Seven limitations of computer-based early literacy learning

There has been an increase in the use of computer-based early literacy programs over the last 10 years, due in part to:

  1. The programs being cheap and easy to distribute within a classroom or directly to your device at home.
  2. Children becoming absorbed by the associated screen-based activities.
  3. Children can be involved in these programs with limited adult supervision.
  4. Children being compliant as they respond to familiar cues of success.
  5. Children enjoying the problem-solving nature of the games which often allows them to make repeated errors until they hit on the correct response, so they will ultimately always be successful, frequently being rewarded.

There is plenty of ongoing academic research into the pros and cons of screen-based learning for you to discover.

Does screen-based learning effectively teach essential early literacy skills?

The essential steps required to develop early literacy skills have been discussed in this blog post.

I have watched closely the increased use of computer-based literacy programs and have persistent concerns about the limitations of these with respect to the consolidation of a child’s early literacy skills.

I have outlined some of these concerns below to assist you as you think through these issues.

Seven limitations of computer-based early literacy learning

  1. It creates a passive learning environment where often the only response required from the child is to push a button.
  2. Because, primarily, the children are not required to physically write, they do not imprint the motor patterns required for handwriting.
  3. Computer-based learning teaches visual inattention – the ever-changing screen actively teaches the child to be searching for different stimuli on the screen, therefore this process constantly teaches and increases the child’s visual inattention.
  4. Adults often believe the child is very focused whereas the child is single-mindedly seeking out varied stimuli on the screen.
  5. The child is often not closely monitored by an adult therefore is repeatedly practising errors.
  6. Children are clever – they decode the mouse pointing sequence needed to win the rewards rather than imprinting correct patterns required for literacy development. This often allows them to bypass, rather than address, their fragilities.
  7. Computer-based learning directs adults to incorrectly equate mastery of technical skills with the development of reading and writing abilities.

I have considered, and experimented with, customising My Alison Work for an onscreen environment. The onscreen delivery was not creating the literacy improvements I see the program deliver when the children are physically engaged in the program.

This is why My Alison Work remains a self-contained, active learning program, where children receive ample reinforcement of required early literacy skills.

To integrate with classroom and literacy clinic programs,the instruction and activity books are all available as pdf files, meaning you can easily print off and distribute the resources within your classroom or literacy clinic setting.

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