The benefits of technology in special education programs have proven to be immense. Educational Technology (EdTech) has transformed the way that special needs students are able to learn and interact with their classmates and teachers, both in an in-person and virtual classroom environment. Despite the newfound distance learning methods that have been implemented due to the pandemic, educational technology tools like accessibility features and personalized learning software have been able to address and minimize the difficulties that students with special needs often face.
Understanding the latest EdTech trends and how these tools work is critical for educators and EdTech companies looking to provide the best possible learning solutions for children with disabilities. In this blog, we cover some of the many benefits of technology in special education learning software and how these EdTech tools improve the learning experience for students.
The main benefits of technology in special education are:
- Personalized learning experience
- Mobility impairment assistance
- Address social anxiety and attention-based disorders
1. Creates a Personalized Learning Experience
Special needs students learn in different ways and at different paces than non-special needs students. Teachers may not only need to assist students with course materials and instruct students at different rates, but also help them physically if they suffer from mobility impairments or other physical limitations. Because the needs of these students can vary, they tend to thrive when they have a personalized learning program that addresses their individual challenges so they can learn at the pace that best suits them.
EdTech software makes it easy for educators to provide students with individually customized learning experiences using assistive technology tools like voice recognition software, screen readers, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and more. Let’s take a look at each of these in further detail.
Voice Recognition Software
Voice recognition software is a great EdTech tool for students with visual and motor impairments. Students need only speak commands and their EdTech devices or apps will carry out their requests. This way, students can create reports, issue app commands, and interact with their teachers or other students.
Screen readers convert the text that is on a computer screen or smart device to audio or braille. They are extremely beneficial for students who have a visual or physical impairment, a learning disorder such as dyslexia, and those who are illