Tagged With: special needs
Surprisingly, 15-20% of the population has a language-based learning disability and over 65% of those are deficits in reading. Often, these go undiagnosed as students, parents, and teachers simply think the child is not a good reader, is lazy, or is disinterested. Thankfully, the International Dyslexia Association sponsors an annual Dyslexia Awareness Month in October aimed to expand comprehension of this little-understood language-based learning condition.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a condition that affects people of all ages, male and female equally, and causes them to mix up letters and words they read making what for most is a joy-filled act challenging and frustrating.
“Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, that result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia often experience difficulties with both oral and written language skills. … It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed… ”
— the International Dyslexia Foundation
There is no cure for dyslexia. Individuals with this condition must instead develop coping strategies that help them work around their condition. In education, it is not uncommon to accommodate dyslexic students with special devices, additional time, varied format approaches (such as audio or video), and others. Most prominent educational testing centers (like SAT, ACT, PARC, and SBACC) make these available for most of the tests they offer.
I haven’t written much about IoT (the Internet of Things–see the end of this article for more resources on IoT) and education. I do talk about it in my Digital Citizenship grad school class (if you click the link, it’s MTI 557) but haven’t turned those ideas into blogs yet. Thank you, Jane, Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, for writing a quick overview of that topic’s intersection with education.
Even though 86% of universities currently educate students with disabilities, only 24% of the schools say that they offer those students assistance “to a major extent.” The schools that do place emphasis on the needs of their students often have programs that encourage accessibility as well as accessible classrooms. Smart technology that is connected by the Internet of Things (IoT), however, is beginning to change all of this by making classrooms and campuses around the country more accessible while crafting a better learning environment for every student.
Crafting Smart, Accessible Learning Environments
Students with physical disabilities that affect their mobility can often find it hard to access learning spaces. Integrating smart, connected technology into college campuses is a way to prevent these issues from affecting disabled students or those with lower mobility. Mobility-friendly stairlifts and motion-sensitive doors, for example, are ways in which smart technology is used to allow students with disabilities to easily access buildings and classrooms. Using smart technology to accomplish this is nothing new. Other industries that cater to the elderly population, people with limited mobility due to obesity and the housing sector already utilizing technology to improve health and increase accessibility. All of these solutions have come to fruition based on, first, the concept of universal design and, second, the idea that technology can be used in innovative ways to enhance life in practically any way possible.
Here’s an interesting piece from Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Jane Sandwood, on the explosion of wearable technology and its place in the education ecosystem:
As of 2015, 94% of K-12 students had a computer in their home, with 61% of the same demographic having internet access as well. With the rapid and constant growth of technology combined with the myriad of ways that it’s permeated the lives of all of society, especially youth, there’s no place where technology is wholly absent. As a result of this, wearable technology has advanced farther than phones in pockets and can include things as advanced as virtual reality headsets that allow students to experience a completely different atmosphere.
Though it can feel easy to become overwhelmed by technology, the reality is that technology of all sorts and types is here to help us, and nowhere is this more true than in the field of education. The vast majority of students are inseparable from the technology that they carry with them daily. Because of this, education must look at ways to coexist and thrive with the technology rather than shun it.
Helping to Hear
Education doesn’t stop outside of the classroom. Utilizing modern audio technology allows an incredible amount of versatility to when lectures can be accessed. Oftentimes, lectures will be entirely delivered in audio, causing there to be little to no loss in learning from the loss of the visual aspect.
Audio technology is especially portable and non-intrusive to in-classroom lessons as well. Headphones can be used to hear the lesson more clearly if students are far from the instructor or hard of hearing. There are also countless well-made translator apps that can help students that don’t natively speak the language of the lesson to understand what they’re being taught.
Surprisingly, 15-20 percent of the population has a language-based learning disability, and over 65 percent of those deficits is in reading. Often, these go undiagnosed as students, parents, and teachers simply think the child is not a good reader, is lazy, or is disinterested. Thankfully, the International Dyslexia Association sponsors an annual Dyslexia Awareness Month in October aimed to expand comprehension of this little-understood language-based learning condition.
More on special needs:
Orton-Gillingham started over seventy years ago as an instructional approach intended for those with difficulty reading, spelling, and writing, like what children experience in dyslexia. Sometimes, teachers recognized the special needs of a reading-challenged student, but just as often, it was blamed on disinterest or lack of effort, leaving the child to conclude s/he “just wasn’t good at reading.” When those same children were taught to read using the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach, many felt like that child who puts glasses on for the first time and his/her entire world comes into focus.
Since then, the Orton-Gillingham Method has enabled thousands of children to access worlds opened to them by reading, something they never thought would happen. In fact, it has been so successful, O-G is being mainstreamed into the general education classroom, as a way to unlock the power of reading for more students.
I don’t write enough about special needs so when Rose contacted me with an article idea, I was thrilled. Rose Scott is a literary teacher who is interested in making education comfortable for students with special needs. Her dream is to help students explore their talents and abilities. You can follow her on Twitter: @roserose_sc.
In this article, Rose writes about a little-known problem that students may unknowingly suffer from that may make it look like they are plagiarising when–to them–they aren’t.
Many people have come to believe that plagiarism is intentional and evil, and all students whose works have text coincidences are shameless wrongdoers. While it may seem that the majority of plagiarists do turn out to be cheaters, there are exceptions. Have you ever heard of cryptomnesia?
Cryptomnesia, according to the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary, is “the appearance in consciousness of memory images which are not recognized as such but which appear as original creations.” In other words, a person says something for the first time (as he or she thinks), but in reality he/she has already mentioned it, and now just doesn’t remember the previous occurrence.
Besides iPads and Chromebooks and a plethora of free websites that enable students to collaborate, share and publish, education’s tech explosion has resulted in a wide (and increasing) variety of tools that extend the teachers reach, making it easier to differentiate for the varied needs of students even in a busy classroom. Tech-infused alternatives to granular education activities such as note-taking, math, and reading allow students with specialized needs to use their abilities (strengths) to work around their disabilities (challenges). Technology has become the great equalizer, providing students of all skill levels the tools needed to fully participate in school.
Mixed in with the scores of digital tools I see every week, I’ve found three that stand above the rest and will quickly become staples in your teaching toolkit:
- Sonocent–for note-taking and study skills
- Babakus–for mathematical functions
- Signed Stories–for reading
High school senior at Newton North High School in Newton, MA, Yishai Barth, feels strongly about the importance of Universal Design Language (UDL). He explains his specific learning needs and calls on all educators to see life from his and millions of other students’ perspective. By sharing his specific needs with teachers, needs that are faced by millions of students across the world, he hopes to provide help in supporting their learning.
Thirty years ago a professor at Harvard University released findings from a series of studies. These findings have changed the way most experts in the field of psychology and neuroscience think about intelligence itself. Howard Gardner’s research revealed that from a practical perspective intelligence cannot be thought of as a singular noun. Instead it is necessary to consider the matrix of intelligences that exist in widely varied configurations within each human mind.
The Universal Design movement came into existence as a response to this research by leading thinkers in the engineering and design professions. It is imperative to the education of hundreds of thousands of students across the country and millions of students around the world that the techniques of Universal Design are brought to bear on the unjust barriers many students face in attempting to navigate the educational landscape under the status quo.
- Chrome apps--download to the Chrome browser to assist with special needs students
- Autism browser—Zac Browser
Yes and yes, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to reign my pen in and discuss what we traditionally consider ‘special needs’ and technology’s affect on those students who function outside of the normal bell curve of pedagogic expectations.
Technology is the great equalizer between standard education and the 1:1 approach required by students with special circumstances. It’s an embarrassment to our profession that learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, autism, ADHD are chronically under-served when the tools that can seamlessly supply personal attention–the iPads and netbooks and apps and software and widgets that can be the key to unlocking physical, mental, and psychological potential–if only they were used. With nominal training and the technology, teachers can differentiate instruction to serve students with a wide range of abilities and needs. Best practices include oral tools like Siri for those who have difficulty writing, audio tools to make teacher directions more available to the hearing-challenged, art programs that allow students to communicate ideas as their brains see them, widgets that facilitate sharing thoughts via other media than text (think art and music and poetry), translation programs that make material accessible quickly and easily to non-native speakers, and the differentiated instruction available through sites such as Khan Academy.