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Tag Archives | technology tools

Technology at the Florida School for Deaf & Blind

The Florida School for Deaf & Blind is an accredited public boarding and day school that offers preK-12  education for students who are hard of hearing, deaf, sight impaired, or blind.  This school is located in St. Augustine, Florida and is open to any students residing in Florida and complete the application process.   In addition to studying regular school subjects like math, science, and reading, students are also provided with the necessary support to be successful in academics and life skills.  One of the support systems that this school provides is in accessibility to technology.

The technology provided at this school includes assistive and adaptive technologies.  This link has great videos including the different examples of how they use technology at the school.

Interactive Whiteboards

On an interactive whiteboard, the information from primary whiteboard is displayed as output onto the student’s computer screen.  The students can then view the information on their own computer screen and sit as close as they need to view the lesson being taught at that time.  Another advantage to using an interactive whiteboard is that the information can be saved for later review by the student.

Laptops & Displays

At the high school level at the Florida School for Deaf & Blind, they have a 1:1 laptop program.  The laptops are preloaded with various programs and hardware to help the students utilize the computers for their specific disability.  This assistive technology includes screen readers, screen enlargement, refreshable Braille displays, Daisy Book Players, CCTV, and access to the school’s wireless network.

The Daisy Book Player plays Daisy Books which are high-quality audiobooks.   They can also play CDs and other MP3s.  One of the advanced features is if you take a book out, and then put it back in at a later date, it will start off where the student left off reading.  This is great if the Daisy Player is going to be a shared classroom resource.

Openbook

The Openbook software scans a document into the computer.  The software then is able to read the written word back to the user.  The document can also be viewed on the computer screen.  There are other options available within the software to zoom the text and edit, similar to a word processing program.  This software would be good for students who have low vision, are blind, or are struggling readers.

SAL2 for the Blind

The SAL2 is a Talking Tactile Tablet, often referred to as a TTT.  It is a Braille literacy tool.  The SAL2 has books, programs, and worksheets that can connect into the computer to help students learn Braille.

Teachers can even make their own worksheets for the system.  This is a great as a center resource in the classroom since the students can use the system independently.

Braille Notetaker

The Braille Notetaker is a PDA system for blind students.  The students use the handheld device to complete a variety of tasks including notetaking and organization.  It also has the software programs Word, Excel, Access, Internet Explorer, and Email.  There is a tool for Braille translations.  The system can use either Refreshable Braille displays, QWERTY keyboards, or Braille Keyboards.  The PDA has access for a wide variety of input and output devices including USB connections and memory cards.

Handheld CCTV

The Handheld CCTV is a small device used to view written words and images on the go.  It is small enough for travel and use in everyday situations like at a restaurant or bank.  The device can magnify, increase and decrease contrast, zoom, or add lighting to written documents.

The Florida School for Deaf & Blind uses a wide variety of assistive technologies to meet the learning and life needs of their students.   These different technologies have made learning more accessible.  It has also been a great motivational tool for students to learn.

-Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture from the Florida School for the Deaf & Blind

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Student Response Systems Increase Learning Outcomes | Special Needs

I am currently researching the variety of student response systems out on the market to determine which brand, style, and system will work best in my classroom and at my school.  These systems allow teachers to gauge student learning immediately during direct instruction.  Teachers build in questions to ask the students during the presentations.  They use the response systems to enter their answers and then their answers are displayed through the projector onto the board and presentation.  Then the teacher can gauge student understanding immediately, rather than waiting for a quiz or test grade.

Technological Advances in Student Response Systems

There have been many advances over the past year to the student response systems.  The traditional True/False and multiple choice response systems have now emerged as high-tech multi-function devices.  Some response systems now include a full QWERTY keyboard, allow for text responses, and have computer-based or phone-based options available.  Many manufacturers are now offering a one-to-one model where each student will have their own remote that they take with them to each of their classes with their traditional materials like a textbook, paper, and pencil.  This is in place of having a classroom set that stays in one place..  Some schools are even requiring students to purchase their on remotes as part of their school supplies.

SRS Increase Learning Outcomes in Special Needs Classrooms

I believe that student response systems can play a vital role in increasing learning outcomes with students with special needs in the inclusion classroom.  The student response systems allow students to answer and ask predetermined questions that were created by the teacher, but also allow for students to indicate when they don’t understand a concept or have a question.  These systems can be set up to allow for the students’ identity to remain anonymous.  This would allow the students to be actively engaged in their learning as well as decreasing any fear associated with asking questions or showing lack of comprehension in front of their peers.

Available Response Systems

SMART Tech has a variety of response systems.  One of the remotes that they carry is specifically designed for students with special needs.  It provides a color and shape coded system and larger buttons than their traditional response systems.  Their other responses systems include options for QWERTY style remotes or using the response system through computers or cell phones.  If you have a SMART board in your classroom the system seamlessly integrates with the Notebook software and the SMART board to make for easy implementation.

Turning Technologies also has a wide variety of student response systems.  They have systems that can run through PowerPoint or other programs.  Their clickers are much smaller than the SMART response remotes.  They also have software you can download onto PDAs, phones, or computers and then use as the response system.  The most advanced clicker that Turning Technologies has is the ResponseCard® XR.  This system allows students to enter a wide variety of responses including numbers, letters, negatives, and decimals.  They can also be used to give a complete interactive test that students can complete at their own pace.

An online FREE polling system that is popular in schools that allow cell phone use is Poll Everywhere.  Poll Everywhere uses text messaging to receive responses to questions.  The teacher would setup the questions before the lesson and then provide the text number for the students to respond to for the question during the presentation.  The students then enter the answer and the results are displayed on the board.  This system requires no major investment by the school for equipment or Internet access.  It would be a great alternative if students are allowed to use their cell phones in the classroom at your school.

