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Practice Analysis of a New Learning ‘Ecology’

Project Overview

Project Description

Parse a student learning experience in a computer-mediated learning environment. What are the elements and patterns of this practice in terms of teacher-student interactions, student-resource interactions, student-student interactions, and the nature of student assessment? How are these different from, and perhaps also similar to, traditional classroom interactions? This work could consist of a reflection on practice you have already used, or analyze a new or unfamiliar practice the dimensions of which you would like to explore. Consider and cite the theoretical models of learning ecologies developed by you and your colleagues in Work 1.

Icon for Reading Plus

Reading Plus

Using Computer Mediated Learning to Help Struggling Readers

Educational Challenge

Learning by means of technology is the way of education today. Educational technology tools tend to be everywhere, and teachers are taking advantage of the way technology engages and enhances student learning. One way teachers can utilize technology is through Computer-mediated learning.

Computer-mediated learning (CML) can be defined as “learning occurs when an individual interactively learns (formally or informally, synchronously or asynchronously) about material via computer means where the learning material and pedagogy are developed to take advantage of the available technologies.” (IRRODL) Computer-mediated learning uses technologies such as video, audio, web, etc to carry out instruction. The goal of CML is to give the student control over their learning such as where and when the learning takes place, pace, and interaction with facilitator and peers. Furthermore, the technology should connect the teacher and student synchronously and asynchronously and have a combination of both electronic and non-electronic instruction. The formality of CML can range from formal to informal learning. Formal learning means being engaged in content that promotes life-long learning and informal means just browsing or surfing the web.

Computer-Mediated Learning Image (Google Images)

The educational challenge for teachers is choosing the right CML program that is appropriate for their students’ deficits. Choosing the right CML program is a process that is different for each district. Districts may have teachers pick an appropriate program, the administration choose a program, or select a program as a team effort between the administration and staff.

The Computer-mediated researched based program that some schools have chosen for Response the Intervention (RTI) is Reading Plus. Reading Plus is an online program that is trademarked by Taylor Associates. Taylor Associates has pioneered research and development for decades “in the field of silent reading technology”. (Reading Plus) Reading Plus offers students grades 3-12 silent reading intervention program that focuses on “building the foundation for academic, vocational, and real-world success.” Also, the program promotes that it will make students “better silent readers and independent learners”. (Reading Plus)

Reading Plus Logo

See Reading Plus video for program overview.

Parse the Practice

Why is Reading Plus Considered CML?

Reading Plus is considered Computer-mediated Learning as it meets many parts of the definition. Let’s break it down by taking a look at the graph below.

Definition of CML Part of the Reading Plus Program Explanation/Example from Reading Plus Program
"student has control over learning such as when it takes place" Yes Students can access Reading Plus anywhere there in internet access. Students can use the program at school, home, or even the library.
"student has control over learning such as pace" Yes Students are given a weekly goal and can work at their own pace to reach it.
"uses technology such as video, audio, web, etc." Yes Reading Plus is an online program that incorporates audio, video, and text to improve reading.
"technology should connect the teacher synchronously and asynchronously" Yes Reading Plus allows the teacher to give instant feedback to students through a messaging system (synchronous). Since the program is online, students can learn and continue their lessons whenever they please (asynchronous).
"combination of both electronic and non-electronic instruction" Yes Students do most of their work on the computer, but when the student is not meeting their goals, additional work can be assigned to the students improve their reading skills. These additional skills are assigned to be done by paper and pencil along with conferencing with the teacher.

Now that we know that Reading Plus is CML, how does the program work?

(RTI). RTI is “a process that schools can use to help children who are struggling academically or behaviorally” and is an addition to our nation’s special education law. There are two models to RTI, problem solving model and standard protocol model. Whichever model is chosen within a school, the intervention much be researched based. (NICHCY) Reading Plus is the researched program that thousands of schools, public and private elementary, secondary, and post-secondary have chosen for their Response to Intervention Program. (Reading Plus)

Students who have been identified as RTI candidates can begin the program by taking a placement test. The silent reading fluency test assess the student’s rate and comprehension level which determines his or her intervention track. Reading Plus goes beyond a student's fluecny rate and comprehension level, it assess the whole student including visual and perceptual skills and motivation.

Assessing the Whole Student

Students are then identified as Tier 1, needing the least amount of interventions within the program to Tier 3, needing the most time and interventions within the program. See diagram below.

