AI helps kids explore reading

Jessica with teacher Suzanne Deefholts. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS 249045_01

By Danielle Kutchel

A Doveton school has found an innovative way to help its students develop their literacy skills.

Holy Family Primary School is using Lexplore, a program that measures reading ability through AI and eye-tracking technology.

It’s one of the first schools in Australia to take up the technology.

Suzanne Deefholts, learning and teaching leader at the school, said it was exciting to be one of the first to try Lexplore.

“We didn’t have this when I went to university or school. It’s enhancing my practice and what I know about teaching literacy,” she explained.

She said Lexplore had complemented Holy Family’s existing literacy teaching program.

Lexplore is, in essence, a reading test.

Students work through the three sections of the test: a rapid automatic naming of letters, a verbal reading and a silent reading.

They then complete a series of comprehension questions.

The eye-tracking software looks at how students’ eyes move in relation to the words they see on the screen, which allows the school to see what sort of words or areas of reading students are struggling with.

“If they’re having trouble with a particular area, we can look at that and target our teaching to support those gaps,” Ms Deefholts said.

“It’s really looking at what the brain is doing – the technology will tell us how many milliseconds a child focuses on a word for.

“If the focus is on a word with ‘ch’ in it, we know that’s an area for growth.”

She said the technology had enabled them to gain data on students’ learning that would not be gained through observation alone.

Parents and students have also been supportive of the program, and there had been steady improvements in reading levels amongst the kids

“It’s a real testament to what our teachers are doing despite the interruptions of remote learning,” Ms Deefholts said.

“Kids are still learning and growing.”