Educational Technology for Students With Special Needs

As many of you know, my journey down the organizing road started with my son. My constant search to find ways to untangle his school world led me to uncover many tools available on the technology systems he uses every day. Who knew that his iPad and iTouch would become his constant companions!

iPad Apps

More and more schools are allowing students to use their iPads and iPod Touches in the classrooms, and therefore these types of educational applications are growing by leaps and bounds. For students with special needs specifically, check out iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps for Special Education, a list compiled by assistive technology specialists and broken down by category such as math, writing, art, etc. These apps are truly life changing for the special needs student.

Also be sure to check out “The iPad: a Near-Miracle for My Son with Autism”. Written from a mother’s perspective about her autistic son’s use of assistive technology and educational apps. She offers great suggestions and even videos of her son using various apps.

There are also many apps available to middle and high school students on their iPads that help make learning interactive and engaging. The Elements(exploring the Periodic Table), and Alien Equation(games that teach math skills), are just some of the apps that students might enjoy.

There are so many new educational apps appearing every day that it would be prudent to check out reviews first, particularly ones that teachers have put their stamp of approval on. I Education Apps Review has a collection that should help you get started.

Cell Phone Apps For Students with ADHD

I spend a lot of my time working with high school students to assist them with paper and time management skills. The learning has really been a two-way process as my students are always sharing with me their favorite cell phone features that benefit their learning, time management, and study skills. Other than the basics, such as calendars and alarms, here are some of their favorites:

Cameras

Do I need to say more? If they are allowed to carry their phone to class, then using the camera feature to snap photos of the blackboard or SMART Board after class will ensure that they don’t miss important class notes or assignments. In addition, photos can also serve as a useful visual reminder of what a student needs to get done. For instance, a photo of the student’s soccer gear laid out will act as a reminder of what needs to be packed up before heading off to practice.

Text Messaging

Yes, you heard me correctly. Students can use Google SMS to get definitions, facts, and conversations sent directly to their phones. Online to-do lists such as Remember the Milk (Love!) can send alerts or an instant message reminding students of an upcoming project, deadline, test or appointment. Students can even receive flashcards and study materials directly to their phone allowing them to study wherever they are.

Although many of theses technologies are used to assist students with special needs, they are truly useful for any student looking for tech savvy techniques to streamline their educational world.

A Lesson in Education Technology From a Very, Very Old Tradition

In Okinawa, Japan, women have been diving for pearls for more than 2,000 years. Traditionally dressed in only a loincloth, they would dive to depths as deep as 120 feet to find the oysters and mussels that produce pearls. This work was largely done by women because they were better able to endure the cold of the depths they were diving (Women’s bodies distribute fat more evenly then men.) The work was very dangerous, as you might expect, exposing them to predators, harsh environments and shallow water blackouts.

In the 1960s, they were approached by a firm selling scuba gear. The company demonstrated that one person with the right gear could gather as many oysters as an entire village of women in a day. The results were enticing, but they also raised a number of very significant questions including which women would use the gear, and how would the profits be divided. A town counsel was called and everyone discussed the pros and cons of buying scuba gear. In the end, the decision was made reject the use of scuba and continue with their tradition.

Today these Ama Divers, as they are called, still dive for pearls, though largely for the benefit of tourists rather than for the pearls they gather. Even scuba divers couldn’t compete with the advancements in pearl culture, where thousands of oysters could be grown in shallow depths and tricked into growing pearls in a confined area where they could be easily harvested.

So what does this have to do with education? Look just about anywhere in the education industry and you will find wholesale attempts to introduce as much technology into the classroom as quickly as possible. There are even watchdog groups that report on the school boards that are acting the quickest to engage in these technologies. Blog after blog extols the virtues of employing the latest technological masterpiece, while those who are slower are looked down on as archaic and anachronistic. Some of these programs have good empirical data to back them up, many do not. Some programs are developed by wonderful people with altruistic motives, but many are being promoted by new non-profits that are little more than shells for large corporations who stand to make fortunes if their particular technology becomes the new standard.

With all the hype and hyperbole that is flying around right now, it is virtually impossible to find a voice that will ask the tough questions about whether or not these technologies make good sense. Unlike the Japanese Ama Divers, there are few town council meetings to carefully consider what makes sense and what does not. One of the reasons the Common Core standards, good as they may be, are getting such resistance at the grass roots level is because the proponents have A) used a top-down approach, and B) have not been completely forthcoming about who the stakeholders are and who will profit when these technologies are adopted.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with coming up with something new and making a profit on it; it’s the American way. However, using healthy political contributions to get the support of legislators in bellwether states in exchange for support for new programs is certainly less desirable.

This doesn’t mean we need to be reactionary; it just means that we need to examine the new technologies that are introduced, checking the validity of their claims carefully before we purchase them. It also doesn’t mean we need to reject a promising new technology, as the divers did, if that technology can produce better results at a lower cost. What it does mean is that teachers and parents alike should ask the requisite questions to make sure we are getting the best bag for the buck.

Progress and technology are wonderful tools when balanced with careful consideration and forethought. Let’s do the due diligence before we head down a rabbit hole that could take years to escape. It’s our future we are betting on here, and that is certainly worth our full attention.

Reasons to Get a PhD in Educational Leadership Through Educational Technology

Since technology has become part and parcel of our everyday lives, we have accepted its company as though the air we breathe. Similarly in the teaching environment, younger aged students quickly grasp the technical side of technology. They may not actually understand why technology is useful but rather it’s a means by which we live. As it may come as a surprise to many, technology is not exactly the do-all and see-all. Technology as a tool remains a steadfast fact. It does not supersede man unless it’s one of those horror science fiction flicks whereby robots take over the world and make man into their slaves.

In order for a teaching professional to better understand how and when to incorporate technology as part of their profession, obtaining a PhD in Educational Leadership through Educational Technology is a good avenue to look into. As part of this doctorate program, the student is made to understand how modern technology shapes the education process. It also imparts clear statements on what technology represents. Being able to identify the latest in processor chips, memory specifications, smart devices, applications and the likes is just a tip of the iceberg. A student is exposed to the role of technology in education, when to include technology as part of the process and when to abstain. When applying technology into the education process, various types of technology are up for discussion and selection. Manufacturers of hardware and software scramble over one another to convince educational leaders of their superiority and latest advancement.

As part of the coverage in a PhD in Educational Leadership through Educational Technology program, the PhD student learns the principles, aspects and importance of designing a curriculum to better apply education into daily lives. The curriculum may or may not adopt technology as an active participant as conventional pen and paper works better at times. In incorporating technology into the education, care is taken to ensure technology complements the curriculum.

Upon completion of this doctorate programs, many candidates pursue a career at academic institutions of higher level such as colleges and universities. Some opt for consulting positions by providing services to assess an institution’s methods in using technology as a tool for education. Others may join governmental or educational authorities to participate in think tank projects to promote education with technology.