For Teachers

5 Ways to Use Technology in the Special Education Classroom

By The Room 241 Team October 2, 2012

The ever changing world of technology has not overlooked the education system. New forms of technology find their way into our schools everyday. Whether using an Ipad, an Android tablet, a laptop or an interactive handheld game unit, there are many forms of technology that can be used to advance educational lessons. Technology for educational purposes can be found free of charge or for a minimal fee and there are types of technology that can address every level of education from kindergarten through graduate school.

Technology and special education classrooms

In developing new technology, software and hardware companies have not overlooked the spectrum of special needs and special education students. Technology in special education classrooms is an industry within an industry and it is constantly developing and improving products for special needs.

  1. Operating Systems: Just about every operating system available has something for people with special needs. Both Microsoft and Apple, the creators of the two most prevalent operating systems, Windows 7 and OS X, offer a number of enhancements that enable users of different impairments to use the system. Microsoft’s ‘Ease of Access’ center in the Windows operating system, as well as Apple’s OS X, offer options that allow for using the computer without a monitor for the blind, adding visual prompts and eliminating sounds for the deaf, and alternate input devices for those with mobility deficiencies. These options are available in the base design of each system and do not cost users anything extra.
  2. Braille displays: There is no limit to what technology in special education classrooms can accomplish. Braille displays offer the ability read text that is sent to the machine by activating pins on a multi-cell display. They are available cheaply for reading text line by line while more expensive versions can read text, allow for text input and SMS texting, and help with navigation around the computer. They work with a cable and also come in a Bluetooth wireless version. Some Braille displays are even able to operate with smart phones and PDA’s.
  3. Word prediction software: Word prediction software simply predicts the words that are being typed to reduce the number of keystrokes used to input the word. Once several letters of the word are typed, a list of words pops up and the student selects the correct word. Some versions of the software base the list of words on the letters keyed and other versions will base the choice on context and grammar.
  4. Tablets and iPads: Tablets and iPads are the hottest must haves in the technology market. These devices can be used like a computer, an imaging device, a camera, a projector, a mouse, a keyboard, and a remote device for a white boards. The use of tablets and iPads as technology in special education classrooms is limitless and app developers, parents, specialists and doctors are always searching for more unique ways to employ these devices.
  5. Apps – Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android App Market both offer a number of apps designed to assist in the use of technology in special education classrooms. Though sometimes they may be a little difficult to locate, Eric Sailers, a speech-language pathologist who has developed several apps for special needs children, has compiled a list of apps available in Apple’s App Store and provides a short description of each. This list will assist teachers in finding useful apps quickly so they may work with their children more effectively. Alternately, the website BridgingApps has developed a community of people directly concerned with the education of those with special needs and helps people to develop and share ideas about programs, apps and the use of technology in special education classrooms.

The use of technology in special education classrooms is still in its infancy. As developers see new markets for their technology and educators and specialists create new ideas that develop into hardware and software, the choices will grow. But, there are currently many options to choose from and a simple search can produce a number of ideas that can be employed in the classroom right away, with little investment.

With Concordia University-Portland’s Inclusive Classroom concentration, you’ll find an emphasis on instructional strategies used to serve students with disabilities and special needs in inclusive general education classrooms. Click here to learn more.

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