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Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners Through Technology

EducationWorld is pleased to present this article by Brad Currie (below), Diane Basanese and Erika Rosamilia, educators at Black River Middle School in Chester, NJ.

We now live in a world full of tremendous technology that can inspire collaboration and innovation. To prepare students for the 21st century, teachers must foster an autonomous learning environment where risk-taking is commonplace. Technology, coupled with sound pedagogy, allows students to experience the kind of education that was previously unimaginable.

At our school, we are constantly encouraging teachers and students to take risks with technology--in particular, leveraging the power of available digital tools and devices to meet the needs of diverse learners. Two teachers in particular, Mrs. Basanese and Mrs. Rosamilia, take advantage of available technology and Web tools to engage learners in the educational process. Whether it’s through handheld devices or collaborative curation tools, students are able to expand upon their knowledge and grow as learners in so many ways.


Make a Rainbow in Your Classroom

In Mrs. Basanese’s classroom, teachers need only a SMART Board and Google Docs in order to give students the opportunity to work together and develop writing ideas. As educators provide more non-fiction reading selections for students, she believes it is important to help them develop the comprehension skills needed to interpret these more challenging reading passages.

Over time, Mrs. Basanese developed a strategy using Google Docs and the SMART Board to enhance writing. First, students read and highlight important information from the text. Then she shares a Google Doc with students that is also displayed on the SMART Board. The blank graphic organizer contains three columns that the students are responsible for filling out: one column for the student’s name, one column for the lifted passage, and one column for the student to explain the significance of the lifted passage. Using different colored fonts, students lift specific information from the text which they previously highlighted.

edtech classroom

Mrs. Basanese calls this “rainbow writing,” because each student chooses his/her own color to represent himself/herself on the graphic organizer. This way, students make their mark on the “live” graphic organizer and maintain a sense of accountability during a collaborative activity.

Making each student an engaged contributor to the big picture really enabled them to own their learning. This made the difficult skill of fact-finding easier to manage. Rainbow writing has also been used for brainstorming activities. The combination of Google Docs and the SMART Board has helped reluctant writers participate with enthusiasm in the writing process.


Students Sometimes Learn Best from Peers

Teaching in a 21st-century classroom is an evolving process. Technology is an always-present tool that Mrs. Rosamilia uses on a daily basis to meet the needs of learners. It has grown from scanning materials using a smartphone to using the iPad to scan and write on documents so that students get learning resources in a timely and efficient fashion. Whether she is in math class or another class that she supports, technology is always with her. Recently she secured funding from the Black River Middle School PTO to purchase iPad Minis in order to enhance the learning experience for students.

She uses the iPad Minis on a daily basis and incorporates various Web applications such as the CamScan app, Foxit PDF, Dragon Dictation, Educreations and other fun apps that support math stations and the writing process. The Educreations app has really allowed Mrs. Rosamilia’s students to grow. She facilitates the use of the app with students to create videos of skills that they are working on in math class. 

The Educreations technology allows students to recapture the classroom experience while at home. Students who were once reluctant to participate in class discussions are now very active in class and have even taken the lead in helping others. It has given them the feeling that they can be successful and that they can achieve anything. Mrs. Rosamilia’s favorite time of day is when she hears students working, sharing and explaining their work to her and their peers, all while eventually getting to the correct answers. 

Students have really begun to take the initiative and ask for challenging problems so that they can make a video for their support collection. Mrs. Rosamilia’s students take these acquired skills to the other classes they attend and use their technological expertise to obtain access to digital supports, create group materials and research topics in more depth. Technology in the classroom has really helped her students enhance their skills across subject areas.


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