Home' THE Journal : May 2013 Contents Mobile Learning and 1-to-1
Valeska Gioia, an assistive technology specialist and
autism consultant for the South Carolina Department
of Education, says that using students' mobile devices
and the free applications that they run can save school
districts "thousands" of dollars in equipment costs.
"The vision programs and equipment that was so ex-
pensive can be changed in a way that's more acces-
sible for a child just using an iPad or an Android tablet,"
Generic devices can quickly be customized for spe-
cial needs through the use of built-in apps and features
such as text-to-speech, magni cation, and high-con-
trast functions. Starting with the release of iOS 6, for
example, Apple added "guided access" to its mobile
operating system. This feature allows a special ed
teacher to restrict what applications work on a given
device. These new controls can be useful for keeping
students with disabilities such as autism or ADHD
Educators can also switch out specialized equip-
ment for commodity mobile devices. For example,
students with autism or speech disorders have tra-
ditionally used communication boards: The student
would point to a picture and the board would "speak"
it. Now special ed teachers can out t students with a
FEATURE | accessibility
| MAY 2013
THE CHALLENGE OF COMMON
AS SCHOOLS INTEGRATE COMMON CORE learning standards in their curriculum, the burden could be
particularly heavy for special needs learners, warns Ruth Ziolkowski, president of Don Johnston, a developer and
reseller of assistive technologies and special needs in the area of literacy. "I see huge bene ts to the Common
Core in the way the standards build on each other. These are really nice and tightly aligned. The students touch
them year after year." And "right from the start, they were thinking about a wide range of students." Those are the
positives, she notes.
"At the same time, the stakes have been raised. Our students are still struggling to read the text they have in front
of them. As the text becomes more complex, it becomes a challenge. There's a lot more inferential comprehension,
a lot more vocabulary required. Those are all things that hang up our students." Spelling is another obstacle, she
adds. Students might have "great words in their head, but they can't 'get access' to them."
For that situation, programs and apps can come to the rescue. For example, the company's Snap&Read toolbar
provides an intervention that helps students keep pace in reading. The utility oats over applications on the screen
and reads any text that appears there and is selected. It can decipher HTML, Word docs, PDFs, e-mail, web-based
tests, images, dialog boxes, and Flash websites. Because it's so simple to use, says Ziolkowski, teachers don't
have to get involved and "students can truly be independent."
However, even a plethora of useful apps won't solve every problem. As a special ed teacher in New York City,
Vicki Windman works with the lowest functioning students, including those with autism, Down syndrome, and
neurological impairments. Although her students may be in the same age range as high school students, their
learning is closer to preschool level. What would progress look like over the course of the school year? "Let's say,
going from ve sight words to 10 sight words; I would be elated by that. Or being able to identify the difference
between a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter."
Although Windman tries to stay on top of Common Core discussions that may have repercussions for her
students, she has yet to hear anything that applies to their situation. And she says that frightens her. Why?
"Because now they're testing teachers. So if my kids can't [work at grade level], how am I going to be judged?"
Windman would prefer to assess learning among special ed students by using digital portfolios. Since she has
enough iPads in her classroom for all of her students, she can keep and share reports about what each child has
done. "Then when an annual review comes around, I could say, 'Look at Johnny. At the beginning of the year,
he was doing x, y, and z, and this is what he could do at the middle of the year and at the end of the year.'" The
advantage of using iPads in that process, she adds, is that the apps she's running "do data tracking. That saves me
a ton of work, because that works with my IEP goals."
Links Archive June 2013 April 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page