Review: The Wordsworth Learning System

It seems that we are over a hump in Irish education. Most of us are no longer asking whether technology should be used in education anymore, and instead, we are now asking how should we use technology in our classrooms to enhance children’s learning? Granted, it’s taken a long time for us to get here but we have some wonderful things in classrooms now that can transform a child’s learning. Some software and web applications can be powerful personalised learning tools for children. For example, White Space’s Wordshark and Numbershark can teach complete numeracy and literacy programmes to individual children.
The web version of WordsWorth is a full literacy programme created by Rita Treacy and David Ross. Rita Treacy is a well-known Speech and Language Therapist and between the two, they have created an individualised web Programme that teaches children core literacy skills from the very basics all the way up. While the original Programme has been tried and tested over the last 20 years, this web venture brings Rita’s skills to anybody’s screen and uses replayable videos with enhanced graphics and interactive exercises that simply replicate what is done in a Private Practice session, by this qualified and experienced Speech & Language Therapist.
The new web Programme has been piloted in a number of schools with impressive results. For example, in a recent pilot with Kilkenny School Project in Kilkenny City, with a class of 30 pupils, 69% of children significantly improved their reading accuracy and 83% significantly improved their spelling after using the Programme both in school and at home. One of my teachers has been testing the Programme with a child in the school and has found it very beneficial and well-structured.
Treacy, in a recent article on Anseo on the product spoke about her own experiences of dyslexia as she was diagnosed with it when she was 18.  She said that her own experience of dyslexia inspired her to create The WordsWorth Literacy Programme. She says:
“My SLT background and experience working with a wide and varied child and adolescent caseload, coupled with my own ‘learning strategies’ provided the impetus and means to do this”.
The Programme itself is very easy to use. It is linearly structured so that participants complete activities in order before moving on to the next exercise. The student in my school has been using the product everyday for 10-15 minutes. Generally, a video is watched followed by an interactive activity. While the Programme can be used independently by the child, it is probably better to have a teacher (or parent) working with the child in order to assess the learning better. However, as advertised, it really is like having your own personal Speech and Language Therapist in front of you whenever you want it – no appointments, no waiting lists, no time constraints! If one thinks about how much a session of SLT costs, the price tag of €99 per user is excellent value.
I believe its real power is seen when the Programme is not run in isolation in school. It needs to be used at home too. This might be an opportunity for schools to work with families in a more structured manner. For example, supporting the “Flipped Classroom” model, the child could watch the videos and practice the skills at home before doing some consolidation work and assessment work in school.
The results seem to speak for themselves. The success of the Kilkenny School Project pilot has been further spurred by hugely positive feedback from a presentation arranged by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) for Resource and Learning Support teachers and it looks like this Programme is another way that technology, used well, can enhance learning both in the classroom and at home.

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