Still Learning…

I have learned that there is so much more to learn about assistive technology for students with disabilities.  Finding the tools is only one part of using AT in the classroom.  Getting approval, ammending IEPs, finding the funds, training staff and parents, and helping the students feel comfortable using the device, are all a part of the process for implementing AT into instruction.   

I have learned that there are many resources for instruction and technology related to the creation of a UDL classroom.  My favorite websites are Edutopia, LD Online, Pinterest, and Symbaloo.  Also, listening and reading the experiences of other educators can be enlightening and helpful in choosing what will work for your instruction and for your students.  There is a world of knowledge at the end of your fingertips!

For students with anxiety and attention disorders, you have to create an engaging, comfortable learning environment.  By focusing on their individual needs as early in the school year as possible, you can help these students reach their potential. 


Proactive or Reactive?

Are anxiety and attention disorders treated mostly as a behavior issue in the classroom? It seems that most conversation centered on students with ADHD or ADD focuses on their fidgeting and disruptive behaviors. Incorporating movement into the classroom can be helpful keeping students engaged and hopefully gives students less down time between tasks.

Active Academics is a great resource for integrating physical activity into your lessons for any subject area. Getting students out of their desks and working with classmates can make a difference in their eagerness to learn.

Active Maths is also a site that offers many ideas relating to group work and interactive learning in math. From “walking worksheets” to “whiteboard quizzes,” there is so much to try in the classroom.

My outlook regarding students with ADHD and ADD has definitely been affected by researching assistive technology and instructional strategies. My perspective has changed from reactive to proactive. Reactive is discipline and consequences, proactive is getting students the tools they need to learn with their peers.

My new question is: “What assistive technology can I use with my students that will enable them to become independent learners?” By learning about these tools and helping students understand why they are important, they will be prepared for learning at the next level.

Building Confidence…

Not just for your student, but for yourself!  Many times, we have great ideas, great online resources, great co-workers, but we are not confident in ourselves to implement these ideas into the classroom.  Students are usually eager to try new things, especially if it deals with technology or having fun in the classroom.  I’ve learned that reading other educators’ experience on blogs, like WordPress, and social media, like Twitter, can give you great insight into the world of special education.

The resources we’ve investigated and developed recently are exciting and I cannot wait to use them in my career.  The Symbaloo webmix I have created, is really designed for the content I may be teaching one day.  While focusing on middle grades content area, I have included resources for students and teachers for assistive technology ideas.  There are internet resources and software programs for different modes of presentation, engagement, and expression to promote a UDL classroom.  I believe Symbaloo has been my favorite project this semester!

Practice makes perfect!  Getting comfortable with technology is the first step.  Be adventurous, go outside of the textbook, paper, and pencil learning methods.  Your students learn in different ways, so you should learn to teach in different ways.  For a special educator, these differences are necessary for students with disabilities to learn and succeed.  Teaching students how to help themselves learn, is a way to prepare them for their lives after high school.

Building Memory Skills

For students with attention disorders, retention of information can be a real struggle.  I am interested in finding entertaining apps and resources that improve memory.  Using @edutopia to research some of these resources, I discovered an interesting topic.  Laughter increases dopamine levels, which increase long-term memory retention.  Think about it…you hear a funny joke and can repeat it many times without practicing!

Any time you can make learning fun, students will respond!  Students, especially students with disabilities, learn better from visual aids.  Videos, images, maps, and interactive apps can be useful with visual learners.  Unique Creatures of Australia on may not cause “rolling on the floor” laughter, but most kids love animals, especially the odd creatures of Australia.

Evernote Peek is an app that works as a cheat sheet for notetakers, giving visual cues to enhance memory.  I can’t wait to do more digging to find other exciting apps for students!

Evernote Peek

Keeping Focused – What assistive technology can help students get started and stay on task?

While some students are diligently working on their assignments, you may notice a few looking out the window or fidgeting in their seat.  At first glance, you may think these are behavior issues.  If you dig a little deeper, you will discover that the students do not understand the work or get distracted.    Redesigning instruction may work for many, but some students have individual needs that can be met using AT tools.  There are many assistive technologies that can help these students get started on their work and stay focused. 

Students with anxiety or attention disorders can become overwhelmed in the classroom, especially when there is independent learning involved.  If a teacher does not recognize non-verbal cues from the student, a simple assignment can become an outburst of emotion for students with disabilities.  

Almost every day at my high school, we have students who are sent out of class for “having an attitude” or “not doing their work.”  As educators, we have to take a step back and recognize what we can do to help the situation, not escalate it.  The best policy is to find what triggers are affecting our students, and try to prevent them. 

Assistive technology allows students to help decide what works best for them, and lets them be in control of their own learning.  @AssistTech shows how AT is being implemented in classrooms today.  @LDOnline gives great ideas to keep your students engaged and motivated.  Lets get started!