Can Brain Research and Computers Improve Literacy? A Randomized Field Trial of the Fast ForWord Language Computer-Based Training Program

WCER Working Paper No. 2006-5

Geoffrey D. Borman and James Benson

August 2006, 28 pp.

ABSTRACT: This paper describes an independent assessment of the Fast ForWord Language computer-based training program developed by the Scientific Learning Corporation. Previous laboratory research involving children with language-based learning impairments showed strong effects of the Fast ForWord Language program on their abilities to recognize brief and fast sequences of nonspeech and speech stimuli. However, generalization of these effects beyond clinical settings and student populations and to broader literacy measures remains unclear. Implementing a randomized field trial in eight urban schools, this study generated language and reading comprehension impact estimates for second- and seventh-grade students more generally at risk for poor literacy outcomes. There were some implementation problems in the field setting and no effects of statistical significance for students assigned to treatment. Impacts were found, however, for seventh graders who more actively complied with the treatment regime.

Full Paper

keywords: Literacy; Phonemic; Fast ForWord; Randomized; Treatment