10 resources to blend technology and special needs

Jacqui Murray

IMS Expert on websites/online content, tech advice and computer support.

Jacqui is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and author of two technology training books for middle school. She wrote Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a Cisco blogger, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller for her agent that should be out this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office, WordDreams, or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

If you’re interested in technology textbooks for K-5, visit Structured Learning. You’ll find the tech curriculum Jacqui Murray and hundreds of schools across the nation use.

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My first take on 'special needs' is: Don't all students have special needs? Aren't we beyond the cookie cutter education that lines students up and feeds them from the same trough?

Yes and yes, but for the purposes of this article, I'm going to reign my pen in and discuss what we traditionally consider 'special needs' and technology's effect on those students who function outside of the normal bell curve of pedagogic expectations.

Technology is the great equaliser between standard education and the 1:1 approach required by students with special circumstances. It's an embarrassment to our profession that learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, autism, ADHD are chronically under-served when the tools that can seamlessly supply personal attention - the iPads and netbooks and apps and software and widgets that can be the key to unlocking physical, mental, and psychological potential - if only they were used. With nominal training and the technology, teachers can differentiate instruction to serve students with a wide range of abilities and needs. Best practices include oral tools like Siri for those who have difficulty writing; audio tools to make teacher directions more available to the hearing-challenged; art programs that allow students to communicate ideas as their brains see them; widgets that facilitate sharing thoughts via other media than text (think art and music and poetry); translation programs that make material accessible quickly and easily to non-native speakers; the differentiated instruction available through sites such as Khan Academy.

Here are four foundational links to understanding special needs and technology:

If your school budget allows for only a limited number of apps and programs this year, choose the ones that will fill out your special needs collections. Here are some wonderful apps/websites to use with your special needs students:

How do you accommodate the special needs of your students in your classroom?

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