Technology for ESL

Assistive Technology & Schools
By:Sharilyn Rose

The use of technology is benefiting students worldwide. With laptops, interactive whiteboards and presentation software, teachers are using computers and devices to create teaching materials, convey information and engage students. In schools, assistive technology, in particular, refers to equipment or devices that enable individuals to participate more actively in their education. This may mean enhancing ability to communicate, accessing curriculum, playing with peers or becoming more independent.

Choosing the Type of Technology
Before implementing technology to meet the needs of individual students, teachers will need to consult student Individual Education Plans and consider the needs of all of the students in their class. They can maximize the benefits by choosing technology that will assist the most students. In many cases, multi-disciplinary teams will make recommendations for special-education students. These teams may include psychologists, speech language pathologists, augmentative communication specialists, occupational therapists and other professionals, or consultants from the school district or outside agencies. State funding may be available to help students obtain the equipment they need.

Laptops and Word Processing Devices
Many students have fine motor issues or learning disabilities that prevent them from transferring their thoughts to paper. Software can enable these students to access standardized curriculum and demonstrate their learning. Speech-recognition software, such as "Dragon Naturally Speaking," allows students to dictate into a word processor and word prediction programs to improve their spelling. Teachers can use text readers such as "Kurzweil" to read scanned documents, such as novels, worksheets and tests, to students. Many students can benefit from graphic organizer software like "Inspirations" in the planning and organization of their writing. Laptops and Word Processing devices allow students to complete assignments with more independence and provide the portability older students need when moving from class to class.

Additional Specialized Software
Students with a variety of disabilities are motivated by the visual, hands-on nature of computerized learning. Some programs allow staff to create picture-based teaching materials, schedules, and communication systems. Visit "Speaking of Speech" to download examples. Other programs may be student-focused and use games to teach specific concepts such as social skills, receptive communication or beginning numeracy. In many school districts, classroom computers are already loaded with colorful, engaging activities across curriculum areas. Special education teams have an abundance of knowledge and can provide recommendations for individuals receiving services.

Other Devices
Some students may not be able to communicate, use computers or make their way around the classroom without devices to meet their specific learning, sensory or mobility needs. Individuals with hearing loss may use FM Systems to amplify the teacher's voice while minimizing classroom noise. Those with low-vision may require screen readers and braille materials. Students with mobility issues may use switches and alternative keyboards to access computers and page turners to read books independently. Children with communication needs may use alternative communication devices that speak for them, when they touch a button. Once again, it is important to consult multidisciplinary teams, before selecting the technology, as these professionals will ensure the products being used will meet student needs.






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