When planning to teach literacy with ICT, it is important to understand that differentiated instruction is one of the key characteristics of an effective literacy-technology integration learning environment.
It is what drives meaningful, purpose-driven instruction. According to Watts-Taffe & Gwinn (2007, p. 27), the goals of technology integration in literacy should be aligned with the following knowledgebase:
- What we know about the development of skills related to paper-and-pencil literacy.
- What you know about the specific needs of learners in a classroom, balanced with their specific strengths and current competencies.
- What we are learning both collectively as a field and individually in each of our classrooms, about the skills and strategies of the new literacies.
Differentiated instruction in literacy lessons is one such approach intended to meet the individual learning needs of all learners as they engage in literacy-related learning experiences with technology. These teaching strategies are not just for struggling students who have trouble reading and writing. All students benefit from differentiated instruction as it builds on their strengths and interest in order to maximise their learning.
For example, the Internet and other ICTs can provide much support for teachers and students by opening up the door for learning experiences specific to the needs and interests of individual students.
It is critical that your expectations of academic performance remains high and that the type of differentiated instruction that you provide promotes a high level of academic performance. The misconception that differentiated instruction means ‘watered-down’ instruction for those who are struggling or at risk, will result in these students falling behind their peers in their academic performance.
You can avoid this by including all students including struggling readers, English language learners, those who speak nonstandard dialects of English, in the development of higher order strategies.
Another way could be for you to identify specific areas of strengths and weaknesses related to reading and writing, instead of just assuming that a student with difficulties struggles with all aspects of literacy.
Lastly, provide all students with equal access to technology regardless of their current level of literacy achievement.
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