Shaping Education Around Student Needs
Perhaps the hardest thing to predict… is the future
Scientific advances and electronic networks are permanently changing the global landscape at an incredible pace. Without a doubt, our kids will encounter enormous challenges in this uncertain future. How can we prepare them to solve problems we cannot even anticipate? With the new school year beginning, we need to ask ourselves, what do we need to teach our students now that will help them meet future challenges throughout their lives?
Literacy is one of the most important foundational skills for success in school and in life, and it is an important means of lifelong learning. The best way to prepare students for the future is by helping them become confident, competent, and motivated readers. We need to equip our students to read information critically and analytically so they do not just believe everything they see and hear. Reading develops the mind, improves understanding, and enhances the imagination.
The Reading Comprehension Crisis in the U.S.
For decades the U.S. has made reading comprehension a priority, yet the crisis continues. Two-thirds of our nation’s 4th, 8th and 12th graders consistently score below the” proficient” level on national and state assessments. Many of our nation’s children have difficulty understanding a text’s purpose, determining what is important, locating information, making inferences, summarizing text, and figuring out the meanings of new words. Knowing this, how can we help our kids succeed?
What Humans Do Well
Humans are geniuses at finding patterns and making connections. The human brain understands content and context, and can also read mood. Even when our students are not directly speaking to us, we can tell through their body language when they are engaged and motivated, as well as when they are confused, bored, distracted, or turned off.
What Humans Can’t Do
What humans cannot do is instantly hold lots of discrete information in our brains. This can be frustrating because our students come to us with very different skills, abilities, and interests. Teachers are often asked to differentiate instruction to meet students’ widely different needs. It is virtually impossible to carry out 25 different lessons plans, for 25 different students, with 25 different needs at the same time.
What Computers Do Well
Computers, on the other hand, are great at distinguishing between discrete pieces of information, and can be programmed to present information differently based on different student responses. That is something a powerful computer program can do brilliantly.
Why Watering Down Content Hurts Struggling Readers
Students at all skill levels need to be prepared for future challenges. We cannot simply ignore the root causes of their reading problems. It is unacceptable to lower our expectations and just “water down” content. Watering down content means that some of our children do not have access to the same rich information other children have. This jeopardizes the future of our struggling readers and puts them at a great disadvantage.
Helping Teachers and Students with…Blended Learning
Teachers are essential to student learning. Teachers have great power to influence their students and to shape the course of a young person’s future, for better or for worse. Students come to us with very different strengths, deficits, motivations, and interests. The responsibilities that teachers have is awesome. Since it is impossible for teachers to effectively address the discrete learning differences among all of the different students in their charge, they need assistance. This is where blended learning comes in. Blended learning is the purposeful use of technology, paired with effective teacher-led instruction, that can help teachers truly target the specific needs of their students.
Blended learning is not accomplished by merely adding technology. It cannot replace educators, and in fact, can only succeed if implemented by knowledgeable teachers who use technology to assist them. Research-based, adaptive online programs can help teachers be successful. These programs can engage all students with rigorous academic content, at their individual levels. They can provide teachers with both detailed data to effectively group students, and with the resources needed to meet students’ specific needs.
As a long time teacher, literacy coach, and curriculum director, I became all too familiar with the frustrations of students who struggle with reading. The problem only increased when they read nonfiction, especially in science, because of its many unfamiliar concepts and its new vocabulary. I wanted to address this problem head on. I worked with a team to develop Readorium. This blended learning solution is designed to enable students at all skill levels to understand the same rich, grade-appropriate content.This is accomplished with text and support systems that automatically adjust to each individual’s needs as they read. Readorium also provides teachers with the specific student progress data and downloadable resources needed to further target classroom instruction.
You can try Readorium for free, to see if it’s right for your students.