It’s an extraordinary time to be alive. Technologies we could not have even dreamed just 50 years ago are now commonplace, everyday parts of our lives. The advances we’ve made in technology are helping us achieve more in virtually every industry, including education. Thanks to the technology we now have available in our classrooms, teachers are able to reach their students on a personalized level, giving them the tools and resources to meet their unique needs and circumstances so that they can attain a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
Because technology plays an integral role in helping students learn on their own terms, working to meet them halfway and fulfill their individual learning needs, it is making especially large strides in special education. Students with special needs now have the available technology to help them overcome any challenges and roadblocks that may have derailed them from learning in the past, and their teachers now have a greater ability to tailor lessons to each student’s personalized learning style than ever before. Let’s take a look at some of the top technology essentials for special education teachers to have in their classroom.
Once the stuff of sci-fi novels and movies, artificial intelligence, or AI, is now a mainstream part of our daily lives. Much of what we do in a typical day utilizes AI, from asking Alexa for the weather to communicating with a virtual customer service representative on a banking app. AI helps make life easier in numerous ways, and education is no exception.
In the education world, AI is playing an important role in screening students for learning differences, giving teachers key information about how each child learns best. One real-world example is mCLASS, an edutech tool from Amplify that uses AI to assess students’ reading skills to test for dyslexia. Powered by DIBELS, a trusted and proven reading assessment and intervention tool used by teachers for decades, mCLASS helps pinpoint students with dyslexia early so they can begin receiving specialized instruction sooner.
Babynoggin, another AI-based screening and intervention tool, uses a mobile app to screen children for developmental delays in different areas, including motor skills, social-emotional abilities, language skills, cognitive processing and more to provide early detection of learning differences. While the Babynoggin tool cannot make a diagnosis, it can give trained professionals the information and data they need to efficiently diagnose any special needs and get the child on an individualized learning program sooner rather than later.
Using AI-based software to assess a student for learning differences can go a long way toward helping them receive the personalized education they need. Best of all, the use of these tools is simple and efficient, requiring only the program itself and a quality headset for completing the screening activities. By purchasing bulk headphones or headsets and licensing an AI-based assessment and intervention software on multiple computer workstations, you can effectively screen an entire class of students at once.
One of the greatest advances that has been made is increased accessibility that gives students of all abilities an opportunity to use technology to learn. This may include incorporating a screen reader and integrating programming languages designed to read code aloud for visually-impaired students or making a platform more friendly for students who are unable to operate a mouse.
One company, Bootstrap, has developed a computer science curricular module that uses the above technologies for math and physics students with special needs. By designing accessible software, they are giving special-needs students the opportunity to learn and understand key principles and gain necessary practice and experience in coding, math and more, which will eventually lead to increased inclusivity in the computer science field.
The inclusion of Bootstrap and other similar accessible platforms gives special education teachers a greater ability to reach their students. Thanks to mobile charging carts that house class sets of laptops, tablets or other devices, it doesn’t even have to be cost-prohibitive. A single school can share a class set of 30 laptops equipped with Bootstrap along with numerous other applications for learners of all abilities through the use of a mobile charging cart, and simply move it from classroom to classroom as needed. Special education students can get the individualized help they need even in districts on a tight budget, thanks to the technology we now have available.
A Personalized Experience
While it is essential that every student has a learning experience tailored to their individual needs, it is especially critical for students with special needs. The ability to set customized options just one time on their individual profile allows them to have everything they need at their fingertips, every time they log in. Google’s Chromebook devices are leading the shift to more accessible technology through features such as “select-to-speak,” which reads highlighted text aloud. This feature can also read and edit documents, predict words that a user intends to write and translate words through Google’s web browser, Chrome.
The select-to-speak feature can be a game-changer for visually impaired students who read in Braille, and it is able to be added to a student’s individual Chrome profile, meaning that the user will have this feature tied to their preferences no matter which Chromebook, laptop or other device they use. The ability for these settings to remain the same across multiple devices brings greater accessibility and an overall more personalized experience to the student.
Technology makes so much of our everyday lives accessible that it can be easy to take for granted how much it can help people with special needs. For special education teachers, the use of technology in their classrooms not only can help them bridge the gap between where their students are education-wise and where they need to go but can also empower them to make their own decisions, follow their dreams and explore the areas of the most interest to them without limitations. By using technology to instill confidence in special education students at an early age, teachers can give them the tools to go as far as they want in virtually every career path they choose, which is, in essence, what being an educator is all about.