There are many other student response systems available for K-12 education including special needs students.  It just takes a little bit of time and research to figure out what is the best fit for your classroom and school.  It is definitely a tech tool that you should add to your wish list before the end of the school year!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo from Waifer X

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iPods & iPads are Innovative Tech Tools for Special Education

The iPod Touch and iPad, are great innovative technology tools for educators and students to use in the classroom.  There are many applications and features of these tools that may potentially increase learning outcomes and motivation for learning in the classroom.  While not all schools or students may have access to these tech tools, it is time to add these innovative devices as a wish-list request for next school year!

Functional Skills System for the iPod Touch

The Conover Company has a great package for special education classrooms that includes a classroom set of iPod Touches pre-loaded with age-appropriate videos setup into a functional skills system.  This system allows the students to learn functional skills to gain more independence in society.  The videos include an instructional phase, review phase, and generalization phase for life, literacy, math, social, and work skills. Some of the topics for the videos are learning about money, safety signs, tools for work, manners, social skills, describing words, clothing, entertainment, transportation, restaurants, shopping, labels, hygiene, grooming, and groceries.

The advantage of the iPod system is that the students can travel with the functional skills system to assist them in their day-to-day lives.  The touch screen capability of the iPod allows access to this system for students who may have limited hand movement or motion.  There is also a feature to modify the iPod into a single switch compatibility mode.  The videos include high-quality audio which used in conjunction with the vision impaired features of the iPod, allows access for students with low vision to utilize the functional skills program.  Closed-captioning is also available for the videos for students with hearing impairments.  This system can also be used on the computer instead of using iPod, but it would limit the use of the program outside of the classroom.  Another addition to the program is that there are print exercises that accompany this software for students to learn the functional skills in the classroom without the technology.

Videos of Special Education Students using iPods in the Classroom

Click Here to view a great video about how iPods can be used by teachers, students, and parents in the special education classroom.    In this video the teacher and sign language interpreter use the iPod as a communication device between the teacher, student, and parents.  The teachers also created videos of vocabulary in sign language and student accomplishments.  The parents can then see what the students are learning in class and become more involved at home.  The voice memo feature of the iPod is used to send information back and forth from families to teachers.  They have expanded the roll of the iPod in the classroom by video taping the stories that are being covered in class including audio, sign language, and photos from the books.  The stories can then be read at home to increase reading comprehension.

This video shows hearing impaired students utilizing the iPad for science education.  The teacher has the students completely engaged in their lesson combing the use of the iPad with sign language.  The video shows that the iPad is an innovative tool where the students can interact with each other in conjunction with their online textbook.  The features of the iPad that the students felt were helpful include the flip the screen, easy ability to scroll, enlarge images, search the net, and load their textbook.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo by FHKE

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Technology Tools in a Special Education Classroom

I am very fortunate to have a projector, document camera, and interactive whiteboard in my classroom.  I have become so accustomed to using these tools every day, I could not imagine teaching without them.  Projectors, document cameras, and interactive whiteboards increase student engagement, support a variety of learning styles, and increase learning outcomes.  They can be especially effective in special education classrooms with students with hearing and visual impairments. Since it is the time of year where planning for budgets and grant writing is really picking up, these three tools should be at the top of your ‘must have’ list.

Projectors

Projectors display images from your computer screen onto any flat, light-colored surface.  The image can be projected onto a standard whiteboard, a white wall, a projector screen or an interactive whiteboard.  Projectors can be mounted on the ceiling of a classroom or used from a mobile cart or table.  There are HD, LCD, and DLP projectors, all of which are standard size and formatting.  A more recent projector technology is the portable projector. They are projectors that are small enough to fit into your pocket!  Costs vary depending on size and quality.  Projectors are great for visual learners to be able to see and experience what you are teaching.  In my class, I use my projector to show students presentations for section reviews of the textbook, review games, for step-by-step lessons on how to use the various Microsoft Office products, along with class updates from my website.  Projectors are also great to show movies or video clips that can help to make learning come alive!  To make projectors even more powerful as a tool in the classroom, they can also be used in conjunction with an interactive whiteboard or a document camera.

Document Camera

Document cameras are the 21st century version of an overhead projector.  When used in conjunction with a projector, document cameras can be used to display printed materials, books, worksheets, review answers, or lecture notes.  You can zoom in and zoom out of the documents or freeze what is on the screen.  In a special education classroom, the zoom function of a document camera can be especially useful for students with low vision.  You can also place 3D objects under the camera and see live ‘shots’ of what is under the camera.  Some document cameras also include a microscope attachment.

Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards allow teachers and students to interact with the board digitally rather than using chalk or markers.  Your computer screen is projected onto the board with a projector. Then, with digital markers, erasers, and other various selected tools, you and your students can interact with the board.  This tool is great for special education students as it allows them to be more hands-on with their learning.  In my class, I create review games within my presentations that are interactive.  An example would be a matching vocabulary game where the students have to literally select and drag or draw a digital line connecting the term to the definition on the board. I also use my interactive whiteboard by incorporating pictures of the various menus and tools in the Microsoft Applications and then the students have to select and move the correct answers to the labeled area. Pictures, videos, and audio files can also easily be incorporated within a presentation on an interactive board.  These visuals make learning meaningful for students.  Most interactive whiteboards also come with software applications that make using the board as an interactive tool in the classroom easier.  They also supply pre-made templates for games similar to Jeopardy or Millionaire.  There are so many different ways to actively involve students in learning while using an interactive white board.

Projectors, document cameras, and interactive whiteboards are all technology tools that are great resources to have in a special education classroom.  They allow presentations and lectures to become more interactive through hands-on lessons and the ability to visually show students the meaning of what you are teaching.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo by Sridqway

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