Education in Ireland

Perspectives on the Irish education system distilled through the crucible of experience,leavened with the empirical wisdom of the perpetual student!

Friday, August 24, 2007

ICT as an effective tool for Special Education Needs

I was struck by the relative lack of interest shown by ILSA members who attended the annual conference in September (2006), in those stands at the exhibition that demonstrated the use of ICT in SEN. In fact, so sparse was the interest in ICT that one exhibitor packed up early and left! Why this lack of interest in a medium of instruction that has the capacity to make a significant contribution, in the hands of a trained practitioner, to teaching and learning in the special needs area?

Technology has the capacity to create a revolution in education. In the past 20 years technology has penetrated every area of society and every aspect of our social and cultural lives. Television liberated the world from the confines of text and static illustrations. Computers make possible vast amounts of information, instantly available at the stroke of a key. Children are now growing up with remote controls. Interactive technology is as common in today’s home as television was in the past. Children are now raised in a world where they can control information flow and access.
Research in the US has shown that when ICTs are used effectively they bring about changes in the role of teachers
A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner is that learning is an active process in which the learner constructs new ideas or concepts based upon current or past knowledge. The practical application of this theory to the classroom is that the teacher should help the child to learn how to learn, how to find and apply the information needed and to become an adaptable, collaborative problem-solver. Constructivism argues that education should be an active, multi-disciplinary, exploratory and social activity.
If technology is to support this theory, the nature of the activity should be on the development of abilities to ask critical questions, locate relevant information and integrate this information and to communicate effectively. Software programs that support this kind of activity should encourage the use of collaborative and integrated activities that put children in control of the computer.
Bruner talked of the need for learners to be reflective “turning around what they’ve learned.” Bruner called this reflection metacognition. There are several strategies for developing metacognition including bridging, tacit and explicit communication and self-monitoring. Peer collaboration is seen a means of enabling the above strategies. The use of ICT as a tool in teaching is one method whereby peer collaboration is positively encouraged. Peer collaboration requires communication. Such social interaction is pivotal to the collaborative learning that is involved when ICT is used as a mechanism for teaching. A growing body of research on collaborative learning has demonstrated the benefits of children working with other children in collective learning efforts. When children collaborate, they share the process of constructing their ideas, instead of simply labouring individually. The advantages of this collective effort are that children are able to reflect and elaborate not only their own ideas, but those of their peers as well. Children come to view their peers not as competitors but as resources. Mutual tutoring, a sense of shared progress and shared goals, and a feeling of teamwork are the natural outcomes of co-operative problem-solving and these processes have been shown to produce substantial advances in learning.
I hope I am making the argument that ICT has too much going for it to be simply ignored. The right software packages, coupled with proper professional training will equip any teacher with a significant array of resources to use in the Learning Support or Resource Room to the benefit of both pupils and teacher. To ignore ICT is like cutting off your right arm, or left hand, if, like me, you happen to be a ciotóg! Programs such as the Lexia Reading program, Nessy, Wordshark, Numbershark and Clicker should be an integral part of the armory of resources of every LS and RT teacher in the country. So next time you attend an ILSA conference, do please look at what is on offer at ICT stands; I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

45 Comments:

Blogger John Kerins said...

Matt

dont forget Fast ForWord!

Seriously please contact me and we will book a display. Then teachers can see how technology can really help them

all the best

John Kerins
www.neuron.ie

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