Special Needs Students Need Technology

Posted on April 6, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By Fran Mauney

If only educators could use brain imagery to analyze the architecture of students’ brains, we could actually see the areas in which students learn best.  This would allow us to build activities that correspond to students’ abilities and cause their brains to morph and grow.  Recent brain research shows that the parts of the brain involved in reading, math, music and personal relationships are different in every child.  They are also independent of one another, which brings me to the reason for this blog.  We need to begin thinking of students as a stained glass mosaic with several pieces, some of these pieces show  the areas they are really good at and some pieces show their weaknesses.  Many educators believe if a students is a poor reader, then he is going to be poor in other subjects as well. This is a myth that needs to be destroyed. What can we do as educators?  We can design lessons that appeal to multiple senses.  Teachers can lead students into a new subject through his strengths and interests. Once the student is engaged, he can try a weaker skills set for another part of the lesson and develop another area of the brain.

Special needs students have always touched my heart and inspired me to be a better teacher.  Because of their diverse learning differences (not disabilities), I look for activities that engage them and allow them opportunities to experience success. Technology is the tool that I continue to use to strengthen students’ learning.   When second graders were given the opportunity to visit websites to locate information about famous African Americans, they told me they couldn’t do that because they couldn’t read.  When I sat with these students at the computer and helped them locate the information, I read the words out loud to them as I pointed to the words on the screen.  Next, the students told me the facts they’d like to include on their storyboard and I wrote the words for them.  Finally, the students were able to read their parts into the microphone and record their stories using Audacity .  They were also able to publish their podcasts using Gcast.  These students were so excited and proud of their accomplishments!  Hearing themselves read, editing their pauses using Audacity, and publishing for friends and family on the web, boosted their self-esteem and developed the weaker parts of their brains. 

I think educators can benefit from the special education teachers’ experiences as they help write IEPs and set goals for students each year.  Finding engaging activities using technology will motivate students to work hard to overcome their weaknesses.  Programs like Compass Learning are designed to individualize instruction based on students’ MAP scores.  Movie Maker is another free download that students absolutely love using to create digital stories.  The reluctant reader will gladly insert photos, add titles, transitions and music to bring their stories to life.  Students who struggle with writing, will also enjoy the visuals and dictation of the story with Movie Maker.  Try using technology with your special needs students and give them the opportunities you give the gifted students.  You will be pleasantly surprised!

Visit Allkindsofminds.org for more information about learning differences.

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3 Responses to “Special Needs Students Need Technology”

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What a great post, Fran! Good ideas…

Fran, enjoyed reading your post. I especially appreciated the the fact that you are integrating 21st century skills and social media tools with individualized instructional resources. Programs like CL use brain research practices and engage students that are very applicable for various learning modalities. Thanks for sharing.

I wish I had had a curriculum tool like OdysseyLearning when I was till in the classroom. Everyone gets exactly what they need when they need it and teachers can get their lives back.


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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department

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