19 May 2016
Elaine Almquist, Marketing Specialist
Levelling the playing field: classroom technology for all
Technology in the classroom is here to stay. Here’s why this is great news for today’s diverse student population and the teachers that instruct them.
There are 4.5 million English language learners in the U.S., and technology such as translation, picture dictionaries, and text-to-speech tools help give these students the support they need to develop along with their classroom peers. This is clearly demonstrated by a recent parent survey, where 73% of Hispanic parents felt that technology helped to level the playing field for their children. And research shows that ESL students' phonics, phonemic awareness, reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension significantly improves with literacy support software.
In line with the principles of UDL (Universal Design for Learning), technology in the classroom levels the playing field for students with print and motor skill disabilities, helping students reach their learning goals. The benefits of using technology in the classroom as part of the normal way of working can help with measuring a student’s grade level proficiency and identify challenges. This can help steer students into early remediation methods, supporting them with additional learning assistance early so they avoid more serious challenges later. According to a 2014 report released by Dyslexia International, strategies for students with dyslexia will benefit all beginning readers, not only those with dyslexia, reinforcing the benefits of an inclusive classroom approach with technology as the facilitator.
The social and emotional impact of universally-used support technology can’t be understated in an inclusive classroom of diverse learners. If every student is using technology alongside their peers, students with additional needs will feel less self-conscious, less segregated and more motivated in their learning journey.
But technology isn’t just for students. A recent survey by Front Row Education confirmed that four out of five teachers in K-8 depend on technology in the classroom every day. In the inclusive classroom it can also help teachers optimize their learning approach, allowing them to monitor progress more easily throughout the year. In particular, blended learning—where technology is combined with traditional teaching—has proven effective for students whose first language isn’t English, and for students who are facing reading challenges.
With more and more cloud-based solutions available for education, internet access is essential for connecting to educational content and learning management systems alike. The U.S. has made great progress in bringing that connection to schools. Since the federal ConnectED initiative was announced in 2013, twenty million more students have access to high-speed Internet, which gives them access to modern digital learning tools.
Technology allows the needs of students with various backgrounds to be addressed in one classroom—whether it’s young people with dyslexia, struggling readers or ESL learners. And it empowers teachers not only with the tools to personalize their teaching, but to track progress and manage their classrooms more effectively. We’re living in an age that’s ever more digital. It’s vital that students and teachers alike are offered the right tools to close the literacy divide and make classrooms a truly inclusive place for all.