Ted Hasselbring: How adaptive technology can help struggling students
By Guest Blogger on February 3rd, 2012
We’re giving the floor this morning to Alissa Valiante, a longtime employee of our Education Group who had the chance recently to talk with a pioneer in the field of educational technology. She wanted to share some of what she learned. Thanks, Alissa!
Recently I had the special opportunity to talk with a pioneer in the field of educational technology, Dr. Ted Hasselbring, who is a Professor at the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Hasselbring has conducted research on the use of adaptive technology and its effectiveness on enhancing learning in students with disabilities and those who are at-risk of school failure. He is the author of several Scholastic programs, including READ 180 and System 44.
Here is some of what he told me about how technology can help children who struggle with reading.
Alissa: “You started experimenting with the use of adaptive technology way back in the ‘80s. Why does it work so well with struggling students? How does adaptive technology reach students who have had difficulty succeeding with traditional reading programs?”
Dr. Hasselbring: “The only way students can move information from working to long-term memory is by making foundational skills automatic, and technology carefully manages cognitive load for this purpose. The goal is to build skills at a level so students become an expert and can move on to the next. The FASTT algorithm (Fluency and Automaticity through Systematic Teaching with Technology), which we developed, is very important because it’s built around the need for students to receive targeted and systematic practice in the most foundational skills.”
Alissa: “What is the biggest benefit of using technology with struggling readers?”
Dr. Hasselbring: “One of the biggest benefits for any learner is that technology allows us to target the student at their specific level of need. A classroom of 20 students will have a wide range of abilities, and there’s no way that we can expect one teacher to individualize instruction for every student. Particularly for students who don’t have a minute to lose, instruction must be as effective and efficient as possible, and technology provides a scalable solution that ensures that each student progresses at the fastest possible rate.”
Alissa: “Any additional thoughts on the why it can be such a powerful tool in the classroom?”
Dr. Hasselbring: “Motivation is key. As human beings, we like to be successful and we avoid doing things that we’re not good at. Every day, struggling readers are asked to do things that they can’t, but with technology they have the opportunity to be successful because we’ve identified what they need and are providing them with accessible, engaging instruction. Success generates more success, and it is the greatest motivator that I’ve seen.”