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BTW was created by Patrick & Julie Johnson, two Canadian educators with an interest in eduction & technology. This site showcases our interactive IBOOKS for students, but we also explore educational issues in our INQUIRY segments and share lessons/teaching ideas in our TEACHING TOOLS sections. Use the Labels section in the sidebar to navigate by topic or simply browse.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

INQUIRY: Struggling Students Need Tech!

We’ve many students in our elementary school, as I’m sure you do, who are ‘struggling’. They are not at level academically.

Many have learning disabilities.
Many are are on individual program plans.
Many of them seem to be kinaesthetic learners.
Many of them seem to be boys.
Many of them have attention problems.
Many of them have behaviour problems.

Many of them lose interest in school. They become apathetic, uncaring, unmotivated, non-compliant. (Often, they are labeled as ‘lazy’).

The typical school day does not resonate for them.

I’ve heard teachers bemoan these students. They wish they didn’t have to deal with them. They would prefer a class full of obedient, clever, self-starters…

But I am here to remind you, Teachers: these are the students that really really need you!

And, I would add, these are the students that really, really need technology!

I’m convinced that if teachers incorporated more tech it would go a long way to reaching these students (aside from the usual supports, like providing work at their level, clear expectation, tasks broken down into steps, etc.). Here’s a few reasons why.

1. Tech is inherently purposeful. Often, you are applying your skills to create something with tech and typically, its for an audience.

There are so many examples of this. Podcasts, for example, give purpose to researching, writing and oral expression. A blogging/social networking site gives writing & reading purpose because you are interacting with an audience and have a reason to read & write.

Imagine having students create an animoto.com narrative that then gets uploaded to a multimedia device/literacy workstation. This would again instill a sense of responsibility and ownership to the writing, planning, editing process, etc that goes into creating the video…and everyone would be interested to watch/read each others.

2. The multimedia aspects of technology are more stimulating and thus engaging. Take something like animoto.com: it is visual, auditory/musical, linguistic. Even just the basic word-processing screen is more interesting and interactive than a blank piece of paper. (And it provides built in supports for spelling, organization/formatting, not to mention easier access to speech to text (like Dragon Naturally Speaking software) or text to speech capabilities (like ispeech.org.))

3. It can appeal to their interests, such as video games. I have yet to meet a struggling student who does not like video games! In fact, I'm often told by teachers how these students 'waste their time at night playing video games'. Imagine if we could channel that interest in the school environment!

Which begs the question: why aren’t there more video games in schools?! I do not understand this snobbery I often come across towards video games, as if it were mere 'entertainment' with no education value. I am constantly reminding people that there is a lot of creativity in video games. There is also a lot of math.

I’m convinced if you brought the Wii/Xbox/Sony Playstation into your classroom most of your so called ‘lazy’ students would suddenly, miraculously ‘wake up’!

Julie Johnson

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