One of the most promising uses for new edtech developments has been the ability to cater to the needs of individual students. Giving special needs students the attention and resources needed to help them achieve their classroom goals, however, can provide additional challenges. With an estimated 12 to 16 percent of children in the United States requiring special needs, teachers could use all the help they can get removing hurdles in the learning process. Thankfully, the edtech scene has been up to the task!
New edtech devices can help teachers provide a more welcoming classroom environment for special needs students and offers tools to address their specific disabilities. For instance, students who are completely immobilized can use assistive devices that track eye movement to let them operate a computer. Acting as a one-stop education shop, these machines allow students to type papers, access online materials and directly communicate with teachers. Now, this tech has been around for several years, but newer wireless models free students from a hardwired computer and let them interact with their peers and engage in class discussions.
Many edtech tools have broader applications. Students with a range of learning disabilities – especially those who have trouble with reading comprehension – can use classroom software and educational devices to make the learning process easier:
- Speech recognition software writes out text as students speak and then reads it back to them. Students can see the connections between speech and the written word more clearly.
- Whiteboards give students a more hands-on approach to understanding the building blocks of language, allowing them to manually move words around to see how the context changes.
- "Smartpens" record both what is said in class and what the student writes, compiling it all for easy access later on.
- E-book readers provide students with an audio track to follow along with as they read, helping them understand the material even if they get tripped up on some of the words.
Even devices that were not made with educational applications in mind can be tweaked to support special needs students. A wide range of assistive tech apps can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablets, including:
- Braille displays, speech recognition, text-to-speech and screen-reading tools for the visually impaired
- Closed-captioning, sound amplifiers, and sign language and lip-reading enabled video conferencing tools for the hearing impaired
Newer resources have achieved what all edtech should aspire to: helping teachers make the learning process as easy as possible for their pupils. Students with special needs require even more individualized attention, but with a wide range of tools to choose from, teachers can find the right device to meet their needs. Investing in edtech tools to assist teaching students with special needs should be a priority of every school.
Are schools providing enough resources to help their special needs students? Let us know what you think in the comment section below or leave us a message on our Facebook page!