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Computers as literacy tools: A case study investigation of a bi-modal reading intervention

, University of Northern Colorado, United States

University of Northern Colorado . Awarded


This researcher examined reading comprehension when content is delivered bi-modally using computer presented text with simultaneous computer generated audio. This mixed-method design explored individual learner preferences regarding the effective use of computers to aid reading and the effect on reading comprehension by investigating the hypothesis that bi-modal presentation of text increases the learner's comprehension of the content. Using a case study design, the baseline was established by testing automatic recognition of individual words using grade level word lists from the Leslie and Caldwell Qualitative Reading Inventory 4 (QRI-4). Participants were presented reading level appropriate passages in each of three conditions: bi-modal (text and audio), enhanced bi-modal (text with highlighted words synchronized with audio) and single mode (audio) using a bi-modal reading support application. Mayer reported that the split-attention effect occurs when the working memory resources required to integrate the multiple sources of visual data interfere with the learning. One student's comprehension supported this concept; four students showed no effect on comprehension; one student showed the opposite effect with increased comprehension scores. All participants reported text with audio to be the most useful condition. Two participants described the highlighted text with synchronized audio as very distracting, yet, it had no effect on their comprehension scores. One participant reported that he liked the highlighted text. His comprehension scores were best in the highlighted text and the synchronous audio condition. Future Research in bi-modal instruction in science and math content areas is needed as well as studies in working memory and auditory content, to determine the most effective way to support working memory. In addition research in speech synthesis and the effects of various levels of quality in speech generation on comprehension is needed. Computer-mediated instruction is widely available and has proven effective in the teaching and learning environment. This study confirms learners learn with technology not from technology and that the students enjoy using these educational technology tools. Capitalizing on the strengths of computer-mediated instruction will aid in the narrowing of reading achievement gap and provide opportunity for every child to learn and become literate and successful members of society.


MacDonald, L.J. Computers as literacy tools: A case study investigation of a bi-modal reading intervention. Ph.D. thesis, University of Northern Colorado. Retrieved April 18, 2019 from .

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