Monday, July 1, 2013

EdTech in Special Education

When we talk about EdTech, the focus tends to be more on the typical classroom or student. However, there is a great deal of activity around using EdTech for remedial or special education where the technology can help improve outcomes. It’s also worth noting that in many districts, special education is becoming one of the fastest growing areas of the budget, and one where the costs seem to be difficult to cap.

Using EdTech solutions for these students and classes may be able to help counter this trend and restore some balance to the budget. In this blogs I’ll look at few instances of how EdTech is making a difference in this area.

With the hope and goal of helping special needs students be able to participate more in mainstream classes and activities, EdTech offers some interesting capabilities. In this example, the teacher has found that a rather underutilized EdTech tool, the electronic whiteboard had the potential for improving the group teaching that was being done for this class. Using this larger and group oriented approach, the teacher was able to not only engage the group, but also use learning tools like the Unique Learning System (a symbol based curriculum) in this interactive group setting to improve results. The creativity of finding a non-traditional EdTech tool is worth noting.

One of the most consistent education problems around the country is a shortage of many of the highly trained professionals that specialize in unique learning needs. Speech language pathologists (SLPs) are a great example. Most are well over recommended case loads and waste what could be productive hours driving from one location to the next. Using the well understood distance learning technologies, some districts are now engaging in the use of “teletherapy” to better utilize the scarce time resource of special needs teaching professionals and extend their reach without lost travel time. This also allows districts to better utilize highly specialized professionals via teletherapy where the ability to actually get them physically on-site just didn’t exist.

There are many disabilities that limit a particular student’s ability to interact with the printed word. Dyslexia is one of the best known and most prevalent, but there are many others. And EdTech can help. Rather than relying on just printed classroom materials, handouts, or other forms of printed communication, using technology, these documents can be delivered electronically. This makes it simple to turn the printed word into speech that can be “read” to the special needs student, or can be converted to symbols if that is better understood. Simply put, once the information is in digital form, there are many options for delivering it that can help the special needs student.

Of course, there are many more specific instances or ways that can help improve the results and outcome of special needs students. The one consistent element among these three examples, and I’m sure many others is creativity. Using EdTech to improve this aspect of education is not about being an engineer; it’s about finding new ways existing technologies can better serve those who need them most.

View the original article here

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