Technology has become a widespread tool for teachers and students. It is also an excellent tool for assisting students with disabilities. Public Law 100-407, The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) was designed to enhance the availability and quality of technology devices and services to all individuals and their families throughout the United States. (IDEA) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act uses the same definitions for assisting technology as the Tech Act as well as mandating that technology be considered in developing Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s) for students with disabilities. IDEA also focuses on providing access to general education curriculum for all students with disabilities. The Tech Act and IDEA both define assistive technology as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve children with disabilities.
Special educators are constantly creating and customizing instructional materials to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. In addition to traditional methods of education, we now can address the needs of students with technology. For students with mild disabilities, technology can help provide a wealth of learning opportunities.
There are four areas that technology and traditional methods can be used to assist children.
- Note Taking
- Cognitive Assistance
Having the ability to organize is the first step to retaining information. This includes teaching students to organize their thoughts or work using flow-charts, webbing, and generating outlines. These strategies can also be taught by using software with organizers. Organizers assist students with developing and structuring their thoughts. Graphic organizers allow students to change and update current ideas. Using previous brainstormed ideas, they can color code, and group those ideas in ways that visually represent their thoughts. Using the internet, local area networks, and projection systems allows students and teachers to work together. Teachers can give feedback, and make appropriate modifications as necessary. Students can ask questions and get clarification on an issue.
- The teacher can provide outlines and the students will fill in the information.
- Videotaping the class for visual learners and for those students who need to miss class for extended periods of time.
- Set up web-cam photography across the Internet. It allows students to see and hear without being present.
- Sending class notes and presentations via email.
- Have the notes translated from print to voice by using optical character recognition software with a voice synthesizer.
- Help students take notes by using notebook computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs) or portable word processing keyboards.
Writing is challenging for most kids regardless of their abilities. Some barriers that students may encounter include the following:
- Mechanics: spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
- Process: brainstorming ideas, organizing, drafting, editing, revising, making a final copy.
- Motivation: Being interested in writing, not becoming frustrated.
To combat this problem, grammar, spell-checkers, dictionaries, thesaurus programs are helpful with mechanics of writing. Now that we are in the age of fast paced technology, our options of producing a final writing project make writing easier. Using word processors helps tremendously. They allow teachers to make suggestions on a student’s disk. Students can also proofread each others work and make suggestions for improvement. Computer editing will decrease the amount of erasures, torn papers, and poor handwriting. It will be easier to produce a final copy that is neat and legible.
When students are given the opportunity to use a computer for writing, they are more motivated. Computers offer a huge variety of font styles to customize and point out the features that are relevant to them. Typing can be taught with Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum. Video, audio, drawings, and graphic images can be stimulating to students. Using multimedia will promote learning and students will come up with more ideas. For those students who are starting to write, you can use a mixture of symbols and text to create a writing piece.
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A variety of program software is available for teaching students through simulations, drill and practice, tutorials. and problem solving. Several of the technologies described can be utilized in combination with instructional programs to develop and improve cognitive, reading, and problem solving skills. Internet software, will assist students in remembering assignments. As students continue to familiarize themselves with the latest trends in technology, it will help them to follow directions, make to do lists, retrieve notes, check spelling or look up words in a dictionary.