... is a comprehensive university, dedicated to education and research in nearly all scientific disciplines. Its fifteen faculties offer education at bachelor, master and PhD level, while research activities are organized by the faculties (for the Humanities and Social Sciences Group) and departments (for the other disciplines). KU Leuven collaborates with renowned universities, research institutions, organizations, and companies in Belgium and abroad, and is a member of several important university networks, such as LERU – the League of European Research Universities, Coimbra and EUA – the European University Association.
Pol Ghesquière (PhD) is Full Professor in Learning Disabilities at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven - Belgium). His research focuses on the cognitive aspects of dyslexia and dyscalculia and their neurobiological basis, the screening and assessment of specific learning disabilities, effective instruction and remedial teaching for children with reading, spelling and arithmetic problems. He is Academic Fellow of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities (IARLD). As president of the Flemish Learning Disabilities Network and member of the scientific advisory panel of Dyslexia International (an NGO in operational relations with UNESCO), he also tries to influence and inspire policy and practice concerning children, youngsters and adults with learning disabilities, especially dyslexia. In his book, coauthored with Walter Hellinckx, “Als leren pijn doet… Kinderen met een leerstoornis opvoeden en begeleiden” [When learning hurts… Educating and supporting children with learning disabilities] (Acco, 2018) he tries to translate his scientific insights for parents and teachers.
“Jacqueline Tordoir motivated me to participate in the ‘A is for App’ project. This was not so difficult, since I realized in my research as well as clinical work that there is really a lack of methods to support remedial work in reading fluency. Later on, together with Jenny Thomson, she convinced me to become the coordinator of this Erasmus+ program. I am happy to do that, because we have really a marvelous team to achieve the aims of this project.”
Partner focus: Jacqueline Tordoir
Jacqueline Tordoir, Project Manager for this project, was a teacher for 5 years at secondary school level in the Netherlands and Belgium and at primary level in the UK. She switched careers when she moved to Brussels in 1993 and since then worked as a Project Developer and Manager for NGOs and institutions including Caritas, the European Commission and PeaceJam Belgium. Her role in A is for APP is leading the European coordination of the project and supporting the KU Leuven in its role as coordinator as well as assisting the local school Ter Beuke with the implementation of the project within the school.
Knowing more about reading fluency Apps became a personal quest for Jacqueline when she went looking for Apps in 2013 to help her 11-year old daughter deal with her reading difficulties. She started a local project in her daughter's primary school and found funding from Rotary Tervuren to train teachers in the use of tablets and Apps. Soon the question arose about the quality of the Apps, which Apps really help? Which are only fun? Are there any Apps that appeal to children and help
them effectively improve their reading skills?
To answer these questions, Jacqueline searched and found 5 experts at the universities of Oxford, Sheffield, Prague, Amsterdam and Leuven, all keen to share their expertise and explore more by means of working together under Erasmus Plus. Since then “A is for App” took shape and grew from a local initiative into a European project. Each country found a school and a centre for dyslexia, and together, through trial and error, 11 partners gathered to compose a project that has great potential in meeting the needs of struggling readers in Europe and beyond.
Jacqueline is excited about the project because it links dyslexia expertise with modern technology in the form of Apps, offering children with reading difficulties the tools that will enhance their reading skills in a playful way. She can see this working for her daughter and for many more children like her. Given Jacqueline’s professional background, she has experienced that successful projects, whatever their size, can create ripple effects resulting in systemic change at macro-levels. She is convinced that A is for App will have impact and generate a wide range of beneficiaries: children, teachers, parents, school directors and governors, speech therapists, App developers, trainee teachers, teacher trainers and policy makers in education ministries.
Partner focus: Joke Torbeyns
Joke Torbeyns (PhD) is assistant professor tenure track in instructional psychology and technology at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven - Belgium). Since the early 2000’s, she investigated kindergarten and primary school children’s mathematical development in association with the mathematics instruction practices. In these years, she also worked (part time) as a teacher trainer for preservice preschool teachers, introducing
preservice preschool teachers into theoretical and practical courses on the development of young children’s mathematical, reading and writing competencies, and conducting empirical studies on the
acquisition of preservice teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. She was recently involved in the
development of a research-based number sense serious game (research project GOA/12/010 “Number sense: Analysis and improvement”). Integrating all these experiences, she complemented her latest research activities with investigations of the design of technology-enhanced educational environments for young children, with special attention for the characteristics of the teaching learning environment that contribute to the effectiveness of the technology.
Partner focus: Aimée Gheeraert
I am a Master’s student in Orthopedagogy at the KU Leuven. I developed an interest in children with reading difficulties. I am writing my master thesis about the effectiveness of the Karaton app to stimulate reading fluency for struggling readers. This is a part of the ‘A is for App’ project. I was really excited when I found out that this was going to be my subject for my thesis. I think this is a very good project, because children love to play with apps. I hope that the Karaton app will stimulate the children to read. In November 2019 Sofie Hendrix, my thesis partner, and I tested 79 children on their reading fluency. Half of them will play with the Karaton app for three months. In February 2020 we will test the children again. Then we’ll compare the two groups. We hope that the group that used the app will have made more progress in reading than the control group.
Partner focus: Sofie Hendrix
I study Educational Sciences at the University of Leuven. During the course of my bachelors degree I developed an interest in reading difficulties. I knew then that I wanted to do my masters thesis on helping children who struggle with reading. I started my masters thesis in 2019. Together with Aimée Gheeraert I study the effects of an educational gaming app, called Karaton, on the reading fluency of 10 year old pupils. In November 2019 we conducted reading tests on 79 children. Then, half of the pupils will use Karaton at school for three months. In February 2020 we will conduct the same reading tests on all children. Afterwards we will analyze the results to see if Karaton had an effect on the reading fluency of the pupils. Specificly we will compare the results of the group that used Karaton with the results of the pupils who didn't use the app. Professor Pol Ghesquière supervises the thesis as promotor, professor Joke Torbeyns guides us as co-promotor and Jacqueline Tordoir helps us with the practical matters. I am very excited about our project and I hope that our project will be of help for the A is for Apps project.
Partner focus: Eline Florquin
I am a Masters student in Educational Sciences at the KU Leuven. In 2013 I started my social work studies at the University College Leuven-Limburg (UCLL). After three years I graduated successfully. During my last-year internship in a psychiatric hospital I experienced how things were going on in practice. This was an eye-opener to me, but my interest to get a more scientific view of reality and my interest in education grew. So after graduating, I decided to specialize more in
education. Now I’m in my final year at the KU Leuven, and I’m doing my master thesis about the use of educational technology in education. More specifically, I investigate the relationship between the use of educational technology and school, teacher and pupil characteristics. Professor Pol Ghesquière guides me as my promoter and professor Joke Torbeyns guides me as my co-promoter. My master thesis can be seen as a preliminary research for this project.
Partner focus: Lise Francken
Lise Francken is a masters student in Educational Sciences at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven - Belgium). She is writing her Masters thesis on the ‘A is for App’ project and focuses on the evaluation of existing apps for reading fluency from an educational-technological perspective as well as from a user perspective.