What is EdTech? The term ‘EdTech’ might sound unfamiliar to some, but this term is not new, especially for those interested in the education sector or serving as teachers. With the advancement of technology in every walk of life, the combination of education and technology termed ‘EdTech’ has become inevitable. It has opened new avenues of success in the learning environment both for teachers and students. The use of digital tools and applications to improve the learning methods led by teachers to elevate students’ performance paved the way for better outcomes.
EdTech also plays a pivotal role in shaping the learning environment for students with special needs. In addition to saving time and energy, it enhances the learning capabilities of differently-abled students. How EdTech is raising the benchmark of education for students with special needs is remarkable.
Here are four ways EdTech helps students with special needs.
EdTech Enhances the Communication Means
As a parent or a teacher, you must know that the most common problem faced by differently-abled children is that their impairment makes it hard to communicate. They have limited means to share their ideas and express their opinions. With the help of EdTech, the sharing and discussion of ideas and viewpoints have become possible. Augmented and alternative communication technology enables them to communicate through symbols, drawings, photos, and pictures. It is particularly useful for students having developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, and other speech-limiting impairments.
The role of teachers has become crucial in easing the lives of differently-abled children. If you are a special education teacher who has the required education and relevant skills, you must know how to use EdTech devices in the classrooms to get the most out of the digital tools. For instance, the DynaVox Xpress is a handheld communication device that is helpful for students to learn patterns of natural speech and pronunciation for developing better reading skills. It is based on a combination of images and text used to display language and enhance students’ vocabulary.
The most common type of disability is learning disabilities, which is estimated to make up 33% of total students with special needs across the United States. EdTech devices have the power to convert text into a sound that makes them the best gadgets for children who face difficulty in reading. A device called NOVA Chat is a speech generation tool that students with special needs use to overcome reading disabilities. It helps them to listen to text when read aloud.
Similarly, touchscreen devices equipped with handwriting recognition allow students struggling with fine motor skills to be more expressive and legible while sharing their ideas in the classroom. In addition, other EdTech devices that are making a difference in students’ lives with special needs include smartpens, compatible headsets, Braille-enabled digital accessories, and co-writing apps.
EdTech Makes Assistive Tools More Accessible
With the help of EdTech, now it is easier for you as parents and teachers to learn and get hands-on experience with assistive technology. The use of computers, laptops, tablets, and iPad have become common in present classrooms, and students rely on assistive technologies to learn out-of-the-box learning methods.
The iPad has some pre-installed features for catering to the needs of almost every differently-abled student. For instance, some of the features are mentioned below:
- The Speak Screen feature allows students who have visual impairment or difficulty in reading to listen to the audio for developing understanding.
- The Speak Selection feature is useful for those students who have low vision or face trouble in reading small fonts. It highlights the text for reading.
- The VoiceOver is a gesture-based feature specially designed for blind readers that enables them to navigate through their iPad.
- Safari Reader View acts as a filter for websites and removes photos, videos, and ads to provide a clutter-free view to the students.
To get benefits from other assistive tools, you can download additional apps into digital devices to make learning easier and simpler for students.
EdTech Removes Physical Barriers
EdTech eases the lives of students who are facing challenges while moving or having physical impairments. Such students encounter hurdles daily, such as stairs, heavy doors, narrow walkways, etc., while using walkers, wheelchairs, or other mobility tools. Furthermore, they may have difficulty reaching out to interactive displays in classrooms due to height or other blockades. At present, interactive whiteboards are an integral part of the classrooms. These tech devices allow teachers to make adaptable lessons according to the needs of the special students by using audio, video, and other features and applications.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, commonly known as ADA-compliant equipment like lifts or trolleys, can meet the needs of special students. These equipment include:
- Touchscreen that allows seamless motorized movement
- Adjustable height option by a single tap
- Tiltable capacity to fine-tune positioning
EdTech devices give easy access to special students who may otherwise have difficulty directly touching the screen. Many tools, for example, joystick, wireless rollerball, or switches, allow students to click on the screen from afar. Similarly, with the help of wireless keyboards, students can type text remotely.
EdTech Helps in Tracking Individual Performance
EdTech also helps in monitoring the individual performance of the students. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) software is a great tool for assessment. It simplifies the learning methods for children with developmental delays, brain injuries, and intellectual disabilities and enables the monitoring of learning performance in the form of charts. MangoMon is similar software that allows parents to monitor the child’s learning progress, in addition to interactive lessons of math and reading.
The role of virtual reality in helping autistic students is also remarkable. It enables autistic students to become calm and respond normally with time in crowded areas such as school assemblies, cafeterias, and hallways by handling these circumstances in a virtual environment. They become better at controlling their nerves with the help of virtual reality in real-life situations. Furthermore, it also allows special students with motor impairments to manipulate items in virtual reality that they cannot do in actual reality.
The use of technology has made the lives of special students, their parents, and teachers easier. You don’t have to go the extra mile to make the learning experience for your special children a wholesome experience. However, both parents and teachers need to become updated with the latest EdTech tools to use them for the benefit of their children.