Reading Plus Intervention Tier

Students then begin the computer program that is targeted at their level and needs. Each student is given academic goals in iBalance (visual and perception skills), ReadAround (vocabulary skills), and SeeReader (comprehension and reading rate skills). For example, looking at the graphic below, Student A is recommend to do 5 iBalance, 5 SeeReader, and 5 ReadAround sessions for the given week. Student B is recommended to do 0 iBalance, 3 SeeReader, and 3 ReadAround for the given week. Instructional recommendations can change as students progress through the program.

Example Student A
Example Student B

Students self-pace through the program working toward their weekly goal by leveling up in a game style fashion. Students have access to graphs and data, so they can self-assess themselves. Teachers of course have access to student progress which allows them to conference with students and parents about progress. For example, the teacher's screen shot below shows the student at a 6th grade comprehension level and the goal is 8th grade. Other information includes how many assignments have been completed and assigned, words read, and an average comprehension level.

Teacher View Screen Shot

What types of interactions happen with using Reading Plus?

Let's take a look at the table below to analyze interactions when using Reading Plus.

Type of Interaction Reading Plus
Teacher-Student Interaction Reading Plus allows teachers to continually monitor their students' progress. Teachers can then conference with students and help them set goals. The program also offers a writing component which allows the student to send his or her essay to the teacher. The teacher can assess the essay and send back feedback to the student. Therefore, teachers and students are interacting both face to face and on the computer.
Student-Student Interaction Unfortunately at this time, there is no student to student interaction on the program.
Student-Resource Interaction Students are limited to the resources that the program gives them. In the SeeReader section of the program, students are encouraged to use extra chances to answer their comprehension questions correctly. The section of the passage that answer can be found is pulled up, so the student can learn to reread for a purpose of getting the correct answer.
Teacher- Student- Parent Interaction Although parents cannot log into Reading Plus to check their student's progress, teachers can print off progress charts that can be sent to the parents. 

Learning Theory

The advantage to Computer-mediated learning is there can be a combination of learning theories present in the program. Let's first look at the four main learning theories. See below:

Learning Theories

With the increase of computer-mediated tool and advancements in technology to collaborate online, it is difficult to say that a tool has only type of learning theory within it. For example, Reading Plus does have some drill and practice (Behaviorism) but also has an exchange forum in the writing section of the program (Social Constructivism).

See chart below for types of learning theories and examples of computer-mediated tools (Hung):

Let's expand on each of the theories by examining the theorist and proponents of each:

Cognitivism Bloom, Gagne, Clark, Merrill, and Keller The cognitivist revolution began in the 1960s. Contributors of the theory believed the human mind is a "black box" and acts like a computer, information processor. Knowledge is schema or symbolic mental constructions and learning is defined as a learner's schemata. (
Constructivism/Social Constructivism Piaget, Vygosky, Keller Constructivism is a view that believes that learning needs to be active and knowledge needs to be constructed. The theory states that each learner is different with their interpretation of information and past experiences/cultural factors play into learning. Constructivism emphasizes the social aspect of learning. (
Behaviorism John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, E. L. Thorndike, Bandura, Tolman The Behaviorism view believes that the learner is passive and stimulated externally by environmental factors. Behaviorism states that the learner starts with a "clean slate" and shaped by both "positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement". Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood that the behavior will happen again and negative reinforcement reduces the likelihood of repeating the behavior. (

The Approach in Practice


What Does the Research Says about Reading Plus?

The Institute of Education Sciences reports that Reading Plus reports Reading Plus “to have potentially positive effects on comprehension for adolescent learners.”  There is some skepticism as alphabetic, reading fluency, or general achievement domains were not examined in the studies.  (IES)

Reading Plus does claim on its website that their success has been documented “in numerous scientifically based peer-reviewed journals”.  (Reading Plus)

The Approach of Using Reading Plus at Manteno Middle School

At Manteno Middle school, we have used Reading Plus for the last 5 years for grades 6-8.  We use Reading Plus as an RTI Intervention for the students who need the least amount of services (students who need more intensive services use Read Naturally, Soar to Success, and Language).  One language arts teacher in each grade is assigned to a group of Reading Plus students to work with during a 45 minute advisory period.  Non-RTI students are assigned to a homework advisory period.

Reading Plus is the program that students utilize when they barely miss the benchmark on their AIMS Web testing.  Students can also be placed into the Reading Plus Program for poor comprehension and grades in their Language Arts classes as well.

Students’ attendance in the program varies from five days a week down to two days a week according to their extras schedule.  Students who are in band only participate in the program two days a week, and students who sing in chorus participate 3 days a week. 

