Apple’s iPad can improve the accessibility of content for students; here’s how

ipad-tabletOne of the signature findings of the cognitive revolution of mind, brain and education research over the last few decades has been the overwhelming recognition of the tremendous diversity of human brains. In our population of students, there is a stunning variety of talents and capacities, and some of our peculiarities are both great strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, an incredibly high proportion of the world’s leading astrophysicists are dyslexic. As it turns out, in the complex architecture of the brain-eye connection, some of us have very strong central vision, while others have very strong peripheral vision. Those with strong peripheral vision often have trouble with dyslexia, slowed down by the distraction of words scattered all over a page. However, this strong peripheral vision is a critical asset in finding patterns in wavelength images, which happens to be the core competency of astrophysicists.

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Despite the great diversity in our capacities, our curriculum materials often are narrowly constructed, with a focus on static text. Some advocates have gone so far as to call the curriculum “print disabled”—incapable of supporting learning from people who struggle with decoding print. Note the important shift there: It is not the child who is disabled; it is the published materials that are incapable of doing their job of supporting learning.

(Next page: A tablet’s impact)