Technology…multisenory learning?

I had an interesting conversation recently with our school psychologist, Dave, who works at our sister school a few towns over.  They adopt technology a bit quicker than we do, with a 1-1 laptop program for the upper school and a full school adoption of interactive whiteboards a few years ago.

So he came into my first period recently and was asking my class questions concerning our interactive board…the only one in the building and installed this past summer.  My students love it!  I couldn’t figure where Dave’s questioning was going.

Working with our student population…students with learning disabilities, in a transitional skill based program…multi-sensory learning with consideration for all modalities (verbal, auditory, kinesthetic) is very key to our instruction.  

So again…I am lost as to his questioning….then it becomes clear…Dave states that with the focus to use the interactive whiteboard, there has been a decrease in traditional hands on activities.  Are we truly doing less multi-sensory teaching?

Is the interaction with the whiteboard multi-modal?  While it is interactive…how many dimensions are you really interacting with?  This was Dave’s point, is the interactive whiteboard as multi-modal as you would assume?  It does have many bells and whistles, it is interactive like a video game, however what does it require of the student’s modalities?

Interactive boards are very visual, can be auditory, but are they truly kinesthetic?  This is a fine line.  Students can touch them, they can move objects, they can write on them, but take a game my math class loves where they touch dice to roll them, and then multiple them.  Which is more interactive, touching an image that rolls or actually rolling dice? Doing a word sort, is moving words to a column on the board, where feedback is immediate, or doing a word sort where the answer is not immediately acknowledge, but more thought is required to ensure accuracy a more interactive activity?

I think of board games versus video games…which requires more interaction, more effort?  This could be argued both ways; however, interaction involved with technology is really between the technology and one person…where an actual hands on activity, involves more interaction with others and tactile feedback.  Without technology there is often less immediate feedback, which means there needs to be more thought on the students part before ensuring accuracy, meaning more metacognition required.

The interactive board has added a lot to my classroom, but it is also not the only tool I use for learning.  This conversation with Dave was crucial to reinforce the need to keep our traditional activities to support learning, that full adoption of interactive boards is not necessarily the best for learning.  Teachers need to utilize these tools with care to the fact that traditional, tried and true practices are not to be left behind.

As we move forward to 21st century practices, we need to remember that there are educational practices that have been used without technology that are just as effective, if not more.  Any tool used in the classroom needs to be to the benefit of the whole student, whether requiring electricity or not.


About Sharon LePage Plante

Sharon Plante, an educator with 22 years teaching experience in special education, has been an educator at The Southport School for fourteen years, as well as currently serving as Director of Technology. She utilizes her educational training and love of technology to engage students with learning disabilities in building their skills and finding success. Sharon is the co-author of Using Technology to Engage Students with Learning Disabilities. She was awarded the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from George Mason University College of Education and Human Development. She has presented at Everyone Reading, EdRev, Edscape, ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association), Spotlight on Dyslexia, IDA (International Dyslexia Association) and New York Chapter of ALTA (Academic Language Trainers Association), as well as at several EdCamps, on using technology to empower the dyslexic learner. Sharon is a co-founder of #edtechchat, and co-organizer of EdCampSWCT.
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