Each student has a different goal as I use the suggested lessons option based on their initial placement test.  For those students who are only in the classroom two to three days a week, I decrease the number of lessons according to their attendance.

Student requirements of how long they have to work on the program daily vary from grade to grade and teacher to teacher.  In eighth grade, students self-manage their progress throughout the week.  Students know their goals at the beginning of the week and are expected to reach them by the end of the week.  This allows some flexibility for the students to do homework or get help from other teachers instead of doing the program.  Most of my students who are there every day work on the program daily, but they leave some time at the end to do homework. 

Does the Program Increase Comprehension as Promised?

The answer is yes and no. 

Yes:  Student who are self-motivated and want to improve their reading skills are success with the program.  So far this year, I have had three students (out of the original 15) graduate out of the program after scoring above benchmark on their Aims Web assessment.  Each of these students was self-driven and worked hard daily on the program.  They also really wanted out of the RTI advisory and placed in a study hall advisory.  Based on their original placement scores on the Reading Plus Program, each student improved in all three areas of the program and moved within the eighth grade range.

No:  No, the program does not work for those students who are not self-driven and want to improve their reading.  Since the program is online and self-paced by the student, students who do not want to work will not work.  There are a lot of great features of the program, but some students need to have a teacher facilitate their learning.  I had to move two of my students out of my program as they would not work.  I had to place them into a different RTI advisory that are teacher led.

Overall, I believe the program can give students success, but the student has to have some intrinsic motivation to use this type of Computer-mediated learning program.  Unfortunately, most of the students that are placed in my RTI advisory are already low achievers academically and feel like they will never gradate out of the program.  Therefore, there motivation is very low to start.  I have instituted an incentive program that includes free days, snacks, and school spirit prizes to increase motivation and morale of the classroom.


Critical Reflection

After using the program for five years, I have seen many pros and cons to Reading Plus:


· Version 4.0 has many updates that are appealing to students

· Updates include a more “game like” feel, better graphics and overall look of the program is geared toward students

· Program works on three main reading skills (eye training, comprehension, and vocabulary)

· Pre-assessment is accurate

· Individualized plans for each student based off pre-assessment

· Paper-pencil sheets for students who need additional help

· Writing prompts that can be turned into the teacher via the program

· Teacher can see results in “real time”

· Teacher can communicate with students via instant message

· Many teacher resources including tutorials, parent letters, and incentive program

· Students can self-pace through the program

· Program can be used in a blended learning environment

· Students do not need to use the program every day to be successful


· Benchmarking tests can only be given three times a year

· Students who are not self-driven will probably not succeed

· Program is difficult for the teacher to figure out if no formal training is given (I had to go to a Webinar, and I feel like I am pretty tech savvy.)

· Students become frustrated as leveling up appears to take a long time


Looking at the pros and cons, the pros outweigh the cons. Reading Plus is a valid tool for Computer-mediated learning. Teachers and schools need to look at their student population and place students in there that are able to handle working at their own pace and are self-driven. Students will probably need an incentive put into place and the chance to graduate out of the program. Reading Plus does offer suggestions for incentives.

Reading Plus can be implemented into an advisory or into a regular education classroom as part of a blended learning environment. The skills that the program works on can benefit any learner at any reading level. Students who are working at grade level can be challenged by working on harder material to improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary. Overall, Reading Plus is just one of the many Computer-mediated learning tools out there for reading, but it is worth looking into.


Cornell University Library (NA) Distributed Learning Tutorial. Retrieved from

Hung, D. (NA) Theories of Learning and Computer-Mediated Instructional Technologies. Retrived from

IES (2010) Reading Plus: Research. Retrieved from

IRRODL (2009) Journals for Computer-Mediated Learning: Publications of Value for the Online Educator Matt Elbeck. Retrieved from (2013) Index of Learning Theories and Models. Retrieved from

NICHCY (2013) Response to Intervention. Retrieved from

Reading Plus (2013) Reading Plus: Version 4.0. Retrieved from


This being my very last paper of the New Learning and Literacies program, I was excited to see my results as I tried hard to make this one of my best papers. Even though I only had one reviewer, my scores were very good. I appreciated the scores and the additional comments the reviewer made. The reviewer asked me additional questions to think about that I should consider putting in my paper. I took the reviewers advice to improve my paper. I was a little disappointed that I only got one review back, but I decided to go ahead and revise my paper anyways. I waited until Wednesday for more reviews and then decided that I wanted to get my paper revised and turned in before the busy end of week that I have. Thank you.