Learn how this Teacher Used the EPIC! Reader App to Get Challenged Students on Board with Reading
For years, educators have heard how technology was going to change teaching. But for most teachers, the tech-driven differences have not opened a new window on teaching – they are more like window dressing.
There’s no dispute that technology has made a difference in many classrooms by streamlining administrative duties such as attendance, recording grades and scheduling meetings. But, for most of us, we still teach the same things in much the same way. History, as they say, hasn’t changed much. That so many teachers still manage their classrooms in the same ways makes it easy to doubt or overlook the ways in which education technologies really are changing teaching and learning.
That’s a shame because classroom tech is making a big impact in some places and with some students. It has, for example, absolutely changed the way that I’m teaching and, more importantly, the way my students are learning. In my classroom – I’m a special education teacher at Hamline Elementary, a Chicago public school – technology tools for reading have been an education revolution by expanding pathways and unwrapping new opportunities for my students – pathways and opportunities that are creating real progress.
Let me share two examples.
One of my students is a fifth grader who was reading at a Kindergarten level when I started working with her. She found a print copy of The Boxcar Children in my library. But to read it, she used the read-to-me feature on EPIC!, a free-to-teachers web-based reading platform. In no time, she was asking to take the tangible book home so she could try reading it herself. By mid-year, she had progressed to a second-grade reading level. There’s no question that the tech-powered read-to-me option gave her the confidence to try reading on her own.
A year or so earlier, I worked with a group of eighth grade boys who said they hated reading. But together we were able to quickly filter and browse through EPIC!’s online catalogue of more than 20,000 books – making more options more available far faster than a traditional library could. From 20,000 titles, I was sure we could find some reading that could interest them. Sure enough, the students liked the Big Nate collection which uses engaging comic-strip style storytelling and interactive features such as game play and doodling – features a traditional classroom or library setting is ill-equipped to offer.
Soon, the reading-resistant boys were hooked. They loved reading and engaging the material on their iPads. And I found a way to use post-it notes like cartoon cells to solicit their annotations and track their progress.
It’s obvious to me that technology has changed the ways in which I open minds to reading. But more significantly, it has reshaped the reading attitudes, habits and confidence levels of my students. Progress that, I have no doubt, will change their future academic prospects as well as their lives.
I’ve seen the real, transformative teaching power in how technology can deliver existing material in new ways and make learning sound, look and feel differently. The ability to make something as profound as reading more available and more personal can’t be overstated.
Whether classroom tech can help more students “get” algebra or relate more personally to world events, I can only speculate. But seeing the way it’s changed my students, I’m optimistic. More than that, I am delighted that I have more teaching reach and versatility than I thought possible and that it’s enabled me have a larger impact on my students – which is what teaching is supposed to be about.
And I can’t be alone. So I hope that teachers will be louder in sharing their technology success stories and the tools that make those successes possible. I hope too that more teachers will engage tech-enhanced teaching and try it in their classrooms and with their students. There are breakthroughs to be had and students to reach – perhaps especially students for whom traditional teaching methods have been less effective.