Though my sabbatical classes are over for the semester, I still have a lot of information to process and apply to our library program. I hope to post some of my presentations and other resources over the next couple months leading up to the back-to-school season.
My second class was called “Responding to Individual Learners,” and it was about personalizing online and face-to-face instruction for students, particularly students with special needs. The culminating project was to choose a characteristic/disability/trait to study, write a paper on a peer-reviewed research article, and then present the research findings to the class.
I chose to research how different online reading experiences affect learners with dyslexia. Through my research, I learned that it’s relatively easy and not very time-consuming to modify documents to make them easier to read. Furthermore, offering modified reading materials can help not only students with dyslexia, but also students with other reading disabilities or challenges.
From my research and the many resources I came across, The British Dyslexia Association’s Style Guide and other resources for educators was especially helpful, and they are worth checking out.
One of my takeaways from the research article was that I think more teachers would take the time to modify their reading assignments to make them more readable if they had a template to use. So I created one on Google Docs so teachers can copy and paste a text into it and share it with students as one reading option.
You can get your own template by clicking the image, then going to “File” and clicking “Make a copy” in the Google Docs menu.
Another takeaway from this project was that the technology we have today, even very simple PDF readers and ebook apps, often have some accessibility tools built-in. For instance, the apps I highlighted in my presentation allow student to change the background and text color of reading documents. As part of reading instruction at the beginning of the year, I think we should be teaching all students, not just our students with special needs, how to customize these tools to what works for them. Knowing how to “hack” their tech tools empowers students to take a more active role in their own education.
If you have a tip for accommodating reading assignments for students, or if you have a recommended app or program for online reading, please share it with us in the comments! And stay tuned for more research-based ideas and reflections from my Online Teaching classes. Happy summer!