Best Practice: Making the Most Out of Computerized Intervention Software

By Jessica Hamman, Founder & CEO of Glean Education

In Fall 2015, I was a newly-hired reading interventionist at a Northern California public elementary school pouring over my class schedule for the year. I was trying to make sense of what I saw: lists of students grouped by computerized intervention programs. I realized from the schedule that my primary role was to supervise students using these interventions. I felt deflated - had my role as a teacher really been reduced to no more than a computer proctor?

I immediately brought the schedule to my principal and proposed an alternate scenario, one in which I delivered direct, explicit instruction supplemented by the computerized intervention tools the school had invested in. She agreed.

Computerized interventions are a part of today’s intervention classroom, whether we teachers are ready or not. I used the experience as an opportunity to better understand what benefit my students could get from these programs, how they worked to promote progress, and why the administration had such confidence in them. 

The year was an excellent learning experience and one that helped me see technology in the intervention classroom in a new light. I found myself using new technologies with increasing confidence and enthusiasm. I used Lexia Core 5 for support with phonological awareness, phonics, and word reading. I used ReadNaturally to boost student reading fluency and comprehension. I used LearningAlly to support students with audiobooks to ear read assigned texts and prep for projects in their general ed classes. I used the Google extension Read & Write from TextHelp to allow students to use text to speech and speech to text and promoted the use of Fluency Tutor from TextHelp for students to track their reading at home. There was no doubt that these programs promoted progress in my students that I would not have seen with direct instruction alone. I realized that when teachers are deliberate and intentional about the way they use computerized interventions, they can be excellent tools to propel student progress.

To get the most from the tech tools in your classroom, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ensure that the chosen intervention targets the learners' specific deficits - Just because it's the district-sanctioned application for intervention, doesn't mean it's appropriate to all the learners in your group. Make sure that each intervention solution is targeting the right area of difficulty for each student.

  • Configure the program to ensure proper intensity for each student's individual profile - Web-based intervention programs can often be tailored to maximize student learning. Check the settings before starting with each student utilize functions to intensify instruction as necessary.

  • Watch student-use closely to ensure each child is responding to prompts and not just pushing buttons -  When using iPads and computers to access intervention software, sometimes students and teachers can go on auto-pilot and not really fully interacting with the program. Watching a student the entire time they're using the program will ensure that they are using the program as intended and will also ensure better results.

  • Progress monitor often using a CBM (Curriculum-Based Measurement) to see if the computerized interventions are working to stimulate progress and close the gap with peers - Progress-monitoring a very important role when using computerized interventions. Often a program will have its own progress reports and they should be taken into account as well, but using a CBM will give a teacher an idea of how the child is progressing outside of the program as well. EasyCBM is free for teachers and a great way to track student progress and chart students against national norms.

  • Sign up as a user on the publisher website to take advantage of product-specific professional development opportunities - Publishers often offer resources or other professional development specific to their product like expert-led webinars. This can help teachers implement the computerized interventions more effectively with their students and connect them with a learning community of teachers who may be using the programs with their students as well.

With the growing influence of technology in our classrooms, becoming comfortable with the tools at our disposal is increasingly becoming part of the teacher job description. An amazing educator I once worked with put it well when he said, “Technology won’t make you a good teacher, but a good teacher using technology well can do ridiculously awesome things.”