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Children, Computers and Reading Skills
by Prof. Edna Aphek
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While a fierce scholarly debate is going on in Israel between the followers of The Whole Language method and the great believers in the phonetic system as the panacea for all the illnesses connected with reading acquisition, a group of fourth graders tutored another group of first graders, in reading, in an intuitive manner and not using or being aware of any specific method in particular. They did it , though, with a lot of love, individual attention and using the computer.
Though the tutors worked with relatively top students, some of whom were already readers, one could draw conclusions from the described case study which could be applied to the advancing of the reading acquisition process in general, and to other learning areas as well.

Some background
Sara is a first grade teacher at the Alon School at Mate Yehuda, in Israel. Sara's class is very heterogeneous. In the beginning of the 2001-2002 academic year Sara needed some help with the better first grade students. She felt these students were in need of a faster pace as far as learning how to read is concerned, as they knew how to read and write in the very beginning of the year.
Sara is a fan of computers . She is also a great believer in the idea of older children tutoring younger ones. Sara decided to ask three of her former students, fourth graders as of this year, to tutor the more advanced first graders and to help in accelerating even more the latter's reading abilities.
Sara asked for volunteers. A few fourth graders did.
Since Sara was their homeroom teacher for the last three years, she was well acquainted with the abilities and personality of the tutors to be: Sara chose the most sensitive and patient students.

The assignment
Sara met with the "young tutors "a couple of times and asked them to work with the first graders via the computer, using mainly" Word".
Sara asked the young tutors, to work specifically on the following:

• to recognize and to find the letters of the alphabet

• to recognize the final letters
(In Hebrew there are two sets of letters, according to the place of the letter in the word. If the letter is in the beginning or the middle of the word its shape differs from when it appears at the end of the word. This is true of the following letters: KAF, MEM, NUN, PEH, and TZADI)

• to master punctuation: to understand the function of the period and the spaces

In addition to the above the "young tutors" were asked to teach the younger children how to write a very short "paper" using WORD, and how to download pictures and to combine them with their writing.

Today's children and computers
Today's children are accustomed to computers; for them the computer is a "playmate" "workmate", an integral part of their lives.
It's a well-known fact that children nowadays master computer skills at a very early age and often better than adults. Our youngsters also master many qualities usually attributed to grown-ups.
In his book Growing Up Digital, Don Tapscott describes today's youngsters, whom he calls the N-Generation (net generation), as:

Tolerant, curious, assertive and more self assured and emotionally and intellectually open.

The Net Generation summarizes Tapscott , is a generation that combines the values of humanism with societal and technical aspects.

The aforementioned characteristics, being emotionally open, self confident, tolerant and curious, combining humanism with technical aspects, make the N and digital generation almost "ideal teachers" while using the new technologies.

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