Technology in Crescent Park Elementary has significantly assisted our students, especially those with learning disabilities. These past three years the staff had to make a critical decision regarding interventions with our students who had learning differences. We had to decide if we remediate with additional instructional time or compensate with technology that is needed to produce the desired level of performance.
When reviewing the academic history of our intermediate learning disabled students, the students had already received intervention since the early grades. Many of these students had received special reading and writing programs, used a variety of instructional materials, and had private tutors but still their achievement gap was behind their peers. It was at this point we questioned: do we continue to remediate to the students’ weaknesses or do we compensate with technology to enable them to succeed?
Our intermediate students were already showing signs of frustration and low self-esteem. If removed from the classroom they missed valuable instruction and felt they were getting further behind their peers, which affected their confidence. Reminding ourselves a learning disability is a lifelong disability influenced our decision to change our philosophy with our Learning Assistance Program. Primary students would continue to receive a special pullout program because of our belief in the effectiveness of “Early Intervention,” while intermediate students would have more an “Inclusive approach,” integrating technology throughout the school curriculum.
The Learning Assistant teacher and the classroom teachers together integrated the school curriculum and technology throughout all subject areas so they could enhance student engagement and productivity. Students with written output problems were able to access software that helped them complete writing assignments. Students who have a hard time organizing their thoughts learned to use Inspiration, which is a graphic organizer, to sort their ideas into a logical order. The word processor provided a tool to assist with written output. Not having to rewrite freed the student from worrying about making mistakes and allowed them to put more emphasis on content. Spell checks and thesauruses allowed students to experiment with words to improve their descriptive writing. In social studies students investigated webquests. Well-designed webquests kept students focused on the task and provided valuable websites where they could learn accurate information directed at their reading ability, which allowed them to go at their individual rate and provided a non-threatening environment. The internet enabled kids to be exposed to information using multiple-media — much more stimulating than print alone. For assessment purposes, students learned to use PowerPoint and Digital Storytelling, providing another format to demonstrate their learning instead of the standard written project or test.
Our teachers observed that keeping students with learning disabilities involved in their class curriculum by using technology exposed them to more meaningful learning, and kept them motivated to achieve success. In the future, our education objective for students who learn differently is to keep up with new technology so all our students can achieve success with their learning outcomes.