Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP)
has the potential for helping students in rural isolated communities become better readers. iChat AV v.3
, a software program bundled with Mac OS X (Version 10.4.3) was used in a recent study.
About 85 percent of students learn to read via home experiences and classroom instruction, but the remaining 15 percent need additional schooling beyond what can feasibly be provided in the classroom. In a rural setting with limited resources, VoIP teaching can supplement what the school district staff can offer. In a clinical setting, a single nine year old male student with reading difficulties was exposed to teaching via video conferencing with significant results.
The study began with a ten week baseline survey. Prior to the teaching, the student was assessed and found that his full-scale IQ was in the average range. His weakness in reading and language did not extend to mathematical ability which scored in the average range.
The VoIP training covered another ten weeks, which included ten minutes of phonic instruction each session. Nonwords, that is, a group of letters or speech sounds that looks or sounds like a word, but is not a real word, were part of the training materials. Sometimes used in testing Down’s Syndrome
, nonwords are also used in the teaching process for non disabled children. Ten weeks after the end of the training, a follow up assessment was conducted with the test subject. The student could recognize and understand new words and comprehend the reading material, testing five times better than his original scores.
Using the iChat AV program, teachers could share teaching materials on screen, highlighting areas and making comments in a manner similar to using a white board in a traditional classroom. The study conducted by Craig Wright, Elizabeth Conlon and Michalle Wright of Queensland, Australia focuses on the areas where students with reading difficulty stumble. They generally need help with phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, fluency, spelling, teaching of high-frequency irregular words, and vocabulary and comprehension strategies.
The VoIP experiment shows that students without easy, inexpensive access to a live teacher can benefit from a video conferencing approach to improving their literacy.
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