The Computer Aided Learning Software, or CALS for short, is a tool to complement traditional instruction in literacy and numeracy while attempting to bridge the digital gap for primary school children. Last week we visited one of the 14 CALS sites currently receiving support from RESTORE Belize and were impressed by the fast gains in core reading skills of remedial English speakers.
The facilitator told us that getting that far that fast with the students was not easy. It took weeks of training and then months of playing around with the software along with many hours researching useful and engaging complementary activities before she started to see that level of result.
Before a teacher becomes a facilitator, he or she must first meet with a literacy expert to re-familiarize him or herself with fundamental English structures and their terminology as a prerequisite for understanding the CALS programme. The teacher then receives training on the software, learning how to set up and maintain the server as well as how to monitor students’ progress and set individual goals for them. This allows him or her to give an individualized experience to the students, reinforcing online lessons with relevant offline activities.
The classroom we visited was well decorated with sight words, graphic organizers and information on the writing process along with literary devices. These decorations are changed every month to reflect CALS lessons. When asked how the teacher copes with the added prep time she told us “If you don’t work, it doesn’t work… you just have to push the programme.”
And in her class, it has been proven to work with past students showing demonstrable progress over the course of two years. Moving forward, the facilitator has received a donation of books which she will incorporate into the students’ traditional English classes once they have completed the program. Additionally, the school will add 5 more computers which will allow up to 20 students at a time to use the software.
To find out more about the CALS programme read about our Literacy and Numeracy programme here.