Chatting online at school to sharpen critical reading skills

Ngee Ann Secondary students Sean Lam (left) and Maya Sri Dewi were part of the Web-based reading and learning analytics programme last year.
Ngee Ann Secondary students Sean Lam (left) and Maya Sri Dewi were part of the Web-based reading and learning analytics programme last year.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Students at Ngee Ann Secondary School often chat online in class, with their teachers' encouragement.

The Tampines school recently developed a Web-based reading and learning analytics programme that develops students' critical reading skills.

The programme, used for subjects such as English throughout the year, allows students to use their mobile devices and read uploaded materials, on topics such as abortion and Singapore's education system, on the WiRead platform. They then consider the text's finer details such as the purpose, assumptions and points of views, before sharing their answers with their peers online.

Madam Muneira Daud, the school's head of department for English, said students who have used the platform develop a habit of analysing the various perspectives in a text, such as a comprehension passage in an English test.

"We felt that critical thinking was an area that we needed to promote among our students as a life skill," she said, adding that WiRead allows students to think through their opinions and come up with justifications to back their claims.

She added: "They are aware of how they would need to approach a text and to think around anything that is presented to them."

The teachers, who also facilitate class discussions, can monitor their students' progress.

The system captures the students' participation and analyses their arguments.

Madam Muneira said: "The programme informs me, as a teacher, what my class is doing and provides feedback that can be used to guide my students' thinking."

The programme was piloted in a Secondary 3 class last year, and will be adopted across the level this year. Ngee Ann Secondary is one of the eight "schools of the future", under the Ministry of Education's FutureSchools project.

Sec 4 student Maya Sri Dewi, 16, who went through the pilot last year, said the innovative approach has helped develop her critical reading skills, which she said are important in understanding comprehension questions.

"It exposes us to different views shared by our classmates and broadens our own perspective when we read texts and articles," she added.

Calvin Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'Chatting online at school to sharpen critical reading skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe