Case study: Children learn to read and write on laptops in Sweden

All students in Sandviken, Sweden, have access to personal laptops. Two schools share how they use theirs to teach children to read and write

“All children can succeed” is the motto of the Sandviken municipality in Sweden. Students in Sandviken are learning to read and write via their personal computers.

Having to shape characters at an early age is circumvented when using a computer. Pens are introduced only once pupils have progressed in their reading and spelling, which is achieved through sounding keyboards and speech synthesizers. This is just one way that technology is used within classrooms in Sandviken.

Sandviken is located in Gävleborg County, Sweden. The municipality lies 190km north of Stockholm and has an inhabitancy of 37,000. The town was founded by Göran Fredrik Göransson, who built an ironworks. This connection to steel means the town has a strong focus on technology and Swedish engineering.

Kungsgårdens School, Sandviken

Kungsgårdens School in Sandviken uses laptops to teach reading and writing skills. The school implemented the technique nine years ago, which has since progressed and inspired all schools in Sandviken to use the method.

Mona Wiklander, special educational needs teacher and founder of the method, says children are not hindered by a lack of motor skills when they start to read and write with a computer. 

“Everything they write is legible, both to themselves and others, and they have access to all the letters from the beginning,” she says.

Wiklander believes it is also much easier for a student to comprehend texts in various subjects and languages when using a computer.

“We can see that they are much quicker to comprehend texts in various subjects,” she added.

Wiklander said the teachers have a strategy to develop the students’ language development. This involves continuous dialogue with the students about their learning, as she notes that learning to read and write with digital tools is not simply a case of replacing the stylus with a computer.

According to Signe Brockman, chairman of the Sandviken School Committee, all children should be provided with the same opportunities, regardless of social backgrounds.

“To give all children equal opportunities is a fundamental aim,” she said. All students from year 1, within the municipality, are given the chance to learn with digital tools for free, irrespective of a student’s background.

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Murgårdsskolan School, Sandviken

All students at Murgårdsskolan School in Sandviken received a personal computer in spring 2012. It was the first school in Sandviken to receive laptops, after the region decided to implement the strategy one school at a time.

In 2011, the school had 2,000 computers – it now has 6,700. All are on open networks for “one-to-one to everyone”. One-to-one learning means that students can learn at any time, and are corrected as they follow an exercise via the software.

During the spring of that year schools in the Sandviken municipality began using a learning portal from Tieto. This portal is designed to free up the time of teachers and to give students and parents access to school information 24 hours a day. 

Teaching materials are placed within an online “room”, where students and parents can manage homework assignments, sports days, test results, and chat with others at the school.

Teachers use the portal to manage absences, course plans and written assignments, for example. Parents and students can access the portal via their laptops, mobile phones, e-readers and tablet computers.

Previously, Murgårdsskolan School used one-to-one computer equipment which was outdated. There were very few opportunities for teachers to use digital tools in their lessons.

The school does not view IT as a subject, but as part of all educational efforts within the school.

At Murgårdsskolan, special needs pupils are no longer singled out. Previously, these students would have had their own computer with personalised software, yet many chose not to use it because they felt singled out in class. Now all students have the same equipment, but the software may differ depending on the needs of the child.

In the short term, the school wants its teachers to get involved in using the technology, feel confident with it, and get excited about it, says Katrina Löf, head teacher for grades one to six at Murgårdsskolan. In the long term, she says the school will move towards more valued teaching and higher achievements.

“We want the teachers to have the courage to try the technology and to have fun,” says Löf.

The overall aim is to close the gap between school practice and academic theory, according to Lars Walter, head of compulsory schools in Sandviken. 

"The goal is to make a difference and to educate our future,” he says.

Image: Thinkstock

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