How do you get 13,000 students onboard with reading and writing?

Kristianstad Municipality was chosen by the SPSM (Special Education School Authority in Sweden) to be starred in their nation wide movies about special education. Elisabeth Banemark, Head of ICT, is one of the people behind their great work. 

Elisabeth has worked in the teaching profession since 1996 and is today managing 40 schools and 5 high schools. She is responsible for upskilling 3,000 teachers with tools and strategies needed to help 13,000 students to become better readers and writers. 

We’ve interviewed Elisabeth about her journey and how she successfully got everyone equipped with AppWriter, a reading and writing tool. 

Literacy support is for everyone 

While it is estimated that 5-8% of the Swedish population have dyslexia and up to 15% of students struggle with reading and writing difficulties, Elisabeth believes that everyone, not those with known difficulties, should receive literacy support to develop positively.

“To avoid making students with reading and writing difficulties feel stigmatised it is important everyone gets introduced to the same programmes” 

  • Elisabeth Banemark

However, like many other ICT responsibles, Elisabeth faces the challenge of how to get everyone to use the same programmes in the classroom and how it can be adapted to the individual’s needs. 

You cannot achieve everything at once

Elisabeth suggests that reaching everyone requires time and a set of various strategies. While passion is key to success, it is also important to acknowledge that everything cannot be achieved at once. 

She recommends to focus on a few specific targets and try to reach them first. 

Start with workshops and videos 

Elisabeth arranges different workshops throughout the year for all the special educational needs (SEN) teachers in the municipality. The workshop includes implementation strategies, product updates and how the different features can help the students read and write better. The idea is that those teachers will be well-equipped to spread the implementation at their respective school. 

Elisabeth also creates videos about the latest product updates and tutorials on how to use the different functions in AppWriter. This allows every teacher to view and try them out at their own pace. 

“Not only do I get feedback, but also gratefulness, from the teachers” 

  • Elisabeth Banemark

Keep teachers updated

Newsletters that show how the different features can be used in a teaching environment have provided great results for Elisabeth. That’s why she sends out emails on a regular basis to all the SEN teachers.  

However, sometimes a more personalised approach is required. This is why she schedules school visits to talk about how some of their challenges can be addressed. For example, a biology teacher might struggle with getting their students to use the right subject terminology. In such case, she’d show them how to activate or create a custom dictionary in AppWriter.   

Highlight how the features can help

Giving SEN teachers examples of how different features can be used are great. It makes the situation more relatable, relevant and understandable. 

Teachers working with children who are learning to read could, for example, use the “text-to-speech” feature to strengthen the connection between sound and letter. 

“The student sees the letter, presses the button and hears the sound of the letter. This helps to strengthen the connection between sound and letter”,

  • Elisabeth Banemark

Introduce tools in the early school years 

At Kristianstad Municipality they prioritize implementing AppWriter in the early school years, because it lets students become familiar with the tool. What’s more, those in need will not fall behind, as they’d have built some learning strategies that will address their difficulties. 

Where are we today?

Some of the schools in Kristianstad Municipality have started to use AppWriter at a class level. In other words, classrooms where all students are introduced and using AppWriter have experienced a positive lift. 

Elisebeth reckons that it has helped all students to improve their written work – which has led to an improvement in their grades. 

“It is an amazing tool, and not just for specific students, it is for everyone”.

  • Elisabeth Banemark

The incredible journey of Elisabeth and all the people at Kristianstad Municipality has shown that changes occur gradually. One cannot achieve everything at once, but get started on getting the SEN teachers onboard by providing them with video tutorials, regular newsletters, and concrete examples of how they can use AppWriter effectively. 

The results of an effective implementation is not only visible on the written work of the student, but also how the overall improved grades at school level.