When was the last time you felt powerful and completely in control of your future? It’s not always easy feeling confident in your abilities. This is especially true for struggling students. Education is meant to be a great equalizer.
Unfortunately, the same amount of schooling can result in vastly different amounts of actual learning done by students. This results in an “achievement gap” among students where some groups of learners have substantially lower academic achievement. Education isn’t one size fits all and the best way to teach students is to give them opportunities to guide their own learning.
So how do we close this damaging divide and encourage learners to take control of their education?
Technology in education
Technology is crucial in closing the achievement gap. Within homes, the amount of technology (and how advanced it is) varies greatly. Some educational professionals believe if students can access the same technology, it would equalize learning opportunities. The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) and Alliance for Excellent Education state “technology- when implemented properly- can produce significant gains in student achievement and boost engagement, particularly among students most at risk.”
Learners with dyslexia are a group where technology can be particularly beneficial. According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, although dyslexia is the most common reading disability by a large margin, “many of those with dyslexia remain undiagnosed and untreated. This is especially true in public school and even more so in African-American and Latino communities.”.
Racial minorities with dyslexia have compounded challenges as they struggle both from racial discrimination and reading confusion, which can result in overrepresentation in special education. While these students can have average (or above average) intelligence, they need the proper tools to succeed.
“With dyslexia, we don’t have a knowledge gap; we have an action gap.” -Dr. Sally Shaywitz
How can technologies help student with disabilities?
What technologies can we give every learner to help them confidently guide their education?
An obvious one is internet access. Teachers increasingly hand out assignments that require going online, but not all families have internet at home or an easy way to find it elsewhere.
To solve this problem, many schools are providing each student an electronic device with internet access to use as they attend school. This is commonly referred to as “one-to-one computing” or the “one-to-one initiative.” Another great resource is audiobooks. Rutgers University found in one of their studies that students who used audio textbooks increased their reading rate by 18%.
Audiobooks allow learners to focus on content and easily repeat sections. While audiobooks are particularly beneficial for those with dyslexia or other reading disabilities, there are benefits for everybody. Applications like Speechify even allow listeners to adjust the speed a text is read.
Technologies like these are about providing power. A student on the internet has the power to explore topics of interest as deeply as they desire. When we give people audiobooks, we empower them to practice their reading and comprehension skills at their own pace. Technology is a tool students use to enhance their learning and show us their potential.
As Blumengarten says, “Tech gives the quietest student a voice.”
Are we ready to listen?