interventions that work provide practice and help to give students automaticity.
Any way we can get a student to have more meaningful practice will help develop that muscle memory, similar to riding a bike.
Sukant: The repetition and practice have traditionally been with teachers or assigned to go home. There is not always enough time or trained adults to support students in these practice sessions. Technology is the perfect place to do some of the lifting. It can provide that one-on-one practice with real-time assessment and accountability. There is also an unbiased evaluation of a student’s accuracy. It can create an environment to provide continuous feedback.
How can technology provide better access in a more equitable way for all students?
Tracy: There are lots of outstanding curricula out there. We do know that there are excellent programs that are helpful along with great access to the text. Teachers help students decode and teach explicit skills. For the students who struggle the most, we tend not to give them enough practice reading and to get good feedback from a qualified adult. Feedback is focused on accuracy, meaning, and other skills. We want to give our struggling students more opportunities for learning and get that great practice to be actual readers. The better readers read more, and those who struggle read less. Once a student becomes a better decoder, they can create better reading. Technology can help the student get the practice in with good feedback. Leveraging technology to ensure the students are doing the practice with that formative feedback.
Ameeta: The U.S. Department of Education came out with findings on how to support students with a focus on tutoring. It isn’t always affordable or accessible to all students. Technology can be an overlay for that. A tutor provides individualized learning with feedback. AI can listen to a student, prompt, and provide feedback.
Tracy: This study was done in 2020 and focused on learning loss and forms of effective opportunities to engage students. I like to call it unfinished areas of learning because it is not lost. This study found that individual tutoring has the largest effect size. It also focuses on what we are doing as tutors to have an impact. We need to figure out what it is as to why they can’t process. Technology can partner with existing programs by providing opportunities to practice.
How does artificial intelligence (AI) and speech recognition work?
Sukant: Many of us use speech recognition every day with our phones and home devices. AI-driven assessment has been around for a while. The challenge was these technologies were built around adult speech. Children speak very differently. Within the last three or four years, there has been more emphasis on diverse children’s speech. This is what we did by recording thousands of children speaking. Then created a responsive AI assessment. We also wanted to create a place of unbiased assessment that looks at fluency and comprehension; we are seeing a real impact here. Even when you have tutors, there isn’t a mechanism to assess independently where technology can assess in real-time. This data can easily be used by teachers and shared with students and parents.
Tracy: This opportunity to practice helps students both short and long-term as the text becomes more complex. Once a student gets the mechanics piece, they can do global and local comprehension of the text. The student starts to understand the meaning because they don’t have to focus on decoding. We know we need to teach phonics, but the other part is thinking about how I develop and make games where kids show up with gap skills so they can be engaged. If we give students enough practice, they can do quick retrieval and can work more deeply with the content.
How can we use technology to support students and caregivers at home?
Ameeta: If a child can read really well, they can do anything. We wanted to solve for the learning at home by supporting the student, teacher, and caregiver. Often a teacher assigns a reading log, and the student may not be getting guided practice at all. Using technology, we can provide accountability and practice with real-time guided support. This summer, we worked with schools to provide “story time” to young students. This is where the program uses a multi-sensory approach to reading to the student while highlighting words.
Tracy: There is a huge benefit to having students being read to. Students learn the cadence, exposure to a good model, story construction, and learn new vocabulary. We know that contextual experience helps students grow. This also helps with the equity issue by giving more students exposure to reading.
Listen to the rest of this webinar HERE! There is so much more to learn.
You can also learn more about AI and speech recognition by visiting our site or scheduling a demo.