A Network Connecting School Leaders From Around The Globe
Aside from oodles of resources for educators to immerse themselves in (see my earlier blog "Educational Technology, Truly an Adventure for Everyone), there are many nifty devices now and always newer, better, faster, and smaller on the way. These include laptops (PC or MAC), netbooks, iPods, iPads, interactive white boards, and let’s not leave out the iPhone or other smart phones. All of these devices are capable of accessing the Internet, downloading video, being highly interactive, and with the click of a button save and share with the student next door or the student on the other side of the world. Teachers are not left out in this sharing, as the many social networks available to them allow for accessing lesson ideas and information from anywhere anytime from any of these devices. You just need to know what you are doing. This will take time, work, and practice.
So, the big question – how will this affect teaching practices? As a special educator, I am use to students not learning the first, second, and third way I present something. I am use to task analysis (the concept of breaking a concept down into its incremental pieces and teaching linear sequentially). Task analysis becomes very difficult when you have students at different levels and with different needs in your class. This is the case for classroom teachers, and believe it or not for special educators who are faced with all of the most difficult to teach/reach all the time and frequently at the same time.
Students with disabilities should now be able to take advantage of laptop computers with software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking (headphones with microphone required), which syncs voice to text so students with dysgraphia or severe difficulty composing can still complete book reports, essays, and DBQs. Furthermore, students with dyslexia or severe reading difficulties can now utilize e-readers, Book Share, and Kurzweil – a text to speech software program with many other useful features as well.
Students with disabilities usually need a great deal more repetition to learn or remember something such as the math facts. There are a plethora of programs available on the web that are free, interactive, and engaging to help SWDs master such skills as math facts, spelling high frequency words, reading sight words, and learning vocabulary.
Technology is not just for students with disabilities. It is for the average student and the above average student as well. Schools should be investigating how to offer one-to-one programs such as the Westhampton Beach model. The one-to-one model allows for:
• differentiation of instruction (not everyone/group has to be working on/reading the same thing)
• teacher flexibility to meet more students’ needs in small groups
• more time for individualized student attention
• increased student engagement/time on task.
Schools should be investing in wireless accessibility. This will allow teachers to develop lessons that incorporate Internet sources and build in student interaction. Students, who are reticent to raise a hand, may be more likely to push a clicker button, or post a short response to a video clip.
Teaching with technology can make learning accessible to all students, a concept known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL). I have an old saying, “The one doing the work, is the one doing the learning. Therefore, the teacher needs to do less, the student needs to do more.”
I heard someone say that technology is the great equalizer. I believe it is also the great motivator, and not just for students. I believe that the final piece to this is professional development. Technological advancements will enable teachers to truly practice UDL, but I firmly believe that will only happen with strong district commitment and support in the form of PD and other resources such as devices and software. Then, the answer to the BIG question - How will it change instruction? Tremendously, in a very productive way.