Integration of digital technology a boost for literacy

by Robert Ballantyne29 Aug 2016

As schools celebrate National Literacy & Numeracy Week this week, the level of engagement in an online competition shows increasing integration of digital technology in teaching these core skills, with positive results.
Last week was the final round of Word Mania 2016 – a free competition run by online literacy education program LiteracyPlanet – based on a digital word building game. It is a challenge that involves phonics, word families, rhyming and root words, prefixes and suffixes, spelling, vocabulary, word recognition and word knowledge. 
Teachers at 2,000 schools around Australia integrated the online challenge into literacy activities during the three-week competition, and 260,000 students from Years 1 to 9 spent 8.5 million minutes creating 63 million words, the equivalent of 16 years’ worth of literacy skill practise.
LiteracyPlanet CEO, Adam McArthur, told The Educator that the high level of engagement reflects the increasing use of digital resources and the benefits they bring to classrooms.
“Word Mania has grown in popularity as more teachers embrace the integration of digital technology, and the level of excitement and engagement this year was astounding,” he said.
“We had so much positive feedback from teachers about how much they and their students enjoyed Word Mania.”
McArthur added that students were “enthralled” into intensively practising their literacy skills, and that it “stimulated positive social interaction” with students collaborating, playing against each other, and supporting and encouraging each other to do better.
Phil Jones, principal of Middle School at Tyndale Christian School, located in Salisbury East, South Australia said that Word Mania supplemented his school’s English program in a positive way. 
“Research tells us that when students are engaged in literacy and reading, their learning outcomes are so much better, and for me the standout for Word Mania and LiteracyPlanet has been the student engagement,” Jones said.
To celebrate the success of Word Mania 2016 and National Literacy & Numeracy Week, LiteracyPlanet is donating $6,300 - $100 for every million words students built during the competition - to the Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation (ALNF).
“At LiteracyPlanet we share the Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation’s goal to help all children develop strong literacy skills and reach their potential,” McArthur said.
Kim Kelly, co-founder and executive director of ALNF added: “We are honoured to be the charity partner of LiteracyPlanet. All funds raised from Word Mania 2016 will be put towards our vital literacy programs with marginalised, refugee and Indigenous children across Australia. Together, we are working to ensure that all children thrive and succeed at school, and have the opportunity to write their own bright futures!"
Word Mania is one of thousands of exercises by LiteracyPlanet, a comprehensive curriculum-aligned resource to support literacy teaching from Foundation to Secondary. 
LiteracyPlanet is offering readers of The Educator who have not tried the program to register during National Literacy & Numeracy Week for a free two-week trial. If you would like to take advantage of this invitation, register your interest online here.
See the eight schools from around Australia that were announced as the Word Mania 2016 national winners on the Today Show