Special education teachers looking for some help to add variety to their curriculum or to make communicating with students a little easier can turn to Google for low-cost or free solutions. The company’s Teacher Academy website gives quite a few ideas on integrating its tools like Google Voice and Google groups into the academic environment.
Google Voice, typically used by busy professionals to link all their various modes of communication to one number, also has automatic transcription service for their voicemail which can make sending messages to students with hearing impairments easier. Its ability to send text messages to multiple people at once also allows teachers to send test and homework reminders to the entire class with one stroke. Those who are struggling with speech can make recordings to be forwarded and reviewed by the teacher. The teachers, in turn, can record snippers of their own for students to listen to as many times as they need and give them something to emulate when working on improving diction.
The reply feature of Google Voice, as one teacher notes, offers educators the chance to reply to student queries via text, voice message, or voice call. For students with a seeing impairment, this differentiation is crucial, while those with hearing impairments will receive the feedback they need via text.
The company’s free answer to Microsoft Office, Google Docs, a well-developed suite with collaborative features, should give a gentle introduction to students who are struggling to work in groups. The application’s cloud support also aids in organization, all but doing away with the problem of forgotten homework or lost papers. More ideas are available on the company’s Teacher Academy website, including how to use Google Groups to facilitate student-teacher communication both during and outside of class.
Google isn’t the only technology company trying to make an impact on special education. Apple, and its ubiquitous iPad is also making special ed easier for teachers and students. In Bloomfield, New Mexico, the iPad is giving a voice to those afflicted with Down’s Syndrome via their experimental program that distributed the gadget to 30 students in an attempt to judge their effectiveness.
While not all special education students using iPads are without the use of their voice, many are reliant on those around them for either physical or mental assistance. Some use the technology to advance abilities that they have, and their curriculum is less centered on the technology.
Some students, for example, better learn coordination on an iPad because they can draw, but are not forced to hold a pencil to do so; they can use their finger. Others learn how to better articulate because the iPad can repeat back what it thinks students are trying to say, showing students what words or sounds they need to work on once they see which words were misunderstood.
“What I see is student empowerment,” said Jennifer Martin, the district’s communications specialist.