Computers and Reading Skills
by Prof. Edna Aphek
The very idea of using the computer as a means for tutoring
and for learning was met with great enthusiasm on both parties
involved in Sara's project- the first graders as well as the
older fourth graders.
Soon, a few more first graders joined the strong readers'
group and more fourth graders volunteered for the tutoring
The children worked in pairs: a fourth grader with a first
They met once a week.
mixed group of tutors (fourth graders) and their tutees (first
graders) found some more avenues for collaboration: they typed
poems for the entire class, made posters for the Holidays,
and made, using "WORD", puzzles for the first grade
"The progress the children in my class made", says
Sara" was amazing, in comparison with former years, as
each child had his own private tutor, who worked with him\her
according to his\her pace and interest. The teacher can't
do this to the same extent. The teacher has to spread himself/herself
thin to all the 30 children in the classroom."
Sara went on: "A child treats another children very seriously.
If a child, makes a mistake the tutoring child explains the
mistake, from a child's point of view."
And then she added: they simply love using the computer."
Problem solving skills
The new technologies prompt us to redefine many aspects in
our life in general and in school life, in particular. There
is a shift in the role and place of children:
Children mastery of the computer and the language of high-
tech put them in a new status, unknown in the past. In many
schools children become "young computer technicians",
as they maintain school computers and in many others they
serve as "young computer teachers" and tutor other
children in various subjects.
In a survey conducted in 2002, by NSBF in 90 schools in the
US , "Fifty-four percent of the schools surveyed said
that students provide technical support and 43 percent said
students troubleshoot hardware and software problems."
Not only do the new technologies redefine the role of students
but they also usher what might be a new pedagogy which places
much emphasis on the inter- personal element , on values and
on children becoming partners in the educational process.
Children who tutor others, be it children or adults, learn
the values of tolerance, patience, giving and understanding
They also learn problem solving and conflict resolution and
management as they might encounter difficulties arising from
their new role.
The fourth graders who helped Sara's first grade students,
encountered such a difficulty: one of the first graders was
too demanding and tended to monopolize much of their time,
while the other first graders who were less demanding , got
less of their time.
The fourth graders made two on the spot decisions, without
involving Sara in them:
a. they called the "demanding child" for a meeting
in which they explained to him with great patience that he
is too demanding. b. they re-organized, so that the most patient
child amongst them would tutor the most demanding one.
It would be needless to point out how much they learnt from
for the next academic year
and encouraged by at the" fantastic" results and
the simplicity of the intervention, Sara says she would like
expand the project to the entire first grade,in the next academic
year: she would like the entire first grade to be tutored,
on a regular basis, by the fourth graders. Sara would like
the fourth graders to tutor the first graders not only in
reading while using the computer, but also in writing and
in making power point presentations, in the very first semester
of the first grade. Sara believes that using this method,
which is quite common in many schools, her first graders could
start using the internet, in a meaningful way, already in
the second half of the first grade.
She adds :"what we usually teach in the third grade could
be taught in the second ...we could really accelerate the
learning process ".
started the project intuitively, out of a need to further
advance the reading knowledge of a group of top students,
for whom she as a teacher to many in a heterogeneous setting,
had difficulty finding the time ,attention and resources.
Sara's case is in no way unique. In many schools older children
tutor younger ones in a few areas. This trend could be developed
into a more systemized and organized method to be used on
regular basis intra- schools and inter- schools, especially
if we combine the abilities that today's children possess
with a vehicle most children love: the computer. I believe
that the new technologies help in paving the way to a new
pedagogy, a "softer"one, less controlled by adults
and in the venue of what Sugata Mitra calls" Minimally
Invasive Education" as he believes that "children
are capable of studying a range of subjects, not just computers,
in a very fun-inspired and self-taught manner."
"In doing so, they're also learning how to 'self organize'
themselves, setting norms of group behaviour, setting their
own goals" .(Techknowlogia, June 2002)
the beginning of the lecture
to the articles index