How edtech allows teachers to leave one-size-fits-all education behind

An important way to personalize learning is by allowing students to self-pace and remove distractions.
Michelle Manning
Michelle Manning
Michelle Manning lives and works on Long Island, New York, and has worked in education for over 30 years, the last four as an instructional technology integration specialist. She is a certified Google Trainer, Google Coach, Kami Hero, and in addition to being a certified educator, an ambassador for many edtech companies.

I remember the tale of a wife preparing a roast for Christmas dinner and she cut it in half before putting it in the oven. Her husband asked her why she always cut the roast first. She replied that that’s how her mother did it. That night at Christmas dinner, the wife asked her mother why she cut the roast first and she explained that when she was first married, she had to cut it so that it would fit in the small, antique oven.

So often we ask our students to complete assignments a certain way simply because that’s how we did it, but we must realize that education is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Now is the time to start utilizing the vast technologies available at our fingertips (pun intended) because each student is diverse, unique and learns differently than their peers. Technology provides opportunities to personalize learning and digital tools offer options for students to engage and show what they know.

Classroom engagement is a concern among teachers and students. According to the 2023 Gradient Learning Poll, 80% of teachers report that they are concerned about their students’ engagement in classroom-based learning. An alarming 50% of students shared with the 2021–22 Speak Up Research Project that they aren’t engaged in what they are learning in school most of the time.

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As educators, we’re often concerned with students’ excessive screen time and digital consumption but it’s important to remember that technology can also be a powerful tool for creativity and expression. The growing number of digital education tools, like Kami, provides students with the right set of circumstances to amplify accessibility to lessons, activities and assessments. In addition, educational technology provides students with options to show what they know.

For example, some students might be more comfortable writing an essay describing the layers of the rainforest. However, others might excel at making a movie, verbally and visually communicating that information. With technology, both students are afforded the opportunity to show what they know despite using different modalities.

Think about how students react when you tell them to take out a piece of paper and a pen—I know you can mentally hear the moans and see the eyes roll. Students literally cheer when I show them how they can use interactive activities, make digital books, make their own movies or record their presentations.

End of the one-size-fits-all era

As an instructional technology integration specialist, I’ve shown students different educational technology tools that are available to them, and students are so excited to try something new. More importantly, they are motivated when they realize some of their obstacles have been removed and they have the opportunity to excel and be successful in that content area.

Previously, reading or writing obstacles might have hindered their effectiveness in demonstrating their knowledge on ancient Egypt or the water cycle. Now students can leverage technology to engage with the assignment and shine. It’s all about providing options for students to express what they’ve learned so that they are engaged and active in the learning process.

We all know students get excited when they find out they are going to watch a movie in class, but one size doesn’t fit all. Now, students can watch a video independently, eliminating background noise and distractions. They also have the option for subtitles and can self-pace and rewind the video if they missed or didn’t understand something.

A one-size-fits-all approach to education isn’t beneficial to students. Having so many educational and instructional technology options readily available and easily accessible allows teachers to personalize learning and meet the individual needs of their students to increase student engagement and success.

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