The 21st century brings excellent news for educators devoted to helping struggling readers, thanks to the many assistive technologies (AT) accessible today. AT offers ways to help students with dyslexia and many other reading-related issues. With such a plethora of tools available, there are bound to be challenges. Such obstacles arise when trying to determine the tools that suit each student’s needs.
Reading education specialists, such as graduates of the online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Reading Education program from Florida Gulf Coast State University (FGCU), select AT resources based on the individual needs of each student. These educators must assess each student’s strengths and weaknesses and work with them to find the most effective tools to support their reading development.
Measuring Reading Comprehension
Students struggle with reading for various reasons, including visual or aural impairments, phonics comprehension, assignment difficulty, attention issues, language disorders and familiarity with reading. The good news is there are many AT resources available to reading specialists to support struggling readers.
Regardless of whether or not a student has a disability, there are amazing tools to help see, hear, annotate and map books and assignments. For example, a recently published academic article titled 5 Tech Tools That Help Improve Reading Comprehension mentions the free website Rewordify, which replaces difficult words with alternatives to simplify complex text. This tool can benefit students with language disorders or those struggling with comprehension.
Students looking for a better understanding of reading material and educators hoping to create more inclusive classrooms will find what they need in AT as the choices vary.
Ditching the Textbook
Educators and reading specialists can help students learn and comprehend by creating a fun environment at school. Ditch That Textbook suggests constructing a game show set up in the classroom using AT that provides an exciting atmosphere for learning, answering questions and making in-the-moment assessment and feedback possible.
Educational games can be a fun way to reinforce reading skills. Games like Quizlet and Kahoot! are excellent interactive classroom tools that make learning fun. Other examples include Vocabulary Spelling City, which provides practice with spelling and vocabulary, and Reading Eggs, which includes reading comprehension and phonics practice.
Electronic games, images and videos can help students with reading comprehension by allowing students to actively participate in nontraditional fun group activities.
Provide Necessary Tools
Reading specialists looking to support struggling readers’ experiences and development have more AT options than ever. Technology is often considered a lifeline for those who struggle to read. An article from equitable education company Understood states AT will not prevent people from learning to read, as some critics state, but can help students increase comprehension and become more independent and confident readers.
Screen readers, or software programs that can read text on a computer screen out loud, can be especially helpful for students with visual impairments, and tablets with reading apps can be useful for struggling readers, as many apps provide features such as text-to-speech, word prediction and immersive reading experiences.
Text-to-speech programs can read text aloud, which can be especially helpful for students who struggle with decoding or have visual impairments. Visual dictionaries use images to help students understand the meanings of words.
Individualize Assistive Technology
AT should always be selected on an individual basis, fully dependent upon the student’s needs, as there is no such thing as one size fits all AT. However, some examples of AT might have more universal appeal than others. A report in Education Week talks about how artificial intelligence might be the perfect AT and is already used to help students understand what they are reading.
Comprehension is sometimes called the toughest problem in literacy because it’s so elusive. Reading education specialists should assess each student’s strengths and weaknesses and work with them to find the most effective tools to support their reading development.
FGCU’s online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Reading Education program prepares current educators with the foundational reading education knowledge to discover, understand and apply such technologies to serve their students’ unique reading needs. By utilizing these resources, students can receive the support they need to succeed in their reading education journeys.