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Can Technology Engage and Improve Boys Literacy?

Posted: 13/09/11 01:00

How many times do you hear stories about boys falling behind girls in their literacy scores? In the last 2 years the Foundation Stage Profile Results ( assessment at the end of the child's first year in school) show that girls are outperforming boys and that Communication, Language and Literacy has the widest gap. National Literacy Trust Research also reveals the difference in attitudes and participation in reading and writing between the genders has increased since 2005.

It could be that it is down to the fact that boys are not motivated by literacy, because it is not taught in a way that is relevant or interesting to them. It is important that this is addressed at an early age, rather than once they have already lost interest and are failing.

Children are growing up in an increasingly technological world. Think back to how much has changed in the last 10 years and we can not possibly imagine what life will be like for our youngest children by the time they leave school. There is no doubt that children's experience of literacy in the future will be very different to the pen, paper and print concepts they learn at school.

Children's experiences with technology in the home are generally incompatible with what they see at pre-school or nursery. In my experience, having visited many nurseries, technology is generally used in a piecemeal way. If I compare this to my children's experiences at home, it is vastly different. At home my children play on games consoles, operate the television by remote control, talk to family via video chat, watch cartoons on the laptop or mobile phone, take photos and videos using a mobile phone, record their voices onto a laptop or mp3 player, draw pictures on a drawing tablet, play games on a mobile phone and touch screen device, search the internet for information and much more. The richness of their home experiences are not reflected in their learning at pre-school.

Often this is based on fear, an uncertainty about introducing children to technology (especially screen based) because it will lead children to become lazy and replace more healthy, active or outdoor pursuits. I recognise those fears; none of us want our children to grow up as screen junkies or for technology to replace important things like reading to your child. However, I would argue that as technology is evolving, it is becoming more accessible to pre-school children and the opportunity to use it in innovative ways in a play based setting presents itself. Technology is an ever growing part of their lives and it is important that it is utilised as a natural part of children's play in pre-school settings.

Of course there are barriers, not all pre-schools can afford to provide the latest technology, but there are low cost alternatives. Lots of software is free to educators and most pre-schools will be able to use digital photography, video recording and simple sound recording.

Boys generally love anything technological and lack interest in reading and writing - this is a generalisation but on the whole it is the case. I hear people ask all the time ' how can I get my son off the computer?' So maybe instead of trying to ban the things they are interested in we should be using it to our advantage. I was told a story just a few days ago about how a boy aged 11 who could never understand how anyone could choose reading or writing as a pastime and had joined a computer club at school. The teachers had shown them how to create animations and story boards. Following this he has gone away and invented characters, writing comic books and animated stories with such enthusiasm that he couldn't get to the club quickly enough.

If we can encourage this enthusiasm at pre-school, maybe we could avoid many of the negative feelings that boys have around literacy and inspire them to be literate in a different way.


Giving boys opportunities to learn the foundations of literacy through technology, could increase motivation and this could in turn improve their literacy outcomes. If a play based environment whereby children could explore the underpinning skills of literacy through the medium of technology occurred alongside more traditional activities, one may discover whether the technological experiences were more engaging. Early educators could also evaluate the experiences highlighting any gaps in available resources helping to provide suitable experiences for our youngest children that would reframe long held notions of literacy.

 

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