Reading fluency apps - hide and seek
As a team, we are currently looking for the most commonly used reading fluency apps in the UK, The Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders), and any for which an evidence base exists in terms of their effectiveness.
Turns out this is quite difficult!
Although exact figures are difficult to collate, the large majority of apps available at present focus upon decoding or letter/word recognition, as opposed to supporting the later stages of reading - fluency and comprehension.
Part of this is due to varying conceptualisations of what reading fluency is, and what it looks like in an app.
Reading fluency is typically defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression. Activities that reinforce this can be games and activities at the single word level, practice at reading and re-reading more extended texts, and activities where children either recognise words silently or read them aloud.
So one challenge for educators is working out from short descriptions in apps stores whether an app actually focuses on fluency or not.
An additional challenge is presented by app store search options. In the chain from app inception to publication in the mainstream, many, many people are involved - designers, programmers, marketers etc. and so the individual coming up with searchable key words for an app may not be coming from an educational perspective.
Having more educator-friendly search possibilities within app stores feels like it should be a greater priority.
In the meantime, our project team (in collaboration with Dr Stuart Cunningham, computer scientist at Unviersity of Sheffield, UK) is doing it's own screening and sorting of reading fluency apps - we hope to have some initial findings in the next few months - stay tuned!