Education Technology For Our Children

By Wenda Sheard.

Citation: First published in the SENGVine, February 2012.

The SENG Director’s Corner column gives board members opportunities to share passions and insights that relate to supporting gifted, talented, and creative individuals. What is my passion du jour? Because I am currently teaching children, I enjoy exploring emerging education technologies. I love learning how new technologies can best help a wide range of students.

In this article, I share my thoughts about how new technologies might provide gifted, talented, and creative children with the high levels and speed of learning they often crave.

Two Caveats

Before I begin, two caveats. First, not all education technology is created equal. Some education technology is merely slow-paced, low-level content dressed up with computerized bells and whistles. In my opinion, the best education technology includes:

(1) high quality and attractive content as well as hardware and software,

(2) embedded rewards similar to those that make video games irresistible,

(3) pretesting so students do not have to pretend to learn what they already know, and

(4) differentiation to accommodate different learning speeds and levels of thinking.

The last two elements—pretesting and differentiation—are particularly important for gifted, talented, and creative children.

My second caveat is that the technology I describe in this article is new. Research should not stop with the invention of a new technology, but rather should continue apace as real people—including children—incorporate the technology into their lives.

Anyone using new technology has an obligation to keep up-to-date with new research findings regarding the technology and its best use. Some researchers are investigating whether time spent in front of a computer alters minds and bodies. Other researchers are investigating whether wireless transmissions from cell phones and computers create biological changes in human beings, and to what extent those changes might be harmful.

Writing Technologies

Many gifted children suffer from a discrepancy between their high and fast thinking skills and their slow and young fingers. Speech-to-text and text-to-speech software can help bridge the gap between thinking and writing speeds. In my opinion, all students, especially those whose thoughts run faster than their fingers, should have access to speech-to-text software.

Professionals in many fields have been using speech-to-text software for nearly two decades. Speech-to-text software allows students to use their voice to take notes as they read, and to use their voice to record thoughts in electronic form.

Imagine students freed from the burden of translating their thoughts into penmanship or keystrokes. I predict that in the future, speech-to-text systems will become the norm, not the exception, for the production of written content.

Even when students speak their thoughts, students need to proofread and edit their work. The advanced grammar-checking features of today’s word processing programs help with editing and proofreading chores.

Microsoft Word’s grammar-checking feature, for instance, allows users to select from five different writing styles (casual, standard, formal, technical, custom), and permits users to specify changes within each style, and offers corrective suggestions.

The grammar-checking feature serves as a rudimentary, sentence-level writing teacher.