East Auckland school students are beating the ‘summer slump’ – or the loss of learning that occurs during the long holidays - with a digital blogging programme run by literacy education researchers at the University of Auckland’s Woolf Fisher Research Centre.
More than 400 year four to year eight students from 12 primary and intermediate schools have registered for the programme, Summer Learning Journey, which has been developed to promote literacy learning over the summer holiday.
The students are taking part in online activities, posting blogs and picking up comments from the research team, teachers, family members, and students both in New Zealand and overseas.
They can hop online and blog anytime, anywhere and for any length of time they wish. The 60 activities are quick to complete, usually between 10 to 15 minutes, and are designed to engage, educate and excite children about learning.
“It is this excitement at learning about the world, creating blogs, sharing them and getting feedback that is making the Summer Learning Journey such a success,” says Dr Rachel Williams who is leading the programme.
“The students are positively engaged and enthusiastic. Some, without access to digital devices, are walking long distances to get to their local library to get online and blog with us, which is real dedication.”
The programme has been funded by the MSA Charitable Trust and the University of Auckland and is free for the young users.
Schools taking part in the programme are all from the original Manaiakalani Cluster, a group of 12 mostly low-decile schools in East Auckland that use digital devices as a primary tool for teaching and learning.
The blogging programme was first piloted in three of the schools during the last summer holidays (2015/2016) and in six during the July break. According to Dr Williams, the impact of participation in the original programme on student literacy learning has been ‘dramatic’.
The ‘blogging’ students took literacy tests before and after the holidays and, for the first time ever, there was no learning loss or slump. The same tests on children who hadn’t taken part showed a large and significant drop in literacy achievement.
Dr Williams believes the programme’s success is the ready access it gives to learning opportunities within the home. Many children living in low decile school areas do not have the materials that support literacy learning at home, such as books and pens, or adults with the expertise to help. Others come from homes where English is not the first language and they struggle to access programmes and people who can support their English language learning away from school.
The Summer Learning Programme fills these gaps.
Says Dr Williams: “It is designed as a support system to wrap around families affected by these many issues. We want to do everything that we can to support our learners, particularly those most vulnerable and those at highest risk of not achieving.”
With all 12 schools in the cluster now taking part in the programme, she is excited at the groundswell of support the programme is receiving.
“It is generating positive momentum and bringing about positive change for children who need it most. They are shining examples of students who, with guidance and support, can proactively take control over their own learning and realise positive gains in literacy achievement over the summer holiday period.
“They are well on their way to making the summer slide a thing of the past.”