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Technology in the Classroom Can Help Struggling Readers

Janelle Cox

There has never been an easier time to learn how to read. Imagine if you were born a century ago. Think about what a struggle you may have endured learning how to read. Today, children have it so much easier. With access to technology in the classroom like websites, books on tape, apps, and videos, children are learning the world of literacy faster and easier than ever before. Today’s emerging readers have access to amazing well-designed applications of technology in the classroom. No longer are struggling readers getting left by the wayside. Schools are using technology in the classroom to help beginning as well as struggling readers succeed.

Here we will take a brief look at why emerging readers as well as struggling readers need technology.

Technology in the Classroom is Easily Adaptive

In today’s classrooms, many teachers try and differentiate instruction because it has been found to be the most effective way to make sure that all students are learning at their own level. Technology allows for teachers to be able to meet the varying needs of all of their students. For example, if one student is reading at a 1st grade level, while another is reading at a kindergarten level, the teacher can use different programs or apps for each student to practice reading at his/her own level. Adaptive technology gives the student the correct version in order to meet their needs.

It’s Readily Available

Technology has the ability to connect school life with home life. It has the ability to do this because it can be accessible anywhere and at any time. It also creates opportunities for students to continue their learning at home (if they have technology of their own). While there are still some concerns and challenges regarding home access to technology for all students, we are coming to a time when we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. More schools are getting grants for classroom sets of iPads, and technology is becoming less expensive, so it’s more affordable for all budgets. In the future, I can see each student being able to virtually learn from home.

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It Motivates Students

Technology is fun, that’s why so many children find it so motivating. When you find something that will motivate your emerging, reluctant, or struggling reader than you have done your job.  There are so many fun apps out on the market that challenge students, while still making it fun for them to read. By having students set reading goals, then achieving them and winning a virtual badge of honor, you have motivated them to want to read even more. For those struggling readers who have never experienced success, it can be a great motivator.

Technology Facilitates Practice

A great thing about technology is that it’s smart. It’s so smart that it has the ability to quickly determine what skill a student is struggling with, and create a setting where they can practice it. In a classroom full of 20 students who are all on different reading levels, this can be a lifesaver for the teacher. Teachers have a lot on their plate and to take the time to determine which skills each individual student needs to practice can be daunting. Technology has taken that burden off of the plate for teachers, and made it simple enough to facilitate repetitive practice for each student that it using the device. If a student is struggling with prefixes and suffixes, the computer can queue up the program so that the student can practice what they are struggling with and understand it. Sometimes, the student isn’t even allowed to move forward in the app or the program until the computer knows that the player has mastered the skill.

Technology is Smarter than Us

Let’s face it, most of the pieces of technology that we have are much smarter than us. While the human brain is an amazing powerful thing, technology has the ability to give us the answers in a matter of seconds. If you have a struggling reader and want to know her process, technology has the ability to give you that answer with just a click of a button. If you want each one of your students to work on an app at their reading level, technology can do that too. Technology is so smart that is can access a student’s skill set and deliver it to the teacher, a parent, or even an administrator is a matter of seconds.

While nothing beats the feeling you get after you have successfully completed your first tangible storybook, technology has come up with some amazing, engaging tech tools that can really help your emerging and struggling readers. Many of these tools are very inexpensive or free, and can really motivate your students to succeed with literacy.

How do you use technology to help your emerging or struggling readers? Please feel free to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what works for your classroom.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.