Technology has changed how we interact with society. From banking to news consumption, it is easy to see and understand the impact and reach technology has had on our world. In the realm of education, we can see the effects of meaningful implementation of technology through stories from schools like Rocketship Education and through research on online learning’s effect in K-12. However, education technology can especially be leveraged to assist students with special needs.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. For students with Down Syndrome and other special needs, communicating through traditional assistive technology can be both limiting and frustrating. However, several recent advances have sought to remedy this issue by providing the foundation for personal and specialized learning.
One of the leading tools commonly used throughout the education landscape is the tablet. Tablets have become accessible tools that blend in with a 21st century learning environment, where many students already have access to new technologies. This allows students with special needs to become part of a school culture they may not have had access to previously.
Tablets also offer additional benefits that older technologies lacked, as they generally are intuitive and interactive. Students are able to take advantage of the technology thanks to their large screens and touch technology, which does not require as much precision as a mouse. Tablets provide a much-needed visual interaction for students, creating a direct connection between what a student touches on the tablet to what happens on the screen.
As children are introduced to technology at a younger age, more opportunity is provided for children with Down Syndrome to access different resources for language and learning. App marketplaces, such as iTunes and Google Play, offer a wide variety of educational apps for students with additional needs at low to no cost. A quick Google search finds organizations that have culled through the apps to create “best of” lists for students and parents. Like some other organizations taking advantage of the app marketplace, BridgingApps Recommended App List–presented at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention–even sorts apps by category: Fun and Leisure, Communication, Independence, and School. App marketplaces allow innovators to “design for one,” creating educational apps tailored to students with unique needs.
Meaningful implementation of technology can provide a student with increased autonomy, self-confidence, and academic and communication skills. News articles, interviews, and parent blogs provide a picture of how the use of tablets has been able to transform the ways in which students with Down Syndrome learn. By utilizing these resources, parents and educators have the ability to provide their students with the support that they need in an efficient and effective manner.
About the author
Erin Lockett is a Senior Policy Analyst at ExcelinEd, focusing on Course Access in the Innovation Policy set. Her work includes Innovation sessions and annual Pre-Summit workshops at the National Summit on Education Reform, convenings, thought leadership, and white papers on Course Access and Personalized Learning. She graduated from George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School for Public Policy and Public Administration with a Master’s in Public Administration, focusing on nonprofit management.