My first take on ‘special needs’ is: Don’t all students have special needs? Aren’t we beyond the cookie cutter education that lines students up and feeds them from the same trough?
Yes and yes, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to reign my pen in and discuss what we traditionally consider ‘special needs’ and technology’s affect on those students who function outside of the normal bell curve of pedagogic expectations.
Technology is the great equalizer between standard education and the 1:1 approach required by students with special circumstances. It’s an embarrassment to our profession that learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, autism, ADHD are chronically under-served when the tools that can seamlessly supply personal attention–the iPads and netbooks and apps and software and widgets that can be the key to unlocking physical, mental, and psychological potential–if only they were used. With nominal training and the technology, teachers can differentiate instruction to serve students with a wide range of abilities and needs. Best practices include oral tools like Siri for those who have difficulty writing, audio tools to make teacher directions more available to the hearing-challenged, art programs that allow students to communicate ideas as their brains see them, widgets that facilitate sharing thoughts via other media than text (think art and music and poetry), translation programs that make material accessible quickly and easily to non-native speakers, and the differentiated instruction available through sites such as Khan Academy.
Here are four foundational links to understanding special needs and technology:
- Here’s an article on iPads and visually-impaired students
- Here’s another on Special Ed iPads apps for reading and writing
- Here’s Internet4Classroom’s list of resources for Exceptional Children
- Here’s Jeannette Van Houten’s iEvaluate Apps for Special Needs–a checklist for evaluating apps for special needs students
If your school budget allows for only a limited number of apps and programs this year, choose the ones that will fill out your special needs collections. Here are some wonderful apps/websites to use with your special needs students:
- Babakus–a math app for students with dyscalculia or math disability
- One-handed keyboard--a standard desktop keyboard that allows those with limited or no use of one hand to continue typing
- Five-finger typist–self-paced typing exercises for the one-handed
- iPads for autism–the phenomenal impact of the iPad on communication abilities of the autistic.
- Speech and language apps from Mobile Education Store–apps to assist children with higher function autism
- How to make your own assistive technology devices
- iPads and Special Education–a very detailed list of a variety of apps from all different subjects.
How do you accommodate the special needs of your students in your classroom?
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for Examiner.com, featured blogger for Technology in Education, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.