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Using educational technology to develop early literacy skills in Sub-Saharan Africa


The research explores the impact of interactive, multimedia literacy software (ABRA) on the reading skills of early elementary students in Kenya. Twelve grade two English teachers and their students from six schools were randomly divided in half: an experimental group (N = 180) where ABRA was part of their English Language instruction and a control group (N = 174) where regular instruction was used. After the pre-test student data were collected, a three-day initial training and planning session were held for the experimental teachers on how to use ABRA to teach literacy. Every week each experimental class was bussed to a computer lab with full access to ABRA for one 90-min lesson. Teacher support included the alignment of ABRA lesson plans with the Kenyan English Language norms, weekly web conferences with the trainer, as well as technical and pedagogical help from staff at the lab site. After the 13-week intervention, significant and substantial gains in reading comprehension were found for ABRA students as measured by GRADE, a standardized test of literacy. In addition, ABRA students outperformed their peers in control classes on the core end-of-year subject exams including English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

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Financial and in-kind support for the project was provided by the CSLP, Concordia University, Aga Khan Academies Unit, and the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa.

The authors express their appreciation to: Robert Burrough, Hope Baraka, Grace Akinyi, Enos Kiforo, Alex Oyugi, Eugene Auka, and Rebecca Davis. We extend our gratitude to head teachers, experimental and control teachers and their students for participating in this study. Finally, we thank Mimi Zhou (CSLP) for providing remote technical support to the project.

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Correspondence to Philip C. Abrami.

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Abrami, P.C., Wade, C.A., Lysenko, L. et al. Using educational technology to develop early literacy skills in Sub-Saharan Africa. Educ Inf Technol 21, 945–964 (2016).

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  • Educational technology
  • Early literacy
  • Developing countries
  • Primary education