Barbara Landsberg

EdTech tools supporting learner agency in New Zealand

Earlier this month, 85 committed teachers from schools across New Zealand joined us for our “Personalising Learning with Inclusive Technologies” workshop.  Over the course of the information-packed day, presenters from Texthelp, the EdTechTeam and Hobsonville Point Secondary School in Auckland, shared valuable insights about how to use edtech tools to empower students to be able to show what they know. Here are four key takeaways from the day.

Personalisation is not differentiation nor individualisation

Often used interchangeably, these three terms are, in fact, quite different. Kathleen McClaskey, in her Making Learning Personal website explains that personalised learning is learner-centred, starting with the learner first, while differentiated and individualised instruction approaches are teacher-centered. Learner agency is a key component of the personalised learning approach.

Auckland’s Hobsonville Point Secondary School takes personalised learning seriously, being a technology-rich, student-centered school. “Every student is on a personalised pathway to personal and academic excellence” shared Vanna Blucher, Priority and Supported Learning Leader at the school. Making Texthelp’s Read&Write technology available to all students, both at school and at home, was critical to the school’s successful implementation of Universal Design for Learning as detailed in their Teaching reinvented: Read&Write helps every student achieve story.

Teach not to the “average” 

In Todd Rose’s iconic TED Talk, “The Myth of Average”, he challenges teachers to dismiss the notion of teaching designed to accommodate the average student - questioning in fact that such a student really even exists. He encourages teachers to find ways to design teaching to the edges of all abilities and interests in their classrooms. Our presenters demonstrated ways in which technology could accommodate the needs of student-driven learning in classrooms where no two students are the same.

Expand your technology toolkit 

The value of Texthelp’s suite of edtech tools in supporting personalisation of learning for students was covered in depth. These tools included Read&Write, EquatIO, Snapverter and Fluency Tutor, all designed to give the learner voice and choice in how they access and engage with learning materials, and then independently express what they know.

Other cool tools shared included:
  • StayFocusd which increases student productivity by limiting the amount of time that they can spend on time-wasting websites;
  • which intelligently simplifies difficult English, for faster comprehension;
  • Mercury Reader which clears away visual clutter for a clean and consistent reading view on websites visited.

Drinking from the firehose presents challenges!

Workshop participants told us that they were leaving with their heads filled with many new ideas to take back to school. Our presenters acknowledged that It was not unlike “drinking from a firehose” to be exposed to so many ideas and tools in one workshop day! 

We had also arranged for the whole workshop day to be recorded on video, which we will be sharing here on the Texthelp blog once it is available for viewing and helpful revision! Helping not just those lucky enough to attend the workshop, but also our wider global Texthelp education community, to learn more about the technology tools which give our students the keys to driving their own self-directed learning.


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