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Arkansas State University

Technology in the Special Education Classroom

The goal of public school systems is to provide an equal-opportunity education for all students. To properly achieve this, educators must accommodate students’ diverse needs and abilities. This can mean using various teaching strategies, differentiated lesson plans and other means of connecting with as many students as possible. For special education students, an increasingly wide array of technologies is available to create a level playing field for student learning and for students to thrive as learners and young adults.

The special education needs of students can include cognitive impairments, motor skill conditions and more, all to varying degrees of significance. As educators have continued to deepen their understanding of how to best accommodate special education learners, technology options have also grown. As a result, students can access technologies and tools that best help them personally.

As one report from National Center for Learning Disabilities explains, we now realize many of these disabilities intersect, and “educators need support and training that focus on meeting the needs of students with the full range of disabilities, supporting students’ executive functioning challenges, and appropriately using technology in the classroom.”

Appropriately using technology often involve a mix of assistive and digital tools, creating new possibilities for students and teachers. Most people are familiar with traditional assistive technologies, be it in or outside the classroom: a wheelchair, for example, makes a physical space more accessible. Learning technologies help students with special needs “access” their lessons and socialize at the same level as their peers.

The online Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership, Special Education Director program from Arkansas State University (A-State) introduces educators to current practices and technologies used in special education that better serve students and streamline teaching practices.

Tablets, Phones and Other Mobile Devices

Augmentative communication systems support students who need help producing verbal speech. These systems include text-to-speech technology, voice recordings or any tech through which these students can communicate. Thankfully, these mobile devices virtually always have augmentative communication systems.

These mobile devices also offer a level of personalization for different learners if they need to absorb material in a different setting, medium or pace than other students.

Digital Customization for Personalized Learning

Digital learning applications, whether accessible on mobile devices or other technology, offer a substantial opportunity to adjust teaching strategies and course content for students on a highly personal, customized level. Students can create a profile and select settings that best suits their needs.

As this post from Presence points out, Google has rolled out a large suite of these materials that students can add to browsers or use during assignments, such as predictive text, automatic translation materials and a “select to speak” feature that reads aloud any words highlighted on the screen.

Additionally, immersive teaching software allows learners to engage course content outside the traditional classroom setting. This software teaches using text, video, speech and more to connect with learners, with assessments that can be typed or written via multiple choice. Students can engage with different course content at their own pace, and assessment questions can vary in difficulty or subject matter to address students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Presence discusses another recent trend in special education tech: the so-called “opening up” of digital resources. For example, a program or file a student needs to complete an assignment might operate perfectly on a laptop but loses all or most of its functionality on a screen reader for a student with low vision ability. Educators have begun spearheading an effort to create more accessible digital documents, using “digital platforms that provide free and unrestricted resources” to education institutions. OER developers are regularly working to create new tools to open these digital resources to all learners.

The online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Special Education Director program from A-State prepares graduates to deepen their knowledge about technology in special education classrooms and how to apply those technologies properly. In addition, courses such as Ethical and Legal Issues in Special Education gives graduates a comprehensive understanding of the obligation to create an accessible classroom for their students. 

Learn more about A-State’s online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Special Education Director program.

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