IT and schools an inseparable combination

| September 21, 2010
By Sue Soulsby

The 1980s heralded my introduction to computers – robust, small, manageable Ataris with that delightful little turtle in the LOGO programme, scuttling around the screen as one directed it with strange commands.


We have progressed to sophisticated banks of computers with stored programmes accessed through servers. My area is remedial education. For years, I have advocated the use of computers to assist children to learn to read and spell. Recently, my wishes have become reality. I currently use a room with seven computers (soon to be
increased to 12), dedicated to assisting students with a variety of learning issues.

The school has supported my enthusiasm, and we now use Computeraided Maths Instruction (CAMI) and Readers are Leaders to improve reading accuracy and comprehension; Sherston’s Literacy Bank to develop vocabulary in English, Afrikaans and isiZulu; and WhuZoo to increase Afrikaans and isiZulu basic vocabulary. We use CAMI Maths and Ask Archie to pinpoint and remediate problem areas. We are budgeting for a Bellamy and Hough programme, Reading Strategies, which isolates and
strengthens the various aspects of comprehension such as cause and effect, context clues, conclusions, inferences, prediction, sequence and many more. I plan to
find programmes that will introduce DART (Directed Activities Related to Texts) activities to force deeper interaction with text and improve comprehension.

‘Inspiration’ the highlight

The highlight of my suite of programmes has to be Inspiration, a user-friendly, fun-to-use mind mapping programme. It develops a sense of organisation in even the most disorganised student and helps condense information for studying purposes. Students’ essaywriting skills show distinct improvement when they have been guided into
plotting their thoughts onto a mind map. A colour printer has further enhanced their use of this method for studying. Messy erasing and rearranging of ideas are things of the past.

Technology can assist with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic too

Technology is not limited to computer programmes in my field. I have introduced the AlphaSmart keyboard – a lightweight yet robust and cost-effective instrument – to several of the students who struggle with handwriting problems. Work can be simply downloaded to a desktop computer at the end of a day, and saved or edited as needed.

Further assistance in this area may come from the new digipens which, although expensive, may save much frustration for poor spellers, who use simple language to avoid having to spell complicated words. This pen will allow the students to use a more sophisticated and accurate vocabulary to express their thoughts and to show their true ability.

‘Gifted’ students ripe for technological assistance

My interests also encompass the education of gifted students. Currently it is only a dream but, given an extra computer centre, all our students would benefit from the wonderful challenges and extensions to thinking that the Renzulli Learning channel offers. Science and Maths programmes, which give access to simulations and ‘what if ’
scenarios, are also excellent tools for stretching our top-thinking students.

Sue Soulsby is the Academic Enrichment Coordinator at St David’s Marist Inanda. Contact her at soulsbys@stdavids.co.za

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Category: e-Education, Spring 2010 Edition

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