Speaking about the potential advantages of implementing technology to support phonemic/phonological knowledge, focused attention should be paid to young students’ engagement and interest in learning. Regarding interest, it is widely accepted that modern technology, such as personal multimedia devices, easily attracts children’s attention while also exposing them to new learning opportunities and diverse information formats (Northrop & Killeen, 2013). Personal devices, for instance, iPads, possess a unique potential for classroom instruction, especially with ELL students, since they may offer a selection of helpful applications, including interactive alphabet learning, sound recognition, and early reading apps (Ganske, 2016; Northrop & Killeen, 2013). As opposed to traditional instruction with the help of printed illustrative materials, technology-mediated learning offers much more interactivity and enables learners to see how their choices influence outcomes. These features might contribute to students’ engagement in classroom activities.
The preliminary development of independent thinking and research skills can also be a positive consequence of integrating technology in the classroom to support phonics knowledge and phonemic awareness. Without technology, it might be challenging for the teacher to provide each student with assistance due to time constraints, whereas modern phonemic awareness apps can offer hints promptly to help learners with challenging exercises (Northrop & Killeen, 2013). There is a series of apps, including Write My Name, that promote graphophonic knowledge by helping children to establish links between sounds in meaningful words (for instance, their names) and their graphic representations (Jalongo, 2014). The user’s opportunity to work independently is what can maximize skill gains in this case.
As for the drawbacks of technology-mediated instruction in phonemic/phonic awareness, they may include the risks of poorly controlled screen time, making activities less socially interactive, and the lack of personalized feedback. In early childhood educational settings, peer interaction enables learners to observe peers’ approaches to problem-solving and learn from others’ experiences, but the use of personal multimedia devices for independent practice can reduce the social component of learning. Next, technology-supported instruction requires the proper use of the gradual release of responsibility framework, but it does not guarantee the effectiveness of screen time (Northrop & Killeen, 2013). In addition, despite the current state of technology, interactive applications cannot adequately replace the teacher when it comes to performance analysis and feedback generation. As qualified professionals, ECE teachers are capable of conducting a holistic analysis of each student’s performance and recognizing individual-level barriers to success, such as medical conditions affecting hearing and speech production, stress, or the influences of one’s native language (Jalongo, 2014). Applications typically only evaluate the ratios of correct to incorrect answers, which affects the quality of feedback.
The development of phonemic awareness belongs to the number of prerequisites to reading readiness or early literacy in children and supports young learners in acquiring an understanding of how separate sounds are interrelated and work together. In contrast to broader phonological awareness skills, phonemic awareness involves the learner’s ability in emphasizing and manipulating specific sounds in pronounced words (Reading Rockets, n.d.b). The degree of the learner’s phonemic awareness defines his or her success in fulfilling simple verbal analytical tasks that prepare the child for perceiving and analyzing more complex messages, such as written sentences. Phonemic knowledge finds reflection in multiple abilities, such as recognizing words that do and do not rhyme, splitting spoken words into syllables, and replacing/removing specific phonemes to get new words (The University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning, n.d.). Abilities related to manipulating sounds in spoken words enable young learners to proceed from basic to more complex activities involving the use of words, thus paving the way for the development of reading skills (Reading Rockets, n.d.a). Therefore, the ability to work with phonemes develops before the formation of reading skills and supports the latter.
Phonemic awareness plays a critical role in early reading fluency since it enables children to recognize that languages are systems in which sounds and letters are used in complex combinations to convey different meanings. Although phonological skills are easily learned without reference to print, their central aspects, such as phonemic awareness, enable children to move forward in understanding the concept of language and establishing links between individual phonemes and specific letters in the alphabet (Skibbe et al., 2016). If the child is good at phonemic segmentation tasks and matching phonemes with letters, he or she will be likely to succeed in recognizing printed words, decoding them, and acquiring meaning from texts (Skibbe et al., 2016). All of these abilities are closely interconnected with the degree of fluency, which is why phoneme recognition is emphasized in preschool education.
For a young student, being able to notice and work with different phonemes is of great importance since it can predict future reading skills, including the level of fluency. As of now, it is known that an insufficient level of phonemic awareness in preschool-age children is positively related to difficulties in acquiring reading skills during the first years at school (Reading Rockets, n.d.b). Fortunately, phoneme manipulation and spoken word analysis skills can be developed and improved using phoneme blending activities or additional practice at home, which could reduce the risks of reading failures.
Ganske, K. (2016). SAIL: A framework for promoting next-generation word study. The Reading Teacher, 70(3), 337-346. Web.
Jalongo, M. R. (2014). Early childhood language arts (6th ed.). Pearson.
Northrop, L., & Killeen, E. (2013). A framework for using iPads to build early literacy skills. The Reading Teacher, 66(7), 531-537. Web.
Reading Rockets. (n.d.a). Phonological and phonemic awareness: Reading basics. Web.
Reading Rockets. (n.d.b). Phonological and phonemic awareness: Target the problem. Web.
Skibbe, L. E., Gerde, H. K., Wright, T. S., & Samples-Steele, C. R. (2016). A content analysis of phonological awareness and phonics in commonly used Head Start curricula. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(3), 225-233. Web.
The University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Big ideas in beginning reading: Phonemic awareness. Web.