Question:How does technology help students who are struggling academically in school?
Tracy Gray: As we’ve seen a continuing emergence of technology tools and resources we’ve found that students, particularly those that are struggling, have benefited from their integration through the curriculum. There is a whole variety of tools that are available for teachers, not only to meet the needs of struggling students, but all students, as they attempt to differentiate instruction to meet the learning needs of those in the classroom. For example, if you look at science instruction there is a variety of resources, many of which are free on the internet that teachers can use to provide students a way to have multiple representations of scientific concepts. These multiple representation include providing 3D dimensions of scientific concepts where students are able to better understand how a cell works, how diffusion happens, how osmosis occurs. They are able to actually get a sense of manipulating these specific concepts and gaining an understanding that they might not from just looking at something from a two dimensional lens. Other examples include ways that technology can enhance reading instruction by allowing students to have access to text to speech, or highlighting, or underlining, or the ability to use a virtual dictionary where they can look up a word on the spot and have access to that definition to help them move forward in their reading. Technology can help students address their frustration as they’re proceeding with a task because there is enough scaffolding support to allow them to move forward; to allow them to feel that the experience of reading or tackling a mathematics problem can be a positive experience because they’re able to supplement their own skills by using technology tools. Often times we see that students are much more engaged with learning because technology, whether they’re struggling students or students who seem to be excelling in school, technology really has been a part of their everyday life. Depending upon which report you look at, many, many students are spending up to six to eight hours of their day using some type of technology tool. These “digital natives” as we call them are very comfortable with using technology in ways to expand their own learning, they just often times don’t think of it that way. So, if we as educators can look at technology as a way to enhance what we do in the classroom the evidence supports the fact that students will not only be more engaged, but they’ll be able to have access to those technology tools that support them in their learning.