You are here:

Designing constraint informed handheld-supported literacy innovations for struggling readers

, University of Toronto , Canada

University of Toronto . Awarded


An important area for research investigation involves the design of literacy innovations for struggling readers that harness both pedagogical and technological features of the learning environment, such that students are engaged in deep understanding of complex texts. This thesis describes a design research study that builds upon the highly effective cognitive strategy approach of reciprocal teaching and extends to other literacy activities in order to explore how handheld computers may support and augment struggling readers' exploration and understanding of difficult texts. Informed by a cognitive work analysis methodology, this design research study considers how human-technological interactions can be best designed to overcome a multitude of constraints found within complex educational settings that might otherwise impede the success of innovative approaches to literacy.

Students with difficulties in reading comprehension (N=21) were drawn from two literacy support classrooms (School Site 1 & 2) and given opportunities to use handhelds to support their literacy learning over 16.5 weeks across two design iterations. This study describes the impact of the handheld-supported literacy innovations on student discourse and activity, while also investigating how such constraint informed innovations promoted students' deep understanding of concepts.

School Site 1 design innovations focused largely on scaffolding and augmenting the use of reciprocal teaching to improve students' reading comprehension using basic features and applications on the handhelds. The devices were shown to be effective in promoting greater autonomy and intentionality during reciprocal teaching as students demonstrated a number of knowledge building behaviours towards their goal of gaining deeper understanding of reading concepts. Students exhibited high levels of perceived self-efficacy having had access to a number of socio-technological supports. Reciprocal teaching was shown to be integrated into a learning system that took into account pedagogy and technology (handhelds with educational software). School Site 2 took advantage of GoKnow's® Mobile Learning Environment™. These integrated programs enabled students to engage in literacy activities encouraging the creation of knowledge objects which could continually be refined as new relational perspectives (Bereiter, 2002) emerged through independent and collaborative knowledge building efforts. Implications for the design and implementation of handheld-supported literacy innovations in K-12 classrooms are offered.


Nirula, L. Designing constraint informed handheld-supported literacy innovations for struggling readers. Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto. Retrieved June 20, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or