We’re so happy to welcome Kristin from Samson’s Shoppe to the blog today! Kristin’s sharing a few really great tech tools to help with implementing technology in the special education classroom. Feel free to chime in in the comments with other tech tools you love!
As a middle school special education teacher for the past ten years, I have been able to observe how technology has evolved and can make a positive impact with my students. At first, it can seem overwhelming, especially if you try (or administration asks you) to implement many different aspects at once. I found that it is better to have an open mind and to take it slow. You need to make sure that you, as well as your students, are comfortable with the technology piece. This is something that I need to constantly keep in mind. The students that I work with have classifications, such as autism, emotional disturbance, intellectual disability, learning disability, other health impairment, or speech and language impairment. Here are three programs I have used successfully with my students on their Chromebooks:
There are free and paid versions. Of course, the paid version will provide more, but I will tell you what the free version offers. In addition to science and language arts, I teach small group reading to students who have deficits in decoding and fluency. This program has saved me so much time in the classroom. I used to spend three days each quarter individually assessing student progress. Now, I can assess weekly all at once in about ten minutes. Fluency Tutor has leveled texts for students to read. You can choose the text for each student. You can vary the text from student to student. Students can log into Google Classroom to obtain their assignment. The program will then record their reading. There is also a comprehension component that will ask them to answer questions at the end of the reading. When students are finished, they will submit the assignment to you. You listen to it and mark errors. All the calculations are then done for you, and it logs it so you can see how they are progressing from week to week.
Other features that I did not use last year but may this year:
- Upload Google Docs for students to read: This can include a science text they read in class or part of a novel they are reading.
- Language translations: You can choose from 70 different languages!
- Vocabulary list builder: This is helpful if students are having trouble with grade-level vocabulary they are responsible for knowing. The more times they see it, the better.
My district technology lead introduced me to this program. At first, I thought the idea was cool but didn’t think my students would be able to do it. It actually worked out to be a phenomenal tool for my students. I had a student on a Kindergarten level in seventh grade tell me the difference between a chemical and a physical change. I was blown away. This program is the perfect way to provide a formative assessment for your students.
FlipGrid is a program that has your students make video responses to your question. For example, in science when we learned about chemical and physical changes, for homework, I asked my students to complete a FlipGrid explaining what each one was, giving an example, and telling how they are different. You can distribute the link through your learning management system (last year, I used Google Classroom, but this year I will use Edmodo) for students to click on. A video can easily be made on their cell phones, laptops, or desktops. As long as the device has a working camera and microphone, they can easily make a video. Again, there are paid and free versions. I only used the free version. With this version, videos can only be 90 seconds long. At first, I thought that was really short, but it was actually a perfect amount of time. I really liked this assignment as an option for students who have difficulty with writing to express themselves.
This program was introduced to me later in the year, so I only had an opportunity to use it a few times and can’t wait for next year. It is another great way to provide a formative assessment on a topic for your students. Boom Decks are like task cards on steroids. They take the digital component to a whole new level. This tool was great for my students, because it is self-checking. We could complete the decks as a whole class, in small groups or individually. No matter how it was completed, I knew the students would walk away knowing the correct answer. Another reason these task cards are so great is because there are sound and touch features. Making this more interactive increased the engagement in my classroom, which in turn will increase comprehension.
The most important thing to keep in mind when implementing anything new into your classroom is to keep an open mind. It doesn’t hurt to test something out. You may find that it works great and increases the engagement in your classroom. The more engaged your students are, the more motivated they are to learn, which in turn means they are comprehending more of the information we are trying to get them to take in. I think each of these programs gives you options to switch things up in your classroom.
Kristin is a middle school special education teacher from Long Island, New York. In addition to teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and furry child, Samson. If you want more ideas or resources, you can check out her blog or Teachers Pay Teachers store, Samson’s Shoppe.