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It’s difficult to avoid constant musings about how future technological and digital progress might transform the world we’ve grown accustomed to. Education and how we teach children to break the reading code is not immune from these changes and we believe technological developments offer exciting and the much needed potential to do things differently. In particular, digital platforms and technology offer incredible opportunities for slow progress readers and dyslexics, in ways that conventional one-size fits all systems have not been able to offer.

The Rise of Individuation

Many well regarded education experts believe that education reform is most often halted by a “glass ceiling”. This glass ceiling exists in the form of standardized, enmass, educational methods and approaches which make up the majority of current education system.

In turn, they argue that the only way to shatter this one-size-fits all ceiling is through personalised approaches, something which technology can help with immensely.

Digital learning technologies introduce an element of flexibility and customisation that has previously been very difficult for teachers to introduce into the classroom. It allows for a far broader array of instructional designs that incorporate the needs of individuals while delivering general content that might need to be covered. Unlike written text, digital text is highly flexible and can be delivered to different individuals in varied formats. For example, font size, shape and style can be easily altered and text can delivered through other mechanisms such as sound, video, audio or even virtual reality.

Secondly, specific instructions accompanying the delivery of content are completely customisable and able to take into account each student’s set of unique reading and learning strengths and barriers. As a result learning can be ’embedded universally, but displayed individually’, striking an important balance currently sorely lacking in our education system. Taking individuation even further, is the exciting possibility of using brain scanning technology to glean deep insight into how every individual student’s brain actually works when learning. This could take customisation to an almost Jetson-like level and provide huge opportunity for more effective teaching and knowledge acquisition.

Greater Access for All

The digitisation of education, and in particular the teaching of reading, could potentially have a huge equalising effect on the ability to access knowledge and support. The democratisation of learning, using online platforms, allows greater accessibility to those previously encumbered by space, time or, in many cases, finances. The portable nature of digital learning is also hugely convenient and as a result may be able to fill cracks some vulnerable children are currently slipping through. Research demonstrates that online learning is able to greatly improve access to extra support and learning at home for children who are at risk.

While technology has a huge potential to broaden access, it is important to note that some fear that current economic inequalities may simply be reproduced through inequitable levels of access to technical devices and resources. It will therefore be important for advocates to ensure that these kinds of educational tools are proliferated in a way that allows all children to benefit from technological progress.

An Antidote to Under-Resourcing

Huge pressure and responsibility has been put on teachers to cater to varied needs in our system and this is ultimately both impractical and irresponsible. A single person in a room of 20 – 30 incredibly different children. ensuring that they have both the time and required skill levels to cater to all needs is an incredible feat. Digital learning and technology provide teachers with a tool to better balance the individual with the whole, using the individuation options outlined above.

In this new educational world, teachers can become an indispensable guide who help children navigate these individual learning paths while simultaneously ensuring universal learnings are delivered. Technology also has the potential to combat financial pressures associated with catering to individual needs as specialised help is often expensive and does not provide the kind of repetitive and frequent reinforcement slow progress readers need to succeed.

Reinvigorated Love for Reading

A wealth of recent research is demonstrating that E-books and online readers are providing a whole new way for children to fall in love with reading. Studies are showing that children are both more captivated and enthusiastic to read online books and that they more effectively retain information and comprehension when reading in this mode. Far from undermining children’s reading potential, as we sometimes hear, the rise of less traditional modes of reading is actually providing an exciting new opportunity to encourage children to become lifelong book lovers!

Where to now?

While the future of education and technology is a bright one, the creation of effective reading and intervention programs using these tools requires very specific considerations. In particular, a focus on gamification over substance can sometimes serve to distract from actual teaching and learning and we must not fall into the trap of assuming that technology automatically remedies all educational shortcomings.

The biggest hope we should have in regards to digital learning right now is that it will be sure to continue shaking up old ways of educating that too often exclude difference at the expense of those who most need support. And that seems pretty exciting to us!