Technology and Dyslexia – Part 1

The fall issue of Perspectives, (IDA’s quarterly publication), is devoted to technology and dyslexia.  In fact, when the editors started sorting through the articles to consider they quickly decided it would take two issues to properly cover all the pertinent aspects of this subject.  While knowledge of technical advancement is not my forte, it is easy to see how important technology is becoming to students who have dyslexia and other learning disorders.  In fact, it’s not limited to students who need extra help.  Technology is becoming a critical tool for educators and students from the very beginning of a child’s academic journey.

It used to be that Assistive Technology (AT) was a big deal for students with learning disabilities and/or physical limitations.  Those students in need were the only ones who benefitted from the technology.  As technology advanced and became more prevalent, the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) came into being.  It is the process of using technology to reduce barriers to education for everyone – not just the disabled students.  In time, the distinction between the two, AT and UDL, became less clear and distinct.

In traditional learning situations where printed materials are the primary source of information, dyslexic students have “print disablilities” – a new term to the editors of Perspectives magazine (and to me).  These students need AT in order to glean the same information and level of engagement in the process of learning that their non-dyslexic peers achieve.  As digital technology has become more common in everyday life, it has also become more common in the classroom, giving all students access to multiple sources of information.  Advances in technology have also improved the choices available for AT.  There are a wide variety of products and services designed to help a student with learning disabilities.  Educators are now faced with the challenge of finding the right technology for the environment they seek to create, the right tools and apps for the individuals in need of extra help, and the best options for the specific tasks required of students.

The bottom line, according to this series of articles, is that digital technology has the power to enrich the educational experience by providing options that were previously unavailable to many students – including those with dyslexia.  The editors leave us, however, with this word of caution – “…Optimizing the power of new technologies will also require educators, researchers, and technology specialists to carefully consider what new barriers may arise for students with dyslexia as they navigate this richer environment.”

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