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Brennan Blackstone

Technology and Diverse Learners

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Use of Technology to Address Needs of Diverse Learners

      According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 40 percent of our 55 million students attending K-12 public schools are underperforming in literacy.  Reading Next reports that 70 percent of middle and high school students have problems comprehending what they read and require differentiated instruction to achieve a better success rate (Johnston, 2008, p. 1).  The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) developed a concept called Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which focuses on the need for a change in curriculum to meet individual student needs.  UDL is a newly developed framework designed to target 21st century learning, and it is a scientific method to provide equal access learning approaches to effectively meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements of today’s student population. 

CAST offers a variety of ideas and thoughts that enter the realm of accessing learning through the concepts of universal design based upon technological developments.  Through a UDL learning model, technological innovations are utilized to allow students access to an array of instructional strategies designed for the particular mode of learning, students have the opportunity to participate in learning environments and methodologies in which their brain is best suited (Shaw, 2006, p. 2). 

  According to Johnston, it is believed that by using the concepts of UDL, today’s classrooms can be transformed into a learning environment to support all types of learners (2008).  The implementation of an UDL approach can help develop a curriculum that is not just a one size fits all approach, but can be developed to meet the diverse needs of all learners. 

Universal Design for Learning opens the door to an array of academic content.  For example, some students may not respond well or comprehend printed text, a computerized test through voice control options or various other means of representation and expression allows the test to become one of academic content, rather than a decoding task of the student’s inability to decode printed text.  Another example of technological methodology is video captioning.  Video captioning began as a project for students who where hearing impaired and was used for the purposed of clarifying, organizing, and demonstrating their knowledge about scientific concepts in addition to providing and engaging system for language development.  According to Shaw, this differentiated method of expression in which the student writes directly atop a video with his captioned version including his own commentary, allows the assessor a cognitive window into the students understanding of scientific processes, and in turn, this process promotes the accountability, review, and self-correction of the student.  

Kingsley also believes that educators can reach all learners by using varied approached for student mastery of curricular content, such as guided practice shared experiences, or problem-based learning.  Educational technology provides a unique and robust set of tools to support the UDL model of instruction to scaffold and empower diverse learners (Kingsley, 2007, p.1).  The use of implementing multimedia technology can provide contexts of affirming diversity, facilitate problem-solving and creativity, and enhance student learning.  The use of UDL helps make the curriculum accessible for all students, regardless of ability level or background, providing students with multiple ways to access content and expressing what they learn.  UDL’s can also help educators devise approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment that are flexible to meet diverse needs and is also meaningful for the learner. 

Technology can help students with disabilities realize their potential, and can help students achieve equal access to the general education curriculum (Sharp, 2005, p. 320).  Assisted technology products can help students reach success and improve skills at a pace that is suited for their individual needs.  Many software programs target the needs to students who have been diagnosed with reading problems; however, programs that are available can also help increase students reading proficiency even if they do not necessarily have a reading diagnosis.  RAZZ-Kids is an example of a reading program that is used to meet the needs of individual student needs.  It is a self-paced reading program that provides students with on level reading passages that they can listen to, record themselves reading, and then take a quiz.  The computer program paces the students as needed, and moves them levels as needed, when needed.  Computer software is available for all subject areas and can be implemented to meet individual student needs.

Diverse learners also consist of students that are visual and hearing impaired. For visually impaired students educators can familiarize themselves with certain features that are available on through Windows XP and Macintosh computers, for example, using ZoomText or large key top labels.  There is also a number of software that can be used to meet the needs of students that are visually impaired.  According to Sharp, more hearing impaired individuals use online mail programs instead of specially designed telephones for the deaf (TTY) (Sharp, p. 324). 

The significance of implementing technology into classroom curriculum to meet the needs of diverse learners is a necessary best practice for teachers.

 

Bibliography

Atkinson, T., Atkinson, R.  (2007). Creating Learning Communities for Students with Special Needs. Intervention in School and Clinic, 42(5), 305-309.  Retrieved from Education Module database.

Johnston, D.C.  (2008, September).  Learning Alternatives and Strategies for Students Who Are Struggling.  The Exceptional Parent, 38(9), 8-11. Retrieved from Children’s Module database.

Kingsley, K.V.  (2007).  Empower Diverse Learners With Educational Technology and Digital Media.  Intervention in School and Clinic, 43(1), 52-56.  Retrieved from Education Module Database.

Sharp, V.  (2005).  Computer Education for Teachers: Integrating Technology into Classroom Teaching 5th Edition.  New York: McGraw Hill Companies.

Shaw, A.  (2006, June).  Universal Design and Access for Learning: Beyond the Sidewalk.  The Exceptional Parent, 36(6), 40-44.  Retrieved from Children’s Module database.