I have been challenged to blog about technology and its integration with special education students. As a 7th grade Technology instructor with experience working with mainstreamed ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students, I thought this would be easy. There are so many great technology tools, both hardware and software, that I use every day with all of my students that it would be simple to write posts upon posts explaining a variety of technologies for infusion in core and elective classes in inclusion, pull-out, small setting, or even 1:1 classrooms for special educations students. Then, I started to delve more into the topic.
Special Education and Technology as individual topics are very broad. I started to wonder, what disabilities, disorders, or health impairments should I cover? Hearing impairments, sight impairments, ADD/ADHD, autism, down-syndrome, or other physical, mental, or emotional health impairments? What type of technologies should I focus on; adaptive technology, assistive technology, technology for teachers to integrate, or technology for the students to use? I determined any type of technology that I can blog about to help you make learning more accessible to your students would be the solution! I also plan to add interviews with teachers and administrators that work with special education students along with special education students themselves focusing on what technology works!
While I was processing the various ideas for my first post, I reflected on my own teaching and blogging experiences in and outside of the classroom. Blogging, as an educational tool, can be easily incorporated into special education classroom. Blogging is gaining mainstream media attention in the news and is even being depicted in television shows. For example, during the last two episodes of Ugly Betty, Betty created her own blog. The episodes portray her through her triumphs and tribulations with blogging. Blogging is also being accepted as an innovative way for students to write for an authentic audience.
How do you start blogging with your students? The first thing that you will need to do is determine how you want to integrate blogging in your classroom. Do you want to create a blog that students will comment to? Or do you want them to create their own blogs? I have incorporated blogs both ways and find them equally rewarding and an innovative approach to include writing into the curriculum. Since blogging is an open-ended assignment, teacher expectations and levels of assistance may need to be modified for special education students. Students at all levels can share thoughts, ideas, and information through well-developed assignments.
Creating a blog that students comment to is easier to setup, maintain, and grade. I post a question that I want the students to answer and then they respond with comments. I use that as an activity that students complete when they enter my classroom at the beginning of the period. One advantage to this method is that students do not need to have their own accounts to comment. I use this form of blogging to find out their knowledge on a subject before I teach it or to reinforce ideas that we have learned. This can also easily be completed as a center activity or as part of a rotation during the week. You may interact with the students online by commenting back the students’ comments, in essence, creating an online conversation. My students have also really enjoyed reading other students comments. Since they know that they are being read by their peers, they are more attentive to their grammar skills.
Another way to incorporate blogging is to have your students maintain their own blog. This would require students to create and setup their own accounts. It is harder to assess as you will have to visit each individual blog. It is also more of a challenge to incorporate cross-communication between students. I would suggest this as option for middle or high school students and share the different links online via the web. I had my students create their own blog for a six week project on South Florida oceans and beaches and Web 2.0 Technology. The students had to create and setup their own accounts and maintain their blog with two posts a week. One post was a formal question assigned to reflect on what they were learning and one was a ‘free post’ where they could write about anything that they learned during the week. This concept can also be easily incorporated in a literature class. The students can use their blog to reflect and write about a novel they are reading. This will incorporate both reading and writing into the curriculum and the students will be more motivated to learn than if they were filling out “drill-and-kill” worksheets.
When I first introduce blogging to my students, I explain that blog is short for ‘web log’ and that it can be like an online diary or a way to share written information online. I show the students some examples of different types of blogs; professional blogs, teacher blogs, and peer blogs. I let them know that blogging is intended to be a public way to express your thoughts and ideas online. However, blogs can also be set to private and only shared with a few select viewers that are determined by the owner of the blog. In my introduction to blogging I also go over student blogging guidelines. Here is a great example that you can adapt your guidelines from, http://www.techlearning.com/article/Blogs/23336.
Once you have determined the ‘style’ of blogging that is appropriate for your classroom and you have explained your expectations, let your students experience the fun and educational value of blogging.
My classroom blog can be viewed at: http://aceseagles.blogspot.com/.
For more information on incorporating blogging in your classroom, please visit http://sites.google.com/site/fetc2010/blogger.
Great FREE programs to get started blogging with your special education students
Article by Laura Ketcham
Photo by Jose Kevo