In January, I had the opportunity to attend the SAIS (Serving and Accrediting Independent Schools) Academic Support Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference provided educators with a variety of breakout sessions and keynote speakers that discussed topics such as dyslexia, executive function, writing strategies, curriculum and technology.
In all, it was a meaningful conference that equipped learning specialists sharing best practices to effectively teach students with learning differences. Of particular interest was the session regarding technology tools for students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade.
Connie White, Director of Learning Designs and Innovation from Woodward Academy, presented a multitude of beneficial resources that educators can use to supplement their daily lesson plans. As teachers, it is critical to understand that such technology can indeed be a useful tool for academic purposes and can successfully foster student learning. With that, it is also important to remember that educators must implement effective instruction each day as technology can never take the place of teacher-directed learning.
Based on the research, visual tools help access both the left and right side of the brain. Interestingly, our brains pay attention to color, size, orientation and movement. Thus, when visual tools are used appropriately in the classroom, students are likely to experience a 65% retention level verses only a 10% retention level when the information is given verbally. So, what types of technology tools should we be incorporating to help our students reach and achieve this high retention level? (Medina, 2008)
In literacy, educators should be using graphic organizers and mind maps. Mind maps play a critical role in student organization, comprehension and recall. Moreover, mind maps help students develop deep and significant connections. Per Connie White, here are a few Chrome Apps to try: Coggle, MindMup, Lucid Chart (Google Doc Add-On), Mindomo and MindMeister.
For those that teach math, assistive technology can be just as profound for those learners that struggle with math concepts and applications. Six Chrome tools that are highly recommended are Chrome Calculator, Cloudy Calculator, EquatIO, Graspable Math, Wolfram Alpha and The Math Learning Center for specific math manipulatives.
As we have seen in our own classrooms, technology can be an amazing way to help our students learn across all subject areas and domains. Furthermore, such visual tools can make learning engaging, enjoyable and relevant.
Marilee Springer states that when we use visual tools, “…we are creating pictures that will enable students to remember 80 to 100% of what we have taught.” To that end, technology can certainly enhance student learning and for those students that have learning differences, visual tools can provide even greater rewards as it allows those students to focus on their unique strengths rather than their weaknesses. And, at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about…