The current global situation has added a new context to a bevy of words already existing in our working vocabulary – Zoom, Drive, Virtual, Work (and study) from home!
The rising gravity of the pandemic and ensuing nationwide lockdowns forced lakhs of educational institutions the world over – kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities to shut their doors for the safety of staff and students alike. We were faced with a stark reality – education, as a basic human right, must go on, no matter what. The question was how?
The answer lies beyond the physical realm of institutions – suddenly living rooms, bedrooms, even kitchens have adorned the role of classrooms on both sides of the screen. Digitalization has now taken centrestage.
What is digitalization of education?
Digitalization in education is the use of digital technology, including computers, mobile devices, the Internet and software applications to teach students. Although E-learning has existed for many decades, this is the first time it is the universal mode for imparting education globally. But how has digitalization of education impacted children with learning disabilities? Turns out, there are many benefits:
Online programs free students with learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or visual processing disorders from time pressure, aural or visual overstimulation and distractions. Students have the flexibility to map study times according to fluctuations in receptivity and can complete work assigned at a time when they are most productive.
Students can manipulate digital text to process information (e.g. font style or size), review materials and watch videos of lectures as many times as they need.
Digitalized information can be presented in multiple ways. A reading assignment also available as an audio file gives students the flexibility to read or hear the information and review it often. Online classes provide interactive study media like visuals, graphics and videos. Virtual Reality tools can be used to help students interact directly with study material. Augmented Reality helps teachers in explaining and performing tasks.
This includes any software, equipment/ technology that enables students to have an education tailored to their needs. Some tools include:
Phonetic Spelling Software
Digitalized education offers flexibility, convenience and variety. Various assistive devices and applications help students access information in formats suiting their needs.
However, the other side of the coin cannot be ignored. Some points to be borne in mind regarding potential drawbacks of digitalization:
It is paramount for success in any academic endeavour, especially online learning for students with learning disabilities. Myriads of apps are available for those who need to stay on track, from nuanced calendars to innovative note taking technology. These are vital for students with ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities as well as autism. Productivity apps are especially great because they can be shared across platforms and with other users.
All relationships, including academic ones, depend on communication. With online education, we have to work harder to build and maintain relationships with peers and faculty. Instructors might miss the cues of students needing support. The role of parents, particularly for younger children, assumes greater importance in helping to bridge this gap by regularly communicating with teachers.
Screen time regulation:
This is another implication of digitalized education. Suddenly, the average daily screen time has surged well beyond what is considered permissible. Thus, striking that balance by taking adequate breaks becomes essential to assuage the ill-effects of excessive screen time.
Digitalization is highly beneficial for all students, including those with learning disabilities. Education tools can be customized as per the student’s capability, interest and understanding.
Given the uncertainty of the duration of staying home as a safety mandate, it is no longer a matter of whether digitalization works for students with learning disabilities, rather how best to achieve that end, so our current generation of learners continues to do just that: learn. After all, if necessity is the mother of invention, then imagination is the father of creativity!