An extremely popular topic among the education community at present concerns new developments in technology and their implementation in American classrooms. Most media coverage on such topics cites computerized textbooks, electronic homework platforms and instructional video games as the teaching methods of the future. To this end, many public schools are beginning to embrace these new methods as their sole educational tools, even going as far as supplying entire student bodies with Apple iPads and the educational applications that go with them in lieu of traditional textbooks. But to what extent is this restructuring of traditional teaching methods beneficial to all students?
In general, such advanced technological systems cater to eager, fully capable students, tending to marginalize children with learning difficulties or special needs. However, electronic programs that accommodate these unique students should ideally capture the most attention and demand the most continued development.
Despite the overwhelming need, and what seems to me to be the obvious need, for electronic programs designed with special needs students in mind, such tools are tremendously lacking in both application and media attention. One successful campaign, although very small in scale and poorly publicized, was recently conducted by Jacqueline Egli, the director of Bridges Academy, a private school for students with disabilities in Winter Springs, Florida. In her study, she measured the speech improvement rate of her students after using the computer based fluency programs Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant created by Scientific Learning. The latter is a program that records students as they read a story aloud and tracks their mistakes as they go along in order to help them realize and improve upon their weakest points. Through this interactive medium, children with learning disabilities are better able to track their progress and more accurately sharpen their basic skills.
By utilizing technology in this specialized manner, educational tools can be expanded to include not only capable children, but children who are struggling as well. And while it is important to utilize everything at our disposal to improve the educational process for students, it is vital to ensure that the tools at our disposal include students with more specific needs. Although electronic platforms are abundantly available and continue to be implemented to a greater extent, not enough applications are being produced to address particular learning circumstances.