Teachers hate to throw anything away because you never know when something might come in handy. 

With the advent of AI, it’s tempting to toss out some of our old ways of crafting strategies and generating lessons. However, we must use every technology necessary and available to make learning possible – and we can’t overlook the value of old technologies! 

Back in 2015, I had a reluctant writer named Carlos. He loved to read, but when it came time to face a blank page, he froze. Halfway through the year, we were reading Dear Mr. Henshaw, which everyone enjoyed, but when I asked the class to write about their favorite part, Carlos once again froze.  

I asked him to stay in at recess, which probably made him think he was in trouble. But I had an idea. 

When he walked over to my desk, I opened my new iPad and clicked on Dragon Dictation – a very old software. After dramatically tossing a piece of paper in my basket, I asked him to tell me about his favorite part of the book. After enthusiastically telling me, I tapped my screen a couple of times, and then asked him to read what was on the screen. “That’s what I just said!” he marveled. I told him that’s all I wanted him to do – write like he talks. That’s when I saw the look of understanding on his face as he made the connection.  

Because of my ah-ha moment with Carlos, I now teach students how to use dictation features to improve their writing. 

Student working at computerIn my last year’s Fifth grade class, I had a delightful blind student named Angelina. She had only 17% vision in one eye, and that was   slowly deteriorating so that eventually she would be completely blind. She loved using technology – what kid doesn’t? But her big IEP goal was learning to read Braille. Our curriculum was not available in Braille, so she always had to read different texts than the rest of the class, making her feel even more isolated. 

BraillerWhen I discovered that her aide had been quietly learning how to type braille to better help Angelina, I came up with a plan. We combined the 75-year-old Brailler technology with Reading Progress, Microsoft’s new AI technology that tracks reading fluency.  

By combining old and new technologies, we were able to measure Angelina’s fluency through her fingers, not her eyes.  

What couldn’t be measured was the joy she felt at being included in the same lessons and the same technologies as her friends. 

Written by the Tech-Savvy Online Educator

Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., STEM


Tammy Dunbar5th Grade Online Academy Educator

Manteca Unified School District

MIEE Master Teacher Trainer

Fulbright Fellow & CA Woman of the Year


NCCE Professional Learning Specialist

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