Thanks to numerous technological advances over the past couple of decades, the educational landscape looks a whole lot different from how it did when we went to school! Students are now able to connect with their lessons in ways they never could before, and teachers are able to reach more students in their class with high-tech materials tailored to their individual learning needs. With amazing new technology changing the face of education, the possibilities are limitless!
This is especially true for teachers of students with special needs, as they now have the available resources and technology to create custom school programming that provides the best fit for each unique learning style. Here are some of the most innovative and effective ways technology is currently being used in special education programs across the country.
Voice Response Software
For students who are unable to write or type due to physical or cognitive limitations, voice response software programs are an ideal way to complete class assignments, write essays, and more. Using talk-to-text technology like the kind you find on your smartphone, special education students are able to speak into the microphones of their headsets and have their speech translated to words on the computer screen. A number of educational software programs are now being designed to challenge students at a variety of grade levels in reading, math, science, social studies and so much more, ensuring that every child receives the same opportunities to learn and succeed!
Headsets with microphones, which can also be used for video chats, gaming, and listening to audio or video content, allow special education students to access the voice response features of educational software, as well as use the talk-to-text feature on a basic word processing platform such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. This can come in especially handy for students who need a hands-free way of writing a story, poem, essay, or research paper.
After the events of 2020 and the subsequent need for online meetings and school sessions, we all know what a webcam is and how to use it! It’s hard to believe that something so ingrained in our modern culture and such a large part of our everyday lives seemed like a foreign concept to us just ten years ago, but it’s true! Though web cameras were first invented in 1991, it has taken decades for them to enter the mainstream like they have in recent years. In fact, some computer models still don’t include built-in webcams in their monitors. Whether a webcam is a standard feature on your computer or an external add-on part, it’s essential for connecting with people via videoconferencing software.
As we’ve learned this year, webcams can also be a highly valuable computer accessory for remote classroom learning. Numerous families found themselves in need of webcams after the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, as schools nationwide closed their doors and pivoted to an online-only format. While webcams are a necessity for remote learning in all its forms, special education students receive extra benefit from this technology, as it allows speech therapists and other teachers to work with children and teens in need of extra verbal practice without having to meet in person.
For some children, teens, and adults, the world can be just too loud sometimes! Noisy environments can cause people with heightened auditory sensitivities to lose focus and the ability to concentrate on tasks and assignments.
Fortunately, protective earmuffs have been developed to combat this issue and allow people with heightened auditory sensitivities to free themselves from distractions caused by the outside world. These comfortable hearing protectors work to minimize external noise and help students maintain focus.
Move over, chalkboards! There’s a new way for teachers to share information with their students in a highly-visible space. Interactive whiteboards go beyond the capabilities of the traditional classroom blackboard to create a collaborative work environment for all members of a group. Portable devices like BoardShare allow teachers to transform any hard surface or TV into a virtual whiteboard where they can create and share notes, documents, presentations and more in real time!
Special education students are able to collaborate with their teachers and fellow classmates using an array of virtual pens, erasers, highlighters, and colors to express themselves and work on projects. The BoardShare interactive whiteboard tool integrates seamlessly with educational software, so teachers can develop fun, personalized assignments for their students based on their grade level, interests, and needs.
OK, so we’ve got all these incredible new devices, but how are we going to find a highly-accessible, portable way to keep them all charged up and ready to go? Look no further than one of the most practical innovations in classroom technology- a charging cart. For schools that are sharing a limited number of devices such as tablets or Chromebooks, logistics can be a big problem. Charging carts allow teachers to easily roll a class set of laptops or tablets from one classroom to another, allowing all students to get a turn to work with the devices for assignments. It sounds simple, but it can make all the difference when it comes to ensuring that each student gets an opportunity to learn through technology. While this is important for all students, it’s especially essential that kids and teens in special education programs get the chance to learn through interactive educational software accessed online. Charging carts help give that chance to all students fairly and conveniently, no matter how limited a school’s laptop or tablet resources may be.
As technology continues to advance and improve, we will be seeing even more impressive gadgets and devices designed to make teaching easier and more fun. Students and teachers alike will benefit from all the cutting-edge advances as we move into the future of special education. It’s an exciting time to be a teacher or a school-age student, and we can’t wait to see what’s next as technology continues to unlock new possibilities in the educational arena.