Some people like to decry the pace at which technology is advancing, claiming society and governments can’t safely keep up with the constant changes. As technology jumps forward to meet a perceived need, for example, people tend to ignore the consequences and dangers it introduces.
While such people have a point, technological advances provide significant benefits at the same time. The world of education has been one of the biggest winners here, with new methods of teaching and learning allowing instructors to reach more children than ever.
This includes children with disabilities. Finding ways to give children with disabilities the ability to communicate and interact using methods that work well for them is directly in technology’s wheelhouse.
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Putting Technology to Work
Some exciting opportunities already are making their way into the classroom.
- Conferencing through video. Large school districts can develop lectures and other materials that can be delivered to students with disabilities scattered at different school sites through video conferencing. The district can provide Sign Language through the video conference to reach deaf students, for example. And an instructor who is an expert in helping students with disabilities can remotely reach a large number of students at once through video conferencing, allowing the district to better utilize a valuable resource in the teacher’s skills.
- Eye-guided communication. The University of North Carolina, through its Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, has developed eye-guided software that allows children to look at an object on the screen to select it. For a child who cannot hold a pencil, this technology opens many new avenues of communication.
- Recorded video. Teachers can record video of themselves explaining a technique or solving a problem, uploading this digital video stream to the Internet. A student with disabilities then can access this video at any time, making the educational process more convenient. For example, a student who may miss math class twice a week for physical therapy can make up the missed class time thanks to technology.
- Tablet technology. For students with disabilities who don’t have the dexterity to use a keyboard, tablet technology is a great development. The touch screen on a tablet allows students to interact with the technology in a way that feels more natural to them. A student who has difficulty turning a page in a physical book can more easily manipulate an e-book on a tablet screen, for example.
- Text to speech. For students who may read more slowly than their classmates, a text-to-speech software program can allow them to absorb the information more quickly. The students with disabilities then can participate in classroom discussions in real time, rather than feeling left behind because of their reading disability.
- Use of symbols. A student who has a difficult time writing or communicating can select symbols or pictures that a piece of software then translates into words. Or the student can use the symbols and photos to create a storyboard of sorts, providing a means of communication.
- Voice capture. In a similar manner, various software options allow students who have difficulty writing to create papers and projects through dictation. The student also can select photographs and other graphical elements to add to the project.
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With an assist from technology, students with disabilities are able to achieve new levels of success and independence, which is another important aspect in their development. They become more willing to challenge themselves and try new things, which is important for their educational advancement. Personalization in the classroom becomes easier for teachers because of the advancement of technology.
And all of the technological advancements listed here only represent the beginning of the process. Developers continue to shrink the technological devices and make them more portable, which makes them more usable. A child who is able to carry a technological device with her from classroom to classroom will be able to use it more effectively versus having to be tied to a device that is anchored in one classroom.
Technology certainly has its frustrating aspects. However, just like any tool, when used properly technology can provide amazing gifts. Just visit a classroom and see how children with disabilities are able to interact while using special education technology, and you’ll see those gifts in action!
About the Author, Felicity Dryer
Originally born in Flagstaff, Arizona, Felicity Dryer was raised by her parents (more or less modern-day hippies) to always make her health a top priority. Throughout her life, she has focused on encouraging others to reach for and achieve their personal goals. Now she lives in sunny Los Angeles where she is pursuing her career as a freelance health writer, and continuing to help those seeking encouragement to keep moving forward to achieve their goals.