Blended learning has seen a boom in K-12 classrooms over the past couple of years. Some districts struggled with adopting the appropriate tools when they needed them, but with the benefits of blended learning becoming more and more apparent, education leaders continue to look for the right long-term solutions.
When it comes to bringing technology into the classroom, it’s important to understand different students’ needs. Early learners, for example, will face different challenges than older students when it comes to ed tech tools. For younger students in particular, it’s crucial to ensure the ones they’re equipped with are easy to use and understand. The benefits of these tools are many: They can be used to find and bridge learning gaps, make learning more available outside the classroom and accommodate families who have less conventional schedules.
Making Tech-Enhanced Learning Available for Little Learners
Making ed tech tools more accessible to early learners starts with choosing the right ones for your district. The right learning management system (LMS) should include a suite of accessibility features that make blended learning an effective choice for learners of all ages, from kindergarteners to high school seniors.
Inclusive design principles ensure that all products can be used by anyone from the outset. Below are a few features designed specifically to include, empower and engage younger learners in the blended classroom.
Intuitive, Icon-Based Navigation
Many students can use ed tech tools before they can even read. The tools that serve a kindergartener can obviously differ from those that an older student uses, but they may share commonalities that make both tools effective.
Take the Portfolio tool, which lets students capture photos of their favorite projects and assignments to reflect on later. Funster Mode removes several barriers that younger learners would face. Rather than entering a username and password, they scan a QR code. A camera icon on a button directs them to take the photo without written instructions, while voice prompts tell them what to do next. This intuitive, icon-based navigation system uses simple language to ensure that non-readers can still reap the benefits of a digital portfolio.
Involving Parents and Guardians
Different family and home dynamics can present challenges for all students, including younger learners. Ed tech tools can often be used asynchronously, which is great for families in which parents or guardians work irregular hours or do shift work. With asynchronous learning, these parents can help their child with their schoolwork and engage in their learning whenever they have the time.
The Parent & Guardian tool also helps parents keep up to date on their child’s progress. This allows for more specific conversations about learning, rather than the open-ended “How was school?” The tool can be accessed at any time, meaning that parents can engage in their child’s learning no matter what challenges their work or home schedule would otherwise present.
Personalized Learning Opportunities
A blended learning environment often presents opportunities to personalize a student’s learning. An LMS can help teachers personalize things like pace for students who require a little bit more time to master a concept. This means that all young learners get to reach the same baseline before classes move on. This ensures that even younger students in the same class don’t fall behind—after all, an 11-month age difference in the early years can be significant.
Depending on who you ask, ed tech tools are not strictly necessary for personalized learning, but they can certainly make implementing it easier by freeing up teachers’ time. Students are individuals who have their own unique needs. When learning can adapt to those needs, students are empowered to achieve their learning goals in ways that interest them, no matter how old they may be.
Built-in Accessibility Tools
In addition to removing barriers for early learners in general, built-in accessibility tools can equalize access to an LMS for all students. These tools can include automatic closed captioning, high-contrast requirements for readability and accessibility checkers that ensure written content is screen reader-compatible.
These tools ensure that all learners, including those of an early age, can access the highest quality education using the best tools available. Investing in the right set of tools that can accommodate all students—no matter their age, abilities, home dynamics or pace—is key to ensuring that learners can reach their full potential.
Learn More About the Benefits of Ed Tech Tools
Ed tech tools can offer a crucial added benefit: increasing digital literacy from a young age, helping to ensure a digitally literate next generation.
Chase Banger is a Content Marketing Specialist at D2L. An award-winning journalist and former communications specialist, he has a passion for helping people through education.
Stay in the know
Educators and training pros get our insights, tips, and best practices delivered monthly