An Interview with Dr. Liz Brooke, Chief Learning Officer at Lexia Learning
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With many students back in the classroom this fall, educators are assessing how students fared with distance instruction and where they stand in relation to grade-level reading proficiency.
Lexia Learning’s Dr. Liz Brooke was interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek as a follow up to one of their most widely read stories: an opinion column written by Michael R. Bloomberg about the impact of the pandemic on students and the priority of opening schools.
Regarding the impact on students, Dr. Brooke believes we have no time to waste. With the right literacy tools and strategies, ALL students and educators can be empowered to succeed. In her interview, she explains the value of educational technology that is based in the science of reading.
While some catching up may be required, the COVID slide of learning loss can be managed and minimized. As seen in a 2021 study, 80% of students using a Lexia program in remote and hybrid learning environments did not experience reading learning loss, and 40% exceeded projected growth targets.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Carol Massar, Bloomberg Businessweek:
Some kids are already back to school depending on where they are in the world and certainly around the United States. With me today is Dr. Liz Brooke, chief learning officer at Lexia Learning. She joins us on the phone from Boston. Liz, nice to have you here. How are you doing?
Dr. Liz Brooke, Lexia Learning:
I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me, Carol.
CM: I think we are all thinking a lot about kids going back to school—some are already there. And especially after the year that we've had, it's hard not to think that kids have fallen behind in some regards, and it's not all equal as we know. But you are looking at that and thinking about literacy in particular. Tell us about Lexia Learning.
LB: At Lexia Learning, we are Structured Literacy experts, and have been around for over 35 years. Since 1984, we've been using technology to empower educators.
We were founded on a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, so we understand the rigor of true research and the importance of effective outcomes for students.
CM: When it comes to literacy, has it gotten better or worse in this country?
LB: I think there's been a shift, especially in the last few years, focusing on the science of reading. We know from decades of research how to best teach reading and more and more states are starting to embrace that research and making sure that their teachers understand the science of reading and the application of that, which is Structured Literacy.
CM: OK. Science of reading. Tell me what that means. Because I'm someone who grew up just loving to read, and I was lucky enough to have a daughter who loved to read, and we just spent endless amounts of time at bookstores. What's the science of reading?
LB: The science of reading is essentially the accumulated evidence from what we call gold-standard research, really strong research studies on how reading acquisition occurs and how the instruction should be provided.
When you hear the term science of reading, that is essentially that accumulated evidence of research. You may also hear the term Structured Literacy, which is essentially: How do you apply the research of the science of reading to the practical world of the classroom? Which is where Lexia comes in.
One of the things we strive to do is translate research into practice. Especially for this last year and a half and moving forward, it's critical that students and educators have tools that are proven to work. We don't have any more time to waste for these students.
CM: Tell me about the complementary relationship between technology and literacy.
LB: Absolutely. I think technology gets a bad rap. It's never designed to replace a teacher. It's designed to empower a teacher.
When you're thinking about technology, you want to think about: What are your literacy goals and then how can we use technology as a tool to help us achieve those goals? When you use technology to empower educators with real-time data or personalized learning paths for students, it can be a really powerful tool for students and educators.
CM: I think we are all thinking a lot about kids going back to school...some are already there.
LB: A lot of schools were thinking they were going back to 100% in person and now with the Delta variant, we have to make sure we can leverage technology to have that flexible implementation modelin case we have to have that hybrid approach again.
CM: My radar has gone up because when you talk about the use of technology, there are schools struggling just to have textbooks and basic supplies for their kids. So, it makes me a little nervous when you're talking about the use of technology to achieve those literacy goals.
I do wonder if once again we're going to widen the gap because there are those kids who maybe really dearly need the technology and access to help them achieve their literacy goals and they're not going to have it.
LB: Absolutely. The thing is, it takes a village. When you think about the digital divide and instructional equity, you have to think about two components.
One is making sure that schools have connectivity and students have devices, whether it's in school or at home. We've seen some great partnerships in communities with local businesses driving buses into neighborhoods with hotspots on them. That is a whole piece of this, as well as continuing the work to close that digital divide, working with the community, working with businesses.
The second component is blending what we refer to as the HI, the human intelligence, with the AI of technology. You want to make sure that you always have that human element. So, even if instruction has to be virtual and has to have paper-based, non-technology components, it's still personalized. Because we want those students, even though they may not have access to technology, to have access to that personalized, effective instruction.
CM: Right. It's not one size fits all, certainly, when it comes to something like this. I hope we can continue this conversation in the future because it's obviously a vital one to our kids.