A unique early childhood intervention project being undertaken in Northern Territory schools from 2008 will look to address education outcomes for Aboriginal people in early childhood years.
Abracadabra! is the software program that will be tested in a project led by the School for Social and Policy Research at Charles Darwin University, and funded by the Telstra Foundation.
Co-director of the School, Associate Professor Tess Lea said that despite specific attempts to improve literacy outcomes in four to eight-year-old Indigenous children in recent years, statistics indicated there was still a significant proportion that were failing to learn basic reading skills.
“This project aims to give these students a boost using a computer program that has had proven success with disadvantaged children in Canada. We hope that with rigorous testing and research we can have the same outcomes here in Australia,” she said.
Originally designed by Concordia University in Canada, Abracadabra! is a proven interactive web-based software program that engages children and improves base literacy skills – including listening and reading comprehension, letter-sound knowledge and phonological blending.
Telstra Foundation Director and Telstra Country Wide Group Managing Director, Geoff Booth said the Telstra Foundation was committed to connecting children and young people to their communities, and literacy skills were a key part of achieving this aim.
“This grant, which is one of the largest given by the Telstra Foundation, demonstrates our commitment to have a significant impact on socially and geographically isolated children. The use of this innovative software has been proven to assist children in similar situations, and we’re absolutely thrilled to be part of such important work,” Mr Booth said.
The research team will pilot the software during the first two years and make the necessary adjustments to ensure it is suitable for early learners in the NT, including Indigenous students. The team will implement, evaluate, refine, test, and conduct small-scale experiments in a number of schools, gradually scaling the project up over three years as the program demonstrates its effectiveness.
The project complements an existing intervention, the Accelerated Literacy program, and will involve the Northern Territory Department of Employment, Education and Training, and the Menzies School of Health Research, supervised by the original design team from Concordia University in Canada.
“The project has been designed to draw on the collective expertise of project members, our experiences in the implementation of the Accelerated Literacy program, and the compelling evidence of the effectiveness of the Abracadabra software, albeit in a different context,” Dr Lea said.
”Whilst the generous support of the Telstra Foundation has been pivotal in getting this project off the ground, we are seeking additional support to enable the program to benefit more children across the Territory,” she said.
For more information on the project, go to www.cdu.edu.au/sspr/Abracadabra.htm.
The Abracadabra! project will be launched at 9.45am on Thursday 22 November 2007 at Ludmilla Primary School library, Bagot Road. A photo opportunity will follow the launch.