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1/4/13 5:40 AM Rebecca Whittenberger

Technology can help improve learning by enhancing digital communication to meet the needs of different learning styles of students.

The days of the “one-size-fits-all” educational model are receding into the past. Today’s teachers have more tools than ever before to meet the diverse learning-style needs of their students and engage them both inside and outside the classroom. Integrate technology and learning styles. 

I think I’m part of the last generation that remembers what it was like to live without computers.

Well, that’s not entirely true. My elementary school had a once-a-week period called “Computers.” During this session, we left our classroom and went to the school’s computer room, which housed about ten or so Apple computers.

But I don’t mean the snazzy, lightweight, gleaming Mac Pros and Airbooks on display today at the Apple store and Best Buy. These were the heavy, clunky, original Apple computers (yes, I did go to elementary school in the 80s) with big monitors and external hard drives.

With these machines, when you were done playing Jeopardy and wanted to switch to the Oregon Trail (my favorite), the “computer lady” would come over to your computer and press three buttons simultaneously – Apple’s equivalent of control/alt/delete – to reboot your computer so it could run the new game.

In addition, every game was on a separate floppy disk and manually fed into the hard drive every time you wanted to run a new program. Quaint, eh?

 

Leaving the past in the past

We’ve come a long way from the days of once-a-week, forty-minute computer exposure. Today’s school kids are born with automatic digital intuition. They eat, sleep, and breathe technology in all shapes, sizes, and colors, which has led schools to revolutionize their teaching methods and embrace digital applications as their budgets will allow.

 

Learning inside and outside of the classroom

According to an article by Tina Barseghian, one current teaching and learning trend is the technique of “blended learning,” which is the practice of combining traditional teaching with computers. “Knowing that today’s learners are wired at all times”, writes Barseghian, “teachers are directing students’ natural online proclivity towards schoolwork.”

“Flipped classrooms,” a more specific sub-category of blended learning, provide the opportunity for the classroom to focus on assimilating learning rather than the delivery of information, which can be accomplished by:

  • Assigning interactive quizzes and online collaborative projects at home
  • Assigning videos and lectures to watch at home and using class time for hands-on projects
  • Putting the majority of curriculum online and working in class with students one-on-one

Whatever method teachers choose, “the best examples of blended learning programs,” says Barseghian, “involve teachers who use home-time online discussions and collaborative projects as fuel for content and discussion in the classroom.”

 

Having tools for every style

One major benefit of using technology both inside and outside the classroom is being able to meet the needs of students’ individual learning styles, particularly for those students with unique needs, such as non-English speaking students and those with physical/learning disabilities.

A document from Little Wound School, “Learning Styles and Technology,” states that teachers who provide for diverse needs and learning styles vary the subject matter, tools, and materials their students use; this method increases opportunities for learning by using various media to teach ideas and information.

“Learning Styles and Technology” lists four ways technology improves individualized learning:

  • Students can interact with the technology at their own pace and review material when necessary to aid understanding or memory.
  • Computer-based tools help students develop their visual, kinesthetic, aural, and oral skills.
  • Students with physical disabilities can use computers with adaptive devices so that they can participate fully with their classmates.
  • Computers help students transform data from numbers to graphs or translate words from one language to another.

 

Meeting the diverse needs of our students

The days of the “one-size-fits-all” educational model when the main use of computer technology was just to entertain elementary school kids (my generation) are receding into the past. Today’s teachers have more tools than ever before to meet the diverse learning-style needs of their students and engage them both inside and outside the classroom.

As blended-learning continues to grow and more schools are provided with technological equipment and capabilities, the more opportunities teachers have to develop their students’ knowledge and skills and improve learning outcomes.

 

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