Oct 30 2007

Speaking Their Language

Speaking Their Language

Stacey Kayden

Sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones closest to you. As an educator who tries to create new pathways of learning, I experienced problems right in my own house.

How would you like to be able to lean over every student’s shoulder as they try to learn? You could offer support, point out key parts in a text or just make sure they understand a concept. While this is physically impossible in a class of 25 students, a new type of electronic textbook allows teachers to replicate this feeling by inserting notes into a digitized version of the textbook. The notes can be personalized for each student or group of students, and can allow a teacher to embed their own study guides, outside lecture materials and even their own thinking processes into their e-text.

Students can access their “teacher within the text” as they are listening and reading. Online definitions and study skill tools are instantly available and the text becomes alive, vivid and interactive as well as matching the student’s comfort zone.

My students using this e-text method report the speech feature within the text helps them focus and block out distractions. A popular feature is to create two screens and take notes next to the text and study guide. Research has shown that students who use supportive technology become better readers. According to a study detailed in the Annals of Dyslexia, these students are less distracted, read with less stress and fatigue, and complete reading assignments in less time when they use supportive technology.

The basic skills and reading challenges of our K–12 students are of grave concern to our society. We must find solutions to these problems. We must respond to their needs in a way they can understand and relate to. My experience with my son only reinforced my belief that we need to work with kids on their own terms, in the language they understand.

Are Schools Ready for Personalized Instruction?

With the recent emphasis on data-driven decision making, it is obvious that the means to use information and technology to create individual learning plans for each student exist. The larger question is whether school officials are ready to make — and support — this leap.

When it comes to using instructional technology in the classroom, nearly one in three of all teachers in New York state has never incorporated technology-based tools into their instruction, according to a statewide survey by Hezel Associates, a research firm based in Syracuse, N.Y. The biggest segment of the group not using technology is what is known as mid-career teachers, those with between 11 and 20 years of experience. The same results hold for using technology to complete student assessments; mid-career teachers are the least likely to use technology in student assessments, the study showed.

Training Tips:

Stacey Kayden, a learning specialist at Laney College, has these tips for trying to implement a new program at your school. ● Find the individuals who are most likely to embrace your ideas. Starting with these people will lead to positive word of mouth. ● Get key leaders on board. These people will help stress the program’s importance to other staff. ● Explain fully the time commitment to learn the program. Avoiding surprises can help lead to acceptance. ● Share students’ enthusiasm for the program. Let your teachers know how much students will like the new program.