Facilitated Learning and Garnering Interest in Learning Using Technology for Special Education

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



The Teacher’s Role in the Culturally Responsive Classroom

Module 1 Writing Assignment /Culturally Responsive Instruction

The Teacher’s Role in the Culturally Responsive Classroom

joyce m

Teachers have an important role to play in the development of the lives of their students. Not only are they teaching academic rigor, they also are teaching social expectations, affecting attitudes and mindsets of their students. This role also includes teaching respect and awareness when it comes to social, racial, cultural and economic differences.

Students come to school with their own worldview. They see things from their own experiences, cultural norms and expectations. History has already made it’s footprint upon the life of the student. The student may not even recognize that footprint exists. However, the historical (recent or even generational) imprint affects expectations and thinking patterns due to race, culture, poverty. It affects the way the student sees the world around him as well as how others think of him. Experiences affirm what he knows about himself and his world or affects how others see him.


These cultural norms also affect how students learn. For example, in African-American cultures, developing a relationship with the student is imperative before the student learns academically with the teacher. Direct eye contact with a person in authority is considered disrespectful in some cultures, whereas it is expected in most classrooms. In some cultures, a student is to sit quietly and be obedient, as compared to African-Americans who are louder and more boisterous. In the first example, a teacher may find the student withdrawn and in the other the student to be a troublemaker. The effective teacher learns what the cultural norms are with her students. She not only teaches flexibility to her students, she too learns to be flexible. Students need to develop the ability to move between their primary culture as well as the dominant culture. (Tileston, Darling 2008). The teacher facilitates the student learning that ability, by teaching how to function in the dominant culture (language, social expectations, academically), while acknowledging and valuing the primary culture.

There are many cultures to take in to consideration. Not only are there race and nationality differences, but also that of poverty. There is economic poverty but also deficit thinking, learned helplessness and low achievement. The teacher’s role is to assist the student in overcoming these obstacles and create an environment which promotes success. Failure is not an option. The teacher can model how to deal with mistakes and failures. By encouraging attempts, teaching how to learn from mistakes, possibly even learning to laugh at mistakes, the student learns how to grow emotionally.  There is so much a teacher can do to help her students be successful whether in economic poverty or emotional. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2r55tAOXAc)

Collectivism is highly valued in a majority of the world population. The values of the family unit such as obligation, duty, tradition, harmony, family integrity and interdependence is considered more important than that of the individual in these cultures. (Tileston, Darling 2008). Americans highly value individualistic traits and therefore, teachers may not consider this mindset when planning lessons. However, this is an important belief system for teachers to take into consideration when working with students of other cultures as it affects the student’s thinking and practices within the classroom.  Teachers can support the student by implementing strategies which encourage students according to their cultural mindset. These strategies may include cooperative learning, affirmation,  inquiry-based projects and group discussions. Individualist vs. Collectivist Cultures

Vocabulary is another area that needs to be addressed when working with diverse cultures and children in poverty. Students coming from other countries, especially ELL students, will not have the vocabulary foundation necessary to understand tasks assigned. Even students who have been in the country for some time and have developed conversational English understanding may continue to have challenges with academic language, especially in middle to high school years. Pre-teaching vocabulary is crucial. It is important to be proactive and not assume all students understand the vocabulary presented. This is also true for students who live in poverty. According to a study by Hart and Risley in the 1960’s, on average, children from welfare homes had less than one-third the vocabulary as that of a child in a professional home. (The Early Catastrophe Article).

Culture is extremely important to most people. It is where we come from, our home, our roots. It is where we are accepted and affirmed. These cultures differ by traditions, practices, and belief systems. The cultural differences can either divide or enrich the lives of students. Teachers have the wonderful opportunity to enrich the lives of the students by teaching cultural understanding in the classroom. Students can share their language, talk about their traditions with their peers, compare and contrast holiday traditions. This allows the teacher to teach relationship building skills, flexibility, caring, open dialogue.  One of the most exciting examples I have seen recently is a middle school assignment called, “Write Your Story.” In the assignment, the students are given a lengthy time to basically build their own family tree. They write and present to the class who they are, where they come from, share traditions, stories of family members and create presentations in which to share their story with their peers. This assignment has allowed students to delve deeper into their family history and affirmed their story as well as their culture. It also allows opportunities for others to learn more about the culture of their peers.

The teacher’s role in a culturally responsive classroom has no place for prejudice towards racial differences, cultural differences, poverty, stereotypes, learned helplessness, or deficit thinking. Instead, her role is to create a classroom where differences are appreciated, and culture is honored. Students who live in poverty have hope and are supported. Students are expected to participate, learn and grow. There is no room for failure, meanness or hate. The teacher envisions their student successful and dreams are fulfilled. Teachers cannot change the world, but they can change one life at a time.

Additional video clip resources can be found at Edutopia: Five-Minute Film Festival: Culturally Responsive Teaching



Five-Minute Film Festival: Culturally Responsive Teaching. (2014, September 26). Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-minute-film-festival-culturally-responsive-teachingGay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Individualist vs. Collectivist Cultures. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkUVe6KzAJU

Poverty in the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2r55tAOXAcThe Early Catastrophy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.aft.org//sites/default/files/periodicals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf

The Early Catastrophy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.aft.org//sites/default/files/periodicals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf

Tileston, D. W., & Darling, S. K. (2008). Why culture counts: Teaching children of poverty. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.


Roasted Vegetables with Marinated Pork Steak

A friend from work asked me to start posting my recipes when I put this photo on Facebook this last week, which prompted me to begin blogging. I received a lot of complements from it. It’s a simple go-to recipe I created a few years ago that is filling, inexpensive and tasty.

Roasted Vegetables with Pork Steak

 If you want to make this you can add any of the ingredients I mention or add/delete as you like. I vary this recipe all the time.

This only takes about 30 minutes to make it, so it’ll be a quick, hearty meal after a long hard day of work.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

Roasted Vegetable Ingredients:

1-2 potatoes per person, cubed

1 zucchini, sliced per 2 people

1/2 red or white onion, cubed per 2 people

1/3 each red and green peppers, cubed

1/3 container of Portabella mushrooms, sliced per 2 people

Olive oil

Seasoning salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Celery salt


Pork Ingredients:

1 pork steak per person

1/2 cup marinade (I used a marinade from my local meat market. Just use your favorite kind.)

Put the steaks in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over it.

Prepare the vegetables. as mentioned above. Keep each vegetable separate from each other. Put the potatoes in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil to lightly coat. Lightly sprinkle the potatoes with seasoning salt, pepper, celery salt and paprika. (Sometimes I sprinkle with garlic powder as well).

Put the pork in a shallow dish (I usually use a cake pan or pie pan dish for the two of us).  Put the pork in the oven. 

Put the potatoes on a sprayed cookie sheet on a single layer and bake for 15 minutes, turning once at about 10 minutes in.

After 15 minutes have passed flip the pork steaks and return them to the oven. Pull the cookie sheet with the potatoes out of the oven, toss the potatoes and push off to one side of the cookie sheet. In the bowl you used for the potatoes, pour the rest of the vegetables in, drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle the seasonings on. Lay the vegetables in a single layer on the other half of the cookie sheet and return it to the oven. Set the timer for another 15 minutes.

At the 30 minute mark, the roasted vegetables and pork should be done. Test the potatoes and pork for doneness and remove from the oven if done. If not, it should only take another 5-10 more depending on how small or large your cuts are.

As seen in the photo, I mixed the vegetables together and lay it on as a base to the dish, then sliced the pork steak and served on top.