The Power of Technology to Reach All Students

The most challenging aspect of teaching involves reaching all learners. In a given classroom of 20, 30, 40 or more students, I want and need to know what each student is thinking at every moment in order to be the best teacher possible. Yet with all that teachers are expected to do on a given day, true differentiated instruction is – and always has been – essentially impossible. Technology tools are often held up as the solution to this dilemma, but too often these tools merely simplify the presentation of material or collect small bits of student data during class. These technology uses enhance current teaching practices, but fall short of continually capturing information about a child’s understanding at critical points of thinking and transfer. At DreamBox, we provide classroom teachers not only with data on student understanding and performance, but also with learning software that engages students, intelligently adapts to provide a differentiated experience for each child, and teaches rigorous mathematics. We know achievement gaps still exist. We believe our technology is a partner with teachers working to close those gaps. To fix the education crisis, we have to think differently about reaching all students. And we have to think differently about how new technologies can be a key factor in accomplishing this goal.

As a classroom teacher, I realize that more data would be useful for instructional planning, communicating with parents, and helping students set their own goals. But too often, assessments simply confirm what I already know – for example, that a fourth grade student doesn’t understand second grade math content. I don’t have time or opportunity to go back to those foundational number concepts; and with education funding cuts, my school may not have enough resource teachers to work with this student outside of class. Similarly, many data reports may confirm that another fourth grader is really doing math at a sixth grade level. The schedule and resources available in the school are rarely adequate to meet this student’s needs on a daily basis either. The power of an intelligent, adaptive learning technology is the ability to differentiate learning support for every fourth grader: those working at grade levels above or below as well as every child in-between. Our technology represents a radical transformation in how students learn. By weaving an adaptive learning environment into the curriculum and classroom structure, we can drastically improve student learning, close achievement gaps, and adapt uniquely to individual students, each of whom will at some point encounter a learning challenge.

In the end, what every classroom teacher really needs is a tool that is proven to actively and directly foster learning for every single student. If more accessible textbooks and lectures were the key to closing achievement gaps, the education crisis would have been solved long ago. I need software that adapts to each student just as I would – moment by moment – observing what the child is thinking, how she is approaching the problem and analyzing the strategies she uses in order to make a pedagogical decision about where to go next. I want software that doesn’t replace me entirely – I know that’s impossible – but it should meet students where they are when I’m not able to get to them.

At DreamBox, we provide teachers and students with technology that makes this learning support a reality. We don’t expect to replace teachers; our technology enhances what teachers are trying to accomplish with each student. When teachers can’t be there individually for a student at the point of learning, they can trust that DreamBox will be a trustworthy partner for ensuring that student will experience success.

Tim Hudson

VP of Learning for DreamBox Learning, Inc., Hudson is a learning innovator and education leader who frequently writes and speaks about learning, education, and technology. Prior to joining DreamBox, Hudson spent more than 10 years working in public education, first as a high school mathematics teacher and then as the K–12 Math Curriculum Coordinator for the Parkway School District, a K–12 district of over 17,000 students in suburban St. Louis. While at Parkway, Hudson helped facilitate the district’s long-range strategic planning efforts and was responsible for new teacher induction, curriculum writing, and the evaluation of both print and digital educational resources. Hudson has spoken at national conferences such as ASCD, SXSWedu, and iNACOL.