Students in special education have strengths and weaknesses. Teachers who accommodate and modify instruction to meet student needs will have improved learning. Temple Grandin recognizes the need for accommodating learning based on student need. For example, she states students with Autism are often visual learners. They need engagement, topics of interest, art, and less reading and oral language. (TedTalk). Using technology aids in accelerating learning and developing skills by differentiating the learning, accommodating, modifying to reach every child.
Students of all abilities learn best when the subject is of interest to them, as well as the delivery method is engaging. We all can remember that “one teacher” in our childhood who was boring, monotone in delivery, and used lecture/study/paper exams to teach. Can you remember much of anything from that teacher other than trying to stay awake in the class? Research today cites evidence that facilitated learning, using technology in class, gamification, WebQuests and other interactive approaches to teaching is far more engaging and yields higher learning outcomes than lecture-based instruction. In Dr. Elana Treat’s class, she is doing just that. She uses technology to use gamification and differentiate the students’ learning. Students are so engaged in the learning that they continue to work on their assignments even on sick days. They are learning history, current events, science, math, reading, writing. They develop soft skills of problem-solving, teamwork, collaboration, communication, all within one topical study. (Hobgood, Ormsby). Not only is the teacher the facilitator of the student’s learning, she is teaching her students to take responsibility for their own learning. The students are engaged, they are learning at their ability level (whether gifted or special needs). These skills are all 21st-century skills that employers are looking for.
In addition to transforming the classroom using computers, Internet and gamification, assistive technology has improved the learning of more significant needs. E-readers, iPad apps, text through Bookshare, digital textbooks, Dragon Speak software and other assistive technology allows students the ability to learn and participate in the classroom. (Hayes). Online schools and online classes are also alternative learning opportunities. (Sabo). Google is a great resource for special education by using the voice typing in Google Drive documents or using the vast resources of add-in features to improve writing, research, and math. Students who once struggled with organizational skills now use Google calendar to keep track of due dates, Drive to save files on, complete and turn in homework. Some students use their phones or other scanning devices to upload their written homework to the Drive and then turn in their homework. Accessibility and ease of use is common with free to low-cost technology.
“Technology has made leaps in terms of bringing special education students into the general education classroom,” states Shannon McCord. (Locke). Students who once were segregated or unable to participate with peers are now excelling, have improved self-esteem and have skills which equalize them with their peers, all thanks to using the technology available to them. (O, Chris).
Hayes, H. (2013). How Technology Is Helping Special-Needs Students Excel. Website. Retrieved February 27, 2017. From: http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2013/03/how-technology-helping-special-needs-students-excel
Hobgood, B., Ormsby, L. ( n.d.) Inclusion in the 21st-century classroom: Differentiating with technology. Website. Retrieved February 27, 2017. From: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/every-learner/6776
Locke, (2014). ‘Bridging the Gap’: Technology in Special Education. Website. Retrieved February 27, 2017. From: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-11-26-bridging-the-gap-technology-in-special-education
O, Chris. (n.d.) Technology Benefits Special Education Classrooms – And Beyond. Website. Retrieved February 27, 2017. From: https://www.speechbuddy.com/blog/iep/technology-benefits-special-education-classrooms-and-beyond/
Sabo, R. (2013). Designing an education in the 21st century. Website. Retrieved: February 27, 2017. From: http://www.onlineschools.com/blog/designing-an-education-in-the-21st-century
TedTalk. (2013). The world needs all kinds of minds – Temple Grandin. Website. Retrieved February 27, 2017. From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKhg68QJlo0