2009, San Francisco, TRLD Conference (Technology, Reading and Learning Disabilities)
When I was given the chance to attend this conference (sadly the last year of it) I was so excited. I felt I was be given an opportunity to really start to develop the role of technology to support the learning of LD/Dyslexic students. What I found afterwards it was not just having to find the tools, but to change pedagogical opinions as well. I returned full of ideas, but found that I still had some work to do to show how technology could be a beneficial addition to what was already successfully being done to impact dyslexic students.
Fall 2013 Where are we now?
Why should technology be used with Dyslexic students? My response is why shouldn’t it. Overall the goal we seek to achieve is to build skills, to empower students as learners. Every day we provide scaffolding to make kids successful. It may be enlarging text, highlighting information, creating cloze activities, providing multiplication charts, using graphic organizers, and an endless list of other steps to support students as they build their skills. No one questions these; It is known they are steps to help students find gains as they progress. Some of these accommodations will be likely always utilized in some way, and others will no longer be needed as time passes. This is accepted and expected.
So why can’t technology serve the same role? In my experience, it seems to be often thought that when the accommodation involves technology, that it is instead considered as a compensation. However, technology is just a tool, a way to help students access content, demonstrate knowledge, and hopefully build skills as they navigate their own learning road. It is a tool for scaffolding, one that like any other approach, may be a temporary structure, or one that logically holds a permanent role in a students tool bag for learning.
Just as with any other scaffolded approach, teachers are not going to stop teaching skills because technology is in place, but rather the technology can help some students be successful as they learn the skills. The use of technology should not replace the learning…I would not let my students use a calculator when they are working on math facts, but why not let them use one when they are working on more challenging math concepts and procedures? A tool like Co-Writer wouldn’t be useful if they were working on handwriting, but if the goal was for a student, who struggles with expressive language and/or dysgraphia, to craft a story, why not have the word prediction, text-to-speech and typing aspects of Co-Writer to support the skill I am seeking to develop?
These are just examples of how the tech tool makes students accessible to working on the intended skill, without the hurdles of their areas of struggle additionally impacting their progress. I think of the stories my mother tells of when she taught at a school for the deaf in the 1960s. She had to teach lip-reading; Sign language was forbidden and students were punished for using it. By today’s standards this seems shocking. Sign language is a tool that fits to make communication possible for those with hearing-impairments. Why are we denying tools to make curation and creation possible for dyslexic learners?
Technology is just a tool…a scaffolding…it may accomodate students as they travel their learning road and it may be a tool that stays to compensate for areas weakness. This is just as any other method that is implemented to support students with dyslexia.
There is a slow shift of pedagological acceptance of #dyslexiatech as accesible tech. The movement that has begun led by many who are successful dyslexic adults who are making it heard that this is what is important. These people inspire me to keep on my road and to continue my role in working to help my dyslexic students see what greatness they can achieve, with or without technology.