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Selma Wassermann, Professor Emerita, creates iPad app that makes reading fun for kids

March 21, 2011
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Devices like iPads won’t replace traditional teaching methods, but SFU education professor emerita Selma Wassermann believes technology can be helpful in the classroom. Her new app, My Word! Reader, is designed to raise literacy levels of elementary and secondary school students who struggle with inadequate reading skills.

“There is nothing that beats an excellent teacher working one-on-one with a student needing special help. If we could have one expert teacher for every kid ‘in trouble’ academically, that would be my preference,” she says. “However, that is a pie-in-the-sky dream that cannot be realized in the practical world of the classroom.

“One answer to that practical dilemma is to use modern technology as a resource to take the place of that expert teacher, in a one-on-one situation. As well, in facing reality, iPads and other high-tech devices are part of the world that kids are growing up in; kids are naturals at using these tools and it would be natural for us to exploit their use in helping them academically.”

Two years ago, Wassermann volunteered to tutor at a neighbourhood school. She worked with a 12-year-old girl who was “emotionally and academically” troubled – one affecting the other. Although intelligent, the girl’s serious reading handicaps affected every curriculum area. She could only read at a Grade 1 level.

The more she believed she was unable to learn, the further behind she fell. And her teachers simply did not have the time – or the expertise in remedial reading strategies – to give her the attention she required.

Wassermann then came up with the idea to create a resource that students could use to help themselves – at their own pace – and would also assist teachers. My Word! Reader from Wassermann’s company, Wrinkled Pants Software, is personalized and customized for the needs of each student. The iPad app contains interesting stories, with mature content, and reader-friendly language, which are the basis for learning to decode words, build sight vocabulary, teach phonic skills, and improve comprehension.

There are four stories in the My Word! Reader series – the first one is called Are Bees Smart, or What? Each story is a separate app and costs $4.99 and can be purchased via Apple’s iTunes Store.

“Each story will have its own set of word games and each word game will continue to build word recognition skills. It just seems to be a natural way to develop literacy skills,” Wassermann explains.

“In my dream world, I would hope the high-tech tools can be used as supplementary resources that complement what a teacher does, thus freeing the teacher to do much, much more with individual kids and with the curriculum.”

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Contact:

Selma Wassermann, SFU Education, 604.608.0197; selma_wassermann@sfu.ca
Dixon Tam, SFU media relations, 778.782.8742; dixont@sfu.ca