When I was in early elementary school, I had to use a piece of technology in order to allow me to learn as well as my peers. Without this piece of technology I would not have been able to do as well as I did in school. This piece of technology helped me greatly but it also had some drawbacks, but without it I would have struggled greatly to learn as well as others. While my learning was affected by a physical issue, very bad hearing requiring me to wear a hearing aid, many of our students experience the very same situation as me but even though we have technology that can help them learn as well as their peers, we don’t always use it.
Unfortunately for me, the piece of technology that I needed to use was very noticeable and made me a target for others to pick on. When it didn’t work and malfunctioned, sometimes creating a high pitched sound for everyone to hear, I immediately became a focus of attention and not in a positive way. This does not have to be the case with our students today as many of the tools and resources our students can use are very non-intrusive and blend into the work that all of our students are doing. The tools can be differentiated based on a student’s needs but yet everyone is working towards the same learning goal, how they get there may vary a bit. We can help our students learn without making them stand out and be a target for bullies.
There are countless resources and tools available to our students through the use of the devices we have in our classroom, or even available on the devices that they carry with themselves everywhere (cell phones), that will make it much easier for our students to learn as effectively as possible. We have various websites that can alter the text level for the students so all of our students can better understand the reading, Newsela, and we have various ways we can curate resources so students have the type of resource that best fits their needs, Flipboard. Google Docs have a built in audio to text tool for students that have trouble writing but can better make their thoughts clear by speaking, creating flipped classroom videos means students can watch it at their own pace and come back to it if they have trouble focusing for longer periods of time, and not to mention all of the ways we can use text to speech for our students that have trouble reading or have eyesight issues.
Imagine this, what if my teachers thought that this piece of technology was ineffective and more of a distraction than it was worth? What if they refused to allow me to use my piece of technology to learn because of their own viewpoints and lack of understanding? Of course this was not the case, mostly because my piece of technology was protected by the rules that ensured I was able to use it, but shouldn’t that be the case for any technology our students can use to improve their learning. Why do we allow teachers who do not understand how to use technology effectively to negatively affect the potential learning of a student because they are unsure of how to use it? If our goal is to help our students learn and we have all of these tools available to us, why do so many teachers write them off because they are unsure or afraid of how to use them. Isn’t it our job to learn how to best help our students learn?
No matter the reason why they have trouble learning, there is a way we can help them by using the tools available to us through technology. You do not have to be an expert but you must be willing to learn in order to help your students. The old days of one-size fits all instruction have to be forgotten as our students have a wide variety of needs and we have the tools to meet those needs.