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Computers in the Classroom:  What Does That Mean for Students with ADHD?

In K-12 and higher education, technology is all the rage.  However, there’s no secret that parents, teachers, policy makers, and students have disagreeing opinions on its potential benefits.  Add the fact that it can be a distraction and the table changes for students with ADHD.

Computers have the power to transform teaching through interconnectedness.  It can link teachers, students, and content resources through interactive processes.  The goal of these systems is to improve instruction and personalize learning.

This sounds great, but how does ADHD fit in?

  • Consider the possible disconnect of social interaction.
  • Understand that it can foster more cheating.
  • Can be more difficult to monitor behavior and inattentiveness.
  • Have less satisfaction with less direction/interaction with teacher.
  • Result in less than top-notch resources (more difficult to understand).

Research on students with ADHD using school-based technology is commonplace.  Findings vary.  It’s unified that there is significantly less frequent use for them compared to general ed and students with physical disabilities.  Uncertain is student-desired use.  Some contend that there is low satisfaction with computer use at school.  Home use remains desirable.  In contrast, some research shows that this group desires to use computers more often and for more activities.

Teachers play a major role in establishing a successful connection of students with ADHD and computers.  Lesson planning can be labor intensive, but it is to key to complex learning.

Technology provides both benefits and challenges.  It allows experimentation in multiple learning styles.  It provides countless resources for making activities more fun and effective instructional tools.  Its ability to automate tedious tasks improves inattentiveness.

We live in a digital world.  Speed is an expectation.  Computers in the classroom provide instant access to information that supplements their learning experience.  Through collaboration, they can learn life skills.  Oversight is critical.

  • Introduce tools explicitly, based on objectives and tasks.
  • Plan on procedures for collecting work by incorporating the needs of the individual and the group.
  • Give guidance on identifying proper resources and unreliable sources.
  • Encourage everyone’s ability to verbally communicate.
  • Respect personal and professional boundaries.

Inattentiveness and distractibility are major concerns when students with ADHD use computers for classwork.  They must understand that learning is the focus.  These skills must be eternalized.

  • Seat away from door and high-traffic areas (printer, teacher’s desk).
  • Allow physical activity breaks (stretching, mindfulness).
  • Write down instructions in small segments.
  • Form small groups to work in to encourage engagement.
  • Establish secret signals as a reminder when he/she is off task.

The pros and cons of using computers in the classroom are significant.  It is certain, however, that their presence is a constant.  The question is:  What can we do to improve learning outcomes for students with ADHD?

The answer lies in the hands of professionals.  Most importantly, what do teens and young adults with ADHD think about their role?  Occupational therapists should place more emphasis on how to enable them to use education technology in school.  Teachers should be included in the dialogue to provide their perspective.  Parental input should be welcome to the conversation as well.

What’s your love/hate relationship with computers?

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