How Trident Academy uses technology and other methods to help students overcome their learning challenges
Most K-12 private schools strive to keep their students through their graduation at the end of the twelfth grade. At Trident Academy in Mount Pleasant, the goal for many students is eventually to move onward from the school and succeed elsewhere in a more traditional educational environment. Embracing assistive technology in certain situations is one way the staff at Trident makes that happen. “Not every situation demands technology. We use it judiciously when it enhances the student’s learning,” according to Trident’s Director of Educational Technology, Kyle Brown.
Trident’s 61 students in kindergarten through 12th grade attend the school specifically because they are dealing with some type of diagnosed learning difference such as dyslexia or dysgraphia. Brown points out that the traditional schools they attended before Trident frequently had neither the appropriate resources nor teachers who were trained to serve their needs. Trident’s teachers are trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach, which is considered to be the gold standard for teaching students to be stronger readers, writers, and spellers.
“Our goal is to supply them with the skills they need to return to a traditional school, usually in three to five years,” Brown says, adding that some students thrive at Trident and prefer to stay there until they graduate from high school.
Though technology is not the most important aspect of helping students succeed at Trident Academy, it is a vital part of their success. For example, each of them has a Chromebook with built-in text-to-voice software that can take over when students lose focus, a common problem for people with dyslexia. Once they stop reading, it’s difficult for them to start again.
“We would rather the students continue with the computer reading to them until they can find their focus again,” Brown says. “We let the computer do some of the work until they are ready to pick up the work themselves. This is much better than for a student just to give up.”
The same is true for the computer’s voice-to-text capabilities. If students begin to lose focus, they can stop writing, start talking, and let the computer do the typing.
Trident Academy students also benefit from software including Read Naturally and Lexercise, both of which are aimed at enhancing reading and writing skills. Lexercise, which is based on the principles of the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching, provides multimedia lessons and practice games that track students’ progress. In addition, the TextHelp applications used at Trident help students understand unfamiliar words, handle research assignments, turn static PDF files into interactive worksheets, and improve their writing skills.
Even students in Trident’s lower elementary grades are free to learn through experimenting with their computers in their free time outside of teacher lessons, because even informal exploration with programs like drawing apps and read-along programs can teach students a lot. While much of the daily work is not on a digital platform at this age, even some of Trident’s youngest students are becoming proficient with various assistive programs.
“In the fourth grade or so, our students start to use their computers more often for research, math, and reading activities. Sometimes they learn even though they don’t realize they’re learning, because they are so engaged,” Brown says.
He adds that Trident students don’t spend all their time with technology. He says there are occasions when a hands-on project might not require a computer. For instance, a large area known as The Makerspace offers resources such as paper, clay, glue, 3D printers, laser etchers, and video creation – “all the fun stuff,” Brown says.
Technology is an important part of why students reach their potential at Trident Academy, but, according to Brown, it’s not the most important part.
“I’ve never seen another school like Trident Academy,” he says. “It’s not just the devotion of the teachers and the camaraderie of the students. This school has such a focused and specific goal. The whole idea is that we can teach them that the issues they have are no longer detriments. They are just differences, and sometimes even advantages.”
To learn more about how Trident Academy can help your child survive and thrive despite issues such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and ADHD, visit https://tridentacademy.com/ or call 843-884-7046.