Prof. Timothy Shanahan (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, the University of Illinois at Chicago) asked in his blog on 25 January 2020 “Why is it so hard to Improve Reading Achievement”, and concluded that the ‘last mile problem’[i] is the greatest challenge we currently face. The challenge lies in the classroom – this last mile of implementation will make all the difference for the future of our students.
Why would this be the greatest challenge? As educators, we know that most teachers have a well known and well-rehearsed way of teaching reading, and those who don’t, don’t think it is essential in their ‘arena’ altogether. These mindsets are the very cause for concern. Even if you did well in the past when training visual skills, reading and comprehension, the realities of the future should at least encourage you to re-look the way you’ve taught reading, -strategies and -skills, up to now. And even if you thought it is not essential in your subject or grade-level, the outcomes our students in South Africa are currently achieving with reading for comprehension, should at least allow you to re-think your stance?
The World Bank confirms in one of their latest reports, “Facing Forward – Schooling for Learning in Africa.” that ‘In reading, between 50 and 80 percent of children in second grade (students in Sub-Saharan Africa) could not answer a single question based on a short passage they had read, and a large proportion could not read even a single word.
Fewer than half of students in most countries in Africa are acquiring minimum competencies in reading and mathematics. The most priceless commodity of any nation is people. Our students are indeed the future of the world. As custodians of the future, the statistics available on learning in Africa, gives us a reason for concern, especially in a time where the world is changing faster than you can say Industry 4.0. How do we
As educators, we need to invest in our students, inspire and empower them to have a ‘YES, I can’ mindset.
teach for a world we struggle even to imagine? How do we prepare the young minds and hearts in our classrooms to become the answer to the challenges and questions of an unknown future? The ability to process volumes of information and use new knowledge creatively to address challenges and opportunities in the future will become more and more vital. Each person will, more than ever, need the abilities to learn, unlearn and re-learn vast amounts of information.
A different perspective
To truly understand reading and learning, we usually focus on phonics, word recognition, and reading fluency, but we also have to look at the visual processing and cognitive skills that are needed to develop expected levels of information processing. We know that the human brain is ‘pre-wired’ for spoken language, but not for written language. This is one of the reasons we have to ensure ‘accurate wiring’ is taking place within the learning process so that eye-brain interaction is aligned for improved skills and through this ensure information is quickly and accurately moved through the brain.
We are also faced with the ‘next level’ of reading development: helping our students to become visually intelligent. Being visually intelligent means being able to process, understand and express visual information. To be visually intelligent, you have to be visually literate, implying you have to be able to interpret, make meaning, and understand what you see. The conclusion is clear, if we want to achieve the goal of building life-long learners, we will have to revise our targets when looking at literacy levels.
The EyeBrainGym process
The latest research in ‘reading’ indicates that to read well, a reader must acquire particular skills and strategies to navigate the process of interaction with visual information successfully. There is currently a great emphasis on foundational skills, and rightly so, but a common misconception is that “foundational skills” only means “phonics.” The truth is that the five foundational areas are an integrated structure, greater than the sum of their parts. Print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics, word recognition, and fluency each plays an integral role in the process of developing adequate literacy skills. It is the integration of the various skills and strategies that provide an entry point to multiple literacies. As students increase their ability to recognize words automatically, they also increase the amount of mental energy they can devote to understanding complex ideas and vocabulary. More than this, we would be wise to use the latest in research to ensure we do not miss the target when developing our students to be visually intelligent. The future of our nation, even our economic future depends on succeeding today. This is where Lectorsa took a dive into neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity and the impact on teaching reading
Neuroscience now confirms that your brain is a self-organizing creative system. Every skill and ability you have was constructed in a specific region or regions of your brain, as a result of practice and application over long periods of time. Learning is connecting neurons: developing neural pathways and enhancing neural networks. Neuroplasticity is described as the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Connections within the brain are continually becoming stronger or weaker, depending on what is being used. This is the ‘muscle-building’ part of the brain, the physical basis why repetition strengthens the power of choices and actions. Over time it becomes automatic – a part of who we are.
At Lectorsa, we have learned how to harness these truths in a way that structures the eyes, muscles, neurons, and mind in defined patterns to interact with information. To ‘learn-to-read,’ there is a progression of ‘wiring’ that must take place in the brain. If a person wants to achieve ‘reading-to-learn’, the wiring-process should be facilitated end-out. Lectorsa have developed a method of developing visual skills, reading and comprehension that empowers young and old to achieve improved visual processing and cognitive achievement.
We developed EYEBRAINGYMTM in a way that games are used in specific sequence and intervals with researched weights and timeslots to achieve distinctive outcomes regarding visual processing and cognitive skills development. The aim is to develop a coherent mind to achieve improved interaction with visual information through improved visual and cognitive skills. Our users have seen and experienced the transformation our system brings into the lives of students across the board. We use the science of neural-wiring. We combine this with the physics of muscle training and the establishing of muscle memory. Our integrated, real-time system improves visual processing, reading, and cognitive skills for our users through processes that are often overlooked – i.e. ocular-motor and whole-brain training, taking advantage of the plasticity of the brain. EYEBRAINGYMTM is compiled in a customized training course with an individualized specific Game Plan to suit each user’s schedule and or needs. It offers a selection of dynamic games and reading actions culminating in cognitive skills sessions to enhance the executive function in the brain and the interaction in the brain to move information faster to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain.
Our exercises will improve comprehension and bring our users to a new level of competence when dealing with visual information. Lectorsa is proud to announce that we are launching this next level of visual processing, reading and cognitive development in 2020. We integrated the lessons we learned with implementing LAB-on-line in developing EYEBRAINGYMTM. EYEBRAINGYMTM employs the principles of neuromodulation to help users ‘build’ a roadmap for interaction with visual information in to see more, read faster, learn quicker and remember better in the brain. Through LAB-on-line, the predecessor of EYEBRAINGYMTM, we have already achieved excellent results for each of our users in improved silent reading fluency (required for learning), language skills, and academic achievements. The LAB has successfully ‘rewired’ more than 100,000 minds to read, learn, retain, and to excel!
Someone once said, ”A child without education is like a bird without wings.” All of us want to see every child soar to great academic heights. We want to make it possible for them to unlock their true potential and to realize their dreams, for they are our future. At Lectorsa, we have proof that the future we all hope for is a real possibility.
Join us in making the difference the world needs as we improve these crucial skills with proven scientific methods. Let’s accelerate and escalate the intellectual capital of our students. We can make this happen! (#TogetherWeAreStronger) www.lectorsa.com
Written by: Minda Marshall
Minda is the co-director and co-owner of Lectorsa, leading research, and development company that supplies solutions internationally to the education and training market. Minda specializes in generating timeous solutions while addressing future challenges and demands in the marketplace. Under her guidance, specialist teams deliver first-to-market solutions grounded in scientific research with precision-developed algorithms, embedded in the newest technology available. Under her leadership, the Lectorsa team launched LAB-on-line in 2011, and since then, this solution has proven to be an effective intervention to develop the crucial skills needed for academic acceleration. Up to date, LAB-on-line has assisted more than 100 000 users to maximize and improve their skills and to thrive in an ever-changing world. 2020 will see the launch of the ALL-NEW integrated Desktop and APP-based EyeBrainGym, taking visual processing, reading, and cognitive development to a whole new level.