How Special Education Teachers Can Incorporate Technology into the Classroom

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The special education industry is quite a demanding marketplace. Not only are there the typical needs of educating young people that apply to any learning environment, there are also the compounding effects of the students’ special needs. Thus, whatever extra help and efficiency that can be achieved is always welcome.

Given this situation, technology offers a very useful new frontier in making the entire top to bottom learning experience of special needs students and their teachers much more participant friendly and effective down the road. Teachers and administrators that decide to different technological tools will not only be able to reach out to more students in a more absorbing way, they will also make their jobs much less stressful and more obstacle free.

Let’s examine certain key tips and innovations to the teaching landscape that almost any special needs teacher can incorporate with their students for maximum effect and quality improvement.

Planning Ahead

First and foremost is the need to strategically plan ahead for your special needs students’ education. This may mean such basic things as working within given budgets to deliver the best possible technology tools that are affordable. It could also mean considering the students’ exact needs so that not only are tools bought within budget but also for maximum effectiveness under the circumstances. Another point to consider is price vs. value given the age of a certain technology. For example; buying the very latest new devices is not always a genuinely cost efficient option since these are commonly the most bug prone machines and also the ones that most quickly get replaced by newer, more streamlined versions of themselves.

In other words, when considering new tech tools for your students, lean more towards buying into slightly older and lower cost editions of laptops, tablets or other hardware for the cost savings and the already stable electronic development they have.

Create a Tech-Friendly Classroom Environment

Before you do anything else to create a much more technology savvy classroom full of students that are being helped by new innovations in software and hardware, first facilitate the basic needs that bringing this technology in will entail.

Some basic steps you will absolutely need to follow include but are not limited to: making sure there are enough outlet connections for all the students chargers, power cables and converters; creating an amply powerful Wi Fi connection that can handle the obligatory web traffic of more than a dozen different users, and also, making sure that there is a device friendly work environment in which the students can use their tablets, laptops and other machines easily- elements such as comfortable chairs and well-designed desks being obvious examples.

Another highly useful piece of machinery for any teacher would be a large digital projector device that can attach to his or her own laptop or tablet, giving the instructor the ability to give their learning group interactive instructions on different technology related subjects such as software use and apps tools.

This useful checklist provides a handily detailed summary of some points to keep in mind when designing a technology friendly learning environment: http://thejournal.com/articles/2004/10/01/checklist-for-designing-a-technologyfriendly-classroom.aspx .

Teach Through and Augment the Power of Existing Tools

One of the simplest and most cost efficient technology implementations you can make use of are those that already fit with existing tools at hand. Thus, when first starting out on the ever evolving road to a more tech connected special needs classroom, start by having your students bring in whatever tablets, Laptops and even smart phones they already have and show them how to make the best use of these learning tools through interactive classroom sessions that cover a range of tech education topics.

One possible step for a special needs educator would be to research and plan out a list of valuable teaching applications that are useful for a broad range of classroom subjects and compatible with different kinds of tablets, phones and laptops. Then, when students bring in their own devices, they can be given classroom instruction on installation and use of the apps and software in question.

The beauty of this particular step is that it lets teachers start applying technology in their classrooms without the much larger budgetary expense of having to buy hardware for their students right away- although this would in time be the next logical step to follow.

Replace Paper and PCs with Tablets

Given enough classroom funding, the ideal step to take for any special needs teacher would be the consignment of enough tablets to give each of their students a personal device. Some of the less expensive brands on the market, such as the Google Nexus 7, offer excellent specs for prices that hover at well below $170: http://www.google.com/nexus/7/.

Given a uniformly equipped classroom in possession of these tablets, highly interactive courses could be given in almost any imaginable subject by downloading assorted powerful apps, software and online learning packages that include videos, audio coursework and all sorts of highly dynamic graphics that completely put pencil, paper and text book to utter shame.

A classroom full of students equipped with highly portable tablets, a secure internet connection and a teacher that knows how to use the right learning tools to make the most of this equipment could be a place in which both younger and older kids could learn at a pace that’s both much faster and far more dynamically interesting than any traditional classroom setting. In the case of special needs students, these assorted tech tools would have particular impact since they offer access to an assortment of specializations that can make up for deficiencies and differences in learning speed, physical capabilities and comfort zones.

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Samuel Clemens is a former educator who spends his time reviewing study tools for students. Click here to see the sample college essays he recommends.

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