Blended Learning

Florida District Adopts Online Language Skills Programs

Alachua County Public Schools has adopted a pair of online tools to help improve students' English language skills.

The district is deploying Scientific Learning's Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant tools to 10 schools with plans to use it in all schools over the next five years.

Fast ForWord is designed "to remediate the underlying difficulties that keep struggling readers and English language learners from making progress," according to information released by Scientific Learning, by working from the bottom up beginning with "cognitive skills like memory, attention and processing speed."

Reading Assistant provides students with extra reading practice and real time feedback via speech recognition. Reading Assistant features automatic counts of words read per minute, comprehension and vocabulary reports and selections for a variety of reading levels and student interests.

"Students' development and mastery of language is critical to their success in school. One of the major factors contributing to underachievement is not having a mastery of language, which not only affects students' reading and writing performance but their performance in other areas as well," said Owen A. Roberts, superintendent of schools at Alachua, in a prepared statement. "What makes the Fast ForWord program different from other language and literacy interventions is that it focuses on cognitive capacity development, rather than content, to address one of the root causes of learning difficulties. These unique learning innovations help students develop their memory, attention, processing and sequencing skills so they can be better users of the language of instruction, allowing them to accelerate their learning."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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