Through the use of technology we can give children voices and autonomy in the classroom, also allow them to develop confidence, access the curriculum and be seen in a new light by their peers.

August 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

As a special education teacher and soon to be technology specialist I like to look at what having high tech solutions look and feel like to all team members involved.

Technology when used correctly with all parties, well trained and on board can create a way for students to cross bridges that allow them to access curriculum and participte in ways that were inaccessible before.

Watching children who can not use their voice to speak  instead use an augmentitive communication device to participate in class is a game changer for that child. It puts them on an even playing field as their classmates.

But it’s not that simple you see, so much goes into making sure that moment is successful.

1.  Both the teacher, specialist and child must be fluid with using the device.

2. The child should practice using the device with the specialist and teacher in the same fashion and with the same types of questions used into the classroom. Practice leads to success.

3.  The first few instances of practicing in the classroom should be coordinated between the teacher specialist and child.  A simple wink from the specialist so the teacher calls next in that student to answer a practiced question is discrete and helps the child build autonomy.  It also begins to show classroom peers that the nonverbal child does truly have a voice all their own.

4. Practices like these above become built on during the introductory stages but as all team members become experts more organic and spontaneous interactions begin to happen. That’s when things become breathtakingly cool!

But what about the teacher who doesn’t have time to “deal” or who sees it as the specialist job?   Hey, it’s true that teacher is busy and learning how to do this probably was not part of the deal that they had in mind. It becomes one more thing on their plate that is super difficult to get to.  

How does it feel for the child to be using the one with the device?  I am unsure.   I imagine their feelings change with age.   It’s cool at first when they are little, but iver time the novelty wears off.  I bet when a button gets stuck and they say the word over and over its really embarrassing.  I bet when they have something to say and that language hasn’t been properly programmed in its super frustrating!

So as you see this effort for everyone to feel successful must be collaborative. It must involve extra planning time, communication in advance about upcoming curriculum and what is salient to learn for that child.  It can be done – I’ve done it! It can work!

What about the student who used technology for organization, writing, research and to foster executive function skills?  At this level kids are usually a bit older – sometimes resistent because they want to be the same as everyone else. This is a problem in which the teacher can be a huge help.  Teaching the child to feel proud to be using the correct tools opens up another avenue for universal design and self-discovery in the class room where every child learns about which particular tools they need to be successful.  It’s a great opportunity for discussion that everyone uses/gets what they need to learn.

This type of technology in the older set requires more than just encouragement and support – it requires direct instruction for the student using the device .  It requires that the child’s team is all trained and fluid with using the same programs the child is using.  

On several occasions I’ve seen a scribe used for my daughter instead of her typing her own work simply because the paraprofessional  couldn’t be bothered with helping her access the program correctly or didn’t know how.  In that one moment when a decision like that is made you take away a child’s autonomy. You damage their confidence and you send a message that it’s just too much work to do it that way. It sends a message that the technology is a bother and I’m pretty sure that would make any child feel bad.

As educators we MUST be dedicated to the use of technology for our students who need it to access all parts of their school day. Yes, it’s an extra responsibility that you didn’t plan for but the reward from the successes are grand and fulfilling!!

Giving children voices and autonomy in the classroom, allows them to develop confidence, access the curriculum and be seen as equals by their peers.

Technology is the great equalizer when used properly!

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