Edtech Innovations for Special Populations
Special education has always been an early adopter of innovative and adaptive technology. Doing so has equalized access to curriculum and learning tasks for special education students. Learners with special needs can access email and the internet with specially designed keyboards, touch screens, and word prediction apps that help with spelling.
Adaptive technology can be expensive, so not every classroom has access to it. With the advent of edtech, however, many more students can access learning experiences. Technology is bridging the gap, so no learners are left out.
Bilingual and ELL students
Teachers may discover that there are limited edtech options marketed for second-language learners. Don’t despair; there’s still plenty of software that will support bilingual and ELL learning needs. Most of it is aimed at improving language arts skills, and you may already be using it in your classroom.
Some of the edtech available includes:
- BrainPOP ELL – This software is a kid-friendly way to explain difficult concepts in playful ways. Although the program includes lessons on many subjects, it also focuses on vocabulary, English language convention, listening skills, reading, and writing for ELLs to help learners become proficient in English.
- Voice Thread – Teachers pair VoiceThread with other learning applications, such as online courses. Students (and teachers) can record video and audio as a way to express themselves, amplifying the discussion around the lesson. The software allows users to curate their comments.
- Khan Academy – This tool offers free instructional courses that personalize learning by letting students set the pace. Students can work on an entire course, such as high school biology, or they can review a single concept, like pronoun-antecedent agreement.
At risk students
Due to circumstances beyond their control, at-risk students may have gaps in their learning. High school students, for example, may be lacking in credit hours. Opportunities for credit recovery lets students catch up, but schools aren’t always able to provide enough teachers to intervene on behalf of every student.
Edtech allows teachers to create highly personalized learning experiences for at-risk students. Adaptive curriculum software programs, like CompassLearning Inc.’s Odyssey, let students access courses and lessons at their own rate.
As much as 20% of the children and adults have symptoms of dyslexia. Many times dyslexic learners are hyper-acute listeners who have difficulty reading. Many teachers have turned to VoiceThread as a way to engage students in the learning process; learners can listen to the comments of other students and take part in the discussion themselves.
Another edtech support is BrowseAloud. The text-to-speech software facilitates text access by translating and reading websites aloud. BrowseAloud is multilingual; it supports several different languages. The software remove the burden of reading from the learner, allowing the student to concentrate on content with far less frustration.
Mind-mapping software offers another alternative to idea organization for dyslexic students. Draw.io, for example, is a free web-based tools that allows users to draw charts and mind maps, then save them to the Google Drive. Another popular mind-mapping tool is Coggle, which supports visual interpretation of complex ideas.
Many of the edtech solutions available today are cost-effective and efficient ways to give our students in any special population equal access to the curriculum. Adaptive education technology meets these learners where they are in the continuum and carries them forward.