Shifting demographics make language and literacy technology tools imperative.
GUEST COLUMN | by Nick Gaehde
Educational technology has transformed today’s schools and plays a critical role in classroom instruction, but to fully grasp the extent to which the industry has grown, one simply needs to look at the numbers: According to a recent projection by the Center for Digital Education, K-12 IT budgets will have increased another 3%, to $10.2B in 2015. The industry’s continued growth reflects the rapid changes in education in recent decades, most prominently an emphasis on personalized and blended learning.
Growing immigrant populations are driving the demand for technology solutions that engage not only students, but teachers, parents and communities.
Technology is clearly leaving a positive and long-lasting impact on education, enriching and engaging students’ learning environments and helping teachers do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Research supports these claims and shows the many benefits of technology, including enhancing literacy development, impacting language acquisition, providing greater access to information, supporting learning motivating students and enhancing self-esteem.
Sophisticated digital tools have become the backbone of personalized learning, and teachers increasingly are turning to technology to tailor instruction to students’ individual needs and strengths. By giving students a path to learning that is self-directed and self-paced, learning becomes more engaging and fun. In return, a culture of collaboration between students and teachers is cultivated, enabling teachers to better manage their time and to facilitate rather than dictate.
Ethnic diversity, globalized learning environments
As classrooms increasingly become more ethnically diverse and the world more globalized, the need for effective language and literacy solutions, in particular, has never been more imperative. Growing immigrant populations are driving the demand for technology solutions that engage not only students, but teachers, parents and communities. Digital language and literacy learning solutions both accelerate the learning of English-Language students and provide native English speakers with the opportunity to build global competency skills through world language acquisition. School leaders are fast realizing that such tools are no longer a luxury, but rather a necessary step to boost the competitiveness of their students.
Mooresville (NC) Graded School District (MGSD) and Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are two districts among the scores of innovative communities with whom we work to provide access to language learning they might not otherwise receive. Not only have these districts recognized the many benefits of early language acquisition and preparing students for success in today’s increasingly global and diverse marketplace, but they’ve implemented programs that are delivering results and making significant impact.
MGSD, a nationally recognized leader in digital learning, has implemented language learning modules for the 3,000 students in its five elementary and intermediate schools. Given limited resources, the district needed a cost-effective way to provide even its youngest learners the opportunity for exposure to a new language and give them the best preparation for the intense language instruction that awaits them in middle and high schools. The program they use not only affords students an opportunity to learn a new language both in school and at home, it also allows teachers to use this technology to personalize learning experiences, track learner data, monitor student progress and, ultimately, obtain better results for their students.
CPS, the third largest school district in Ohio, with an English-language learner (ELL) population that has grown more than 500 percent over the last five years, has used a grant from the state’s Straight A Fund to provide its 33,000 students and their parents, and more than 4,200 CPS employees access to English Language Learning and World Language Learning programs from my company. The partnership has helped to bridge linguistic differences, improve academic success and create cultural understanding among the district’s students, parents and employees.
Literacy skills, dramatic gains with the right technology
Similarly, educators in nearly 14,000 schools worldwide are using personalized instructional technology from our offerings to engage with more than two million students and dramatically accelerate reading skills development. Using real-time data to inform instruction, the program has consistently enabled students in grades pre-K–5 to reach higher levels of reading proficiency. Through the Kansas Reading Initiative, dramatic gains in reading were reached in the program’s first year, with the percentage of students meeting their grade-level benchmark increasing from 45 to 70 percent. Moreover, 99 percent of the more than 2,000 at-risk readers accelerated their reading skill acquisition by mastering at least one year of grade-level skills, and 87 percent advanced two or more grade levels.
These examples just touch the surface of how technological innovation is driving learning. Our objective is not unlike any school district with whom we work: to empower teachers and students by providing the most effective instructional tools possible so that every child—regardless of their background—is prepared for the challenges and opportunities that a global society presents.
As demographics continue to shift within school districts, and the importance of language and literacy skills increases, education technology will play an even greater role in affecting change in today’s classroom.
Nick Gaehde is the Senior Vice President of Rosetta Stone’s K-12 Education division and President of Lexia Learning, the company’s K-12 literacy and assessment division.