Technology To Help Special Needs Students Using the Universal Design For Learning Model
Each student is different and unique in their own way. In this day and age we need to move from the traditional ways of teaching where all students are taught in the same manner. In fact according to the CAST website “Individuals bring a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning. Neuroscience reveals that these differences are as varied and unique as our DNA or fingerprints.” We must realize that each student has a different learning style and with the use of technology it makes it much easier to help the various types of learners. Below is a list of the best websites for helping students with special needs, so please bookmark them.
Please click on the following links to find apps that you can use in your classrooms to help students with special needs.
Apps For Special Needs
Free Ipad Apps
40+ Ipad Apps for Struggling Readers and Writers
Chrome Apps to Teach Typing
Mind Mapping Tools and Apps
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
Suggested readings to check out….
So how do you use technology in a class that has special needs students? Please consider the following example to provide a step by step approach to this question:
The school principal directed you, a lead technology school-based expert, to work jointly with a classroom teacher to create learning experiences that not only meet students’ individual differences, but also address 21st Century learning trends. Specifically, the principal asked for you to design, implement, and assess a technology integration/intervention program for a group of 30 students with unique needs.
Of the 30 students, there are 10 identified as gifted and talented. The gifted and talented students are accustomed to working individually online. Two students have disabilities dramatically affecting learning. One student is blind and another is hearing impaired. The remaining 18 students reflect ability levels ranging from the lowest level to high achieving.
In order to solve this problem I chose to have the students begin the class by completing a multiple intelligence survey and learning styles assessment located at surfaquarium. The reason for starting the class this way was to find out the various types of learners that I would be working with. I realized that I had several that were hands-on, visual, and auditory learners. I also had the teacher complete a survey located on survey monkey. The purpose of this survey was to evaluate the level of technology proficiency that my classroom teacher had and design my lesson according to their abilities. I was also able to use this survey to plan professional development sessions that will help the teacher acquire new technology skills that they can bring back to their classroom.
After learning where the students were at academically I designed UDL (Universal Design for Learning) lesson plans that met the needs of all students. I realized that I had special needs students in the class and I had to find a way to help them based on their need. I utilized text to voice software to help the students that were blind and hearing impaired. I designed hands-on learning activities for the gifted/talented students that allowed them to use higher level thinking skills to accomplish the assignment. All students were required to use Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, videos, and/or audio to help them understand the material and provide a means of assessment rather than traditional methods.
The lessons were designed to help teachers see how you can integrate technology into the classroom among diverse learners. You will see an example lesson (keep reading) for gifted and talented students, visually and hearing impaired students, high range of ability students, as well as low range of ability students. The lessons are all broken down into recognition networks which is the “what” of learning, strategic networks which is the “how of learning and affective networks which is the “why” of learning.
Furthermore, the lessons were designed to have students reflect upon their learning by the use of blogs. According to Solomon & Schrum, “Blogging is the new way to express oneself and have an authentic audience. The implications for students include writing about issues and thus improving writing skills, learning from each other, thinking through topics thoroughly enough to offer an opinion and add information, peer editing, finding a community of others interested in the same topic, and becoming confident in sharing what they know.” (pg. 56)
The rationale for the recommended professional development for the teacher was suggested to provide a hands-on approach to learning how to teach with technology. I realized that many teachers are simply not embracing tech in the classroom simply because they may not know how to use the tech themselves. By having a professional development that is focused on the use of Web 2.0 applications I felt it would ease the pressure on many teachers who may have a sense of uneasiness.
Sample Lesson Plans:
These lessons were designed to help teachers see how you can integrate technology into the classroom among diverse learners. You will see an example lesson for gifted and talented students, visually and hearing impaired students, high range of ability students, as well as low range of ability students.
I used the CAST lesson plan builder found at http://lessonbuilder.cast.org/.
This is a great resource where you can learn about the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) lesson plan template, explore examples of UDL lessons, as well as create and save your own lessons based in the UDL lesson template.
Once you create an account on this website you will then be given an option to create a UDL lesson plan and view other examples of UDL lessons. You can even watch videos to learn more about UDL.
See video below:
My lesson examples:
UDL Lesson 1 targets the Gifted/Talented
UDL Lesson 2 targets the special needs students. In this example we have a blind and hearing impaired student.
UDL Lesson 3 targets the low-level students
UDL Lesson 4 targets the high-level students
Here is the link to create a UDL lesson offline if you had a hard time finding it on the website.
Still Need More Examples, check out the following examples
Look at the following link below to see how you can use cartoons to engage auditory and visual learners.
This video can help many visual learners.
The visually impaired students will be accommodated with a voice to text software. Check out this video about Dragon Diction.
In conclusion, using the UDL approach is an excellent way to meet the needs of students requiring special attention. The examples provided are just a few of the ways that you can teach with technology and still follow the UDL strategies suggested. Please feel free to try these techniques out and offer suggestions as well as other ways that you plan on teaching with technology to meet the needs of all students!
Cast.org (2009). Model UDL lessons. Center for Applied Special Technology. Retrieved on March 27, 2014, from http://www.cast.org/udl/
Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, New schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education