My inspiration for this Capstone project was realizing how important engagement is and how it happens to be a big problem in all of our schools today. As a result, literacy scores are at an all time low nation wide. Literacy is a core subject and has been a challenge for many students. Children learn best when they are engaged.
When children lack engagement they get off task and are more likely to act out in class disrupting their own learning and those of others. Their actions are really a cry for help. Many times the task may be too difficult and the assignment is not at their proper learning level. Students benefit from having instruction differentiated and using technology makes it all that more engaging for students. It is especially helpful for students with special needs and English Language Learners.
To better understand how young people today are differently motivated, we need to see that they're growing up in an environment that is radically different from previous generations. In the simplest terms, they are coming of age while tethered to the internet, as well as to a host of instant communication devices that were unimaginable twenty years ago. (Tony Wagner,2008)
What affect does differentiating literacy using technology have on every student? What impact does it have on America's most at risk students? Who are these students that are the most at risk?
Students with special needs
English Language Learners
Low socioeconomic disadvantaged students
I have experience with all of these student types. I noticed that my students were not engaged with regular leveled reading books and had a difficult time staying on task. My students with special needs and second language learners had the most difficult time participating and learning. I began to use technology tools to help enhance my teaching and was able to provide a scaffold for my most needy students.
Differentiating literacy instruction helps English Language Learners with phonics, reading comprehension and language acquisition. It provides a high visual component in their learning.
In my classroom I used technology reading apps such as Imagine Learning and iRead. My students who had special needs and my beginner English Language Learners used the Imagine Learning program. iRead was too advanced for them. I had to move actually further differentiate with one of my English Language Learner students who also had special needs from iRead to Imagine Learning. Her scores showed a significant improvement.
Sociological Perspective Teachers should teach students the importance of digital citizenship. What teachers need to understand and teach is the importance of appropriate behavior when using digital tools teachers can use the resource on Edutopia. What Students Need to Know About Digital Citizenship.
This graph shows pre and post test scores from two English Language Learners that also had special needs. The dark blue indicates their progress after being taught in the digital literacy programs. There was significant improvement in their phonics, reading skills, reading comprehension and language acquisition.
Instructional Perspective It is important for teachers to see technology as part of curriculum and not just one more thing to add to their already loaded agendas. Professional development training or a mentor who is comfortable with technology would be ideal. My hope is that TPACK will become a district wide interest in many areas. If that can happen then money will be set aside for training. I think teachers who are more familiar with TPACK are great advocates for it.