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Inside CSULB
Vol 57 No. 11 : June 2, 2005
Vol 57 No. 11 | June 1, 2005

Berdan receives $248K to Support Technology Enhanced Literacy

CSULB's Center for Educational Technology and Learning and its director Robert Berdan recently received $248,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support Technology Enhanced Literacy.

“This is an absolutely wonderful thing,” said Berdan, a linguist who joined the university in 1983. “This funding will keep the project alive for another year.”

Berdan credits 37th District Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald and her support for the university with finding resources for the grant.

“As a former teacher, she has been extremely supportive on education issues,” said Berdan. “She is very concerned about the kids in her district, which stretches from Long Beach to Compton. The center has worked with schools and after-school programs in both cities and we are very grateful to Rep. Millender-McDonald for her support.” The new funding allows the project to continue to provide services to children and to refine its research agenda on how children learn to read.

Technology Enhanced Literacy in this project, Berdan explained, means a computer-based online multimedia environment for learning.

“This grant will support continuing research and the continuing development of reading material in an online environment,” he said. Working with Berdan on the project are Carol Lord from Teacher Education and Linguistics, and Michael Fender, Linguistics. Also working with the grant is Peter Desberg, CSU Dominguez Hills.

One of the grant's most important acquisitions is an eye-tracking camera.

“This will allow us to know exactly what the reader is looking at millisecond by millisecond,” he said. “With this camera we can synchronize the progression of what the eye is seeing with the audio record of oral reading. Tracking the way these patterns change will help us to understand just how reading proficiency develops, and how we can facilitate that process. We can, in essence, track information coming into the mind and follow the shifts in timing as that information comes back out as oral reading.”  

What the camera will help the center understand is when children are taking time to understand individual words, and when they need time to assemble words into larger meanings. Much of children's reading time is silent pauses. “We want to know what happens in those pauses,” he said. “Is the child scanning ahead or looking behind? Adults tend to scan ahead; young children tend not to do that.”  

The center recently used a combination of literacy and high-tech savvy to kindle interest in Ray Bradbury's classic science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 as part of the weeklong literacy festival Long Beach Reads One Book. The classic science fiction novel was selected to star in the March community-focused cultural initiative designed to encourage everyone in Long Beach to read the same book at the same time. The center worked with the Long Beach Public Library Foundation to put an excerpt of the book online, using Bradbury's own recorded reading.

The center's primary goal with the new funding is to have a substantial impact on children and their literacy development. “We've already seen the impact this project can have,” he said. “Teachers ask, 'what's going on? Why are these students reading better?' We expect to see more of that. We also expect to learn more about how reading fluency develops and how we can make that process work for all children.”



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