How do digital literacy help and benefit students with learning disabilities and what can we do to solve this problem?
Literacy means to have the ability to read and write. It is hard for an illiterate person to survive in society these days. Without having an ability to read and write, it is not possible to have a higher education or get a high paying job. Not only this, but for an illiterate person basic everyday tasks are also extremely difficult, and they struggle with these tasks such as reading a magazine or a newspaper and writing massage. However, this type of was a thing of the past.
Today literacy is much more than just having an ability to read and to write. We are currently living in a world of digital literacy, and students need to excel in it in order to succeed. According Cam and Kiyici (30), digital literacy is the ability to observe, assess, use, share and produce content utilizing the internet and the latest information technology (Cam and Kiyici 30). In order to excel in today's' increasingly digital global village, it is extremely important for students to possess all of these skills that are a requirement for the digital literacy.
Digital literacy in educational institutions
Digital literacy makes use of the same skills such as reading and writing but without pens, pencils, papers or books. The mentors or the teachers provide the students with digital devices including, laptops, desktops or iPads for educational purposes. The class calendar or the schedule is also digital along with a digital annotation tool in order to take notes. A class website and an internet page are also required for it (McDougall, Readman and Wilkinson 265). Moreover, students must have their emails made and their portfolios to save and share their content along with having a black channel device to track their progress and assess their learning.
Furthermore, the goal of the teachers should be to meet pupils where they learn easily, which is social media. Students should also know the use of cloud computing so that they do not need to hurry and finish their work, but they can finish their remaining work at home. All they need to do is to switch between Chromebook from the school's computer to their personal pc. Teachers should also teach the students how to evaluate the information that is found online as all information available online is not true, and in worst cases, it can be a hoax.
Students should also know how to share their knowledge and content produced by them with their classmates and also other people. In order to grow competency in the classroom, it is important that everyone share their knowledge with each other. In the past, it was used to be done through presentations in front of the whole class which some students found it hard and awkward, but today students can share their knowledge and findings by virtual curation. They can use web pages, blogs or YouTube channels to share their knowledge with others. There are already plenty of channels on YouTube in which students have shared their work.
As students tend to spend a lot of time on social networking sites and social media as a part of their education, they should know how to act in that particular neighborhood in order to avoid problems later on. There are a few techniques that run around proper netiquette of that particular culture that is made up of people who visit it. There are a lot of security issues concerning the use of online sites and social media. Cyberbullying is also a major issue.
Moreover, the privacy and safety of students are also under concern without taking proper measures. Also, the information that they use as a part of their research on a certain topic might not be authentic, and they need to consider the legality of the content before using it as a part of their studies. Reliability of content for use is a major issue that students come across.
Thus, teachers need to teach these to their students and make them aware of the security issues pertaining to the use of the internet. They should teach them how to avoid and deal with cyberbullying as it is an important issue that cannot be neglected. Apart from that, they should teach them regarding the use of only authentic and legal sources of information and how to avoid fake and fabricated information sources in order to have safe and secure use of technology and actually get benefitted by it instead of wasting time on unauthentic content that can prove to be harmful.
Students with Learning Disabilities and digital literacy
Students who come across with some sort of learning disabilities find it harder to be successful in today's digital environment. Today, students must be quick to grab information and learn it at the same time and should retain it for a long time in order to achieve success. However, students with learning disabilities find this as an extremely challenging task (Flewitt, Messer and Kucirkova 290). Along with traditional literacy skills, it is equally important to develop a student’s digital literacy skills in those students who have a weak memory, who come across with difficulties while processing information rapidly and who are weak in oral and written language.
How digital literacy helps students with learning disabilities learn and perform better
As soon as a student get diagnosed with any sort of learning disability, teachers should begin with a remediation plan which should be paired with any accessible digital media. Electronic reading provides students with such tools that can not be accessed with traditional reading, and these tools include highlighting, text to speech reading, built in electronic dictionary or thesaurus, writing or study tools, semantic mapping, and much more (Seale, Draffan and Wald 446).
These tools provide assistance to students suffering from learning disorders and make it easier for them to improve their reading skills effectively. Through the use of digital media, students with decoding difficulties such as pronouncing words can be exposed to increasing text difficulty levels every time they read in order to improve their skills much more faster. In addition to this, students with who find it difficult to learn and grab the concepts can get access to sites that make it easier for them to learn academic concepts through easy and interesting videos and pictures.
There are several channels on YouTube that help students learn faster and better. Not only this but digital literacy helps with writing skills as well. It makes use of digital tools such as speech recognition software, word processing, dictionary, spell check, word predictions. Students can have a video chat with teachers and webinars and simultaneously create their documents.
There are also assistive technology tools that can help students who find it hard to understand maths. It is specially designed for students who find computing, analyzing and noting down maths problems onto their notepad. This tool minimizes their struggles and helps them understand the concepts of maths through visual and audio support. This has proved to be extremely effective in students with learning disabilities who find maths as a very tough course.
Apart from these, for students who suffer from memory issues and cannot get organized there are assistive technology tools that help them to plan and keep track of their calendar, task list, and contacts, which eventually makes them better at the organization. Thus, digital literacy can help students with certain learning disabilities to overcome them much faster and in an interesting way which can keep them engaged and hopeful towards their progress.
As digital literacy provides them with such level of assistance that traditional literacy cannot provide, students with disabilities tend to understand academic concepts better and learn basic skills such as reading and writing easier. Moreover, the use of assistive technology can help a student with disabilities feel more independent and self-reliant. These students are often overly dependant on their parents and teachers for everything, but the use of assistive technology can help them experience success on their own, without being a burden on anyone (Seale, Draffan and Wald 447). This also motivates them even more as they see themselves excelling on their own and it gives them strong hope that they can overcome their struggles by themselves.
What limits students from getting the help they require
Students with learning disabilities require more love, attention, support, and encouragement both from parents and teachers in schools. However, at times parents are too busy with their lives and work that they cannot give the attention that their child requires from them or teachers at schools are not prepared to help students with learning disabilities. Moreover, as students with learning disabilities are slow when it comes to an understanding the concepts and often times they can not read and write as well as other children of their age, but their parents or teachers put pressure on them to perform like other students of their age perform which further deteriorates their condition, and they tend to become a victim of stress and depression due to the behavior of their elders towards them (Zheng, Warschauer and Farkas 268). Teachers often times fail to understand the problem with the student, and this also limits them from getting help from their teachers that they need.
Thus, teachers and parents both need to understand the condition of a child and instead of scolding them for underperformance they should encourage and always be there to provide their assistance to them when they require. Moreover, teachers should introduce them to more digital literacy tools that are specially designed for students with learning disabilities to enhance their learning experience and make them perform well in class.
These students also at times find it hard to reach out to parents and teachers to ask for help. Lack of a good relationship with parents at home and teachers at school make them hesitate to ask for assistance when they need. This also makes their progress slower as they keep on getting stuck at the same problem and due to not so good relationships, they can not reach out for help.
This is one of the major reasons that limits them from getting the help that they require, and parents should try to build a strong relationship of trust and love with their children, so they would not hesitate to seek out for help from them. The same goes for teachers at school, instead of scolding them for asking a question, again and again, they should every time help them out so that they will be able to trust them and always ask for help instead of being stuck in their progress.
How can we help these students?
These children already suffer a lot mentally as they can not perform well in class as their peers do. They are behind them when it comes to learning academic concepts in class. Due to all this pressure from parents and teachers to do well, they find it extremely stressful. At this stage all these students want is their parents and teachers to understand them and love them. It is very important to show more affection to these children. They also require a lot more attention from parents at home and teachers at school.
Teachers should teach them slowly and try to make them understand the concepts and practice them with the use of digital assistance tools. Moreover, parents should also teach them the use of these tools and help them while they study. All we need to do is to never give up on these children. Their progress might be slow, but eventually, they will learn as other children do.
We should also realize that everyone comes across obstacles in their life and learning disability is not insurmountable. Parents and teachers should identify how the child learns better. Does understanding a concept through visual aid helps him or her learn better, or the child learns through audio? Once parents and teachers understand this, it can make progress much faster and easier (Chase and Laufenberg 536). Teachers should also set goals for them, and they should be motivated to achieve those goals both at school and at home.
Apart from these, parents should take care of the diet of these children as well as their sleeping schedule. These children also require a good amount of sleep to enhance their learning process along with a healthy diet. Thus, all we can do is not to make fun of these children and help them with their learning process. Their school friends should also motivate them instead of humiliating them for not learning in the same way as they do.
With the passage of time digital literacy is becoming increasingly popular. Teachers and professors seem to have given up on their traditional ways of education that included pens, pencils, and notebooks. They have adopted the digital way of teaching the students. The world seems to be realizing the benefits of digital literacy. Digital literacy does not only make normal students learn effectively and efficiently, but it also caters to the special needs of students with certain learning disabilities in a way that traditional education system cannot. It makes the learning process easier and more interesting for the students. By the help of both visual aid and audio, they seem to learn faster and retain information for future use better. Children with special needs can benefit a lot from it. They can use assistive technology for their needs that can help them learn better and increase the speed of their progress without making them increasingly dependant on their parents, older sibling or teachers.
Hence, along with providing these children with plenty of love and moral support, parents and teachers should introduce them to the digital tools to help them progress faster and understand concepts better. Lastly, teachers should not forget about the dangers that can come with the use of digital technology, and they should prepare students well in advance regarding cyberbullying, the legality of the content for use, its reliability, privacy and security issues. With the proper measures taken against these, the use of online sites can be considered safe, and students can be highly benefitted by digital literacy without being scared of the safety concerns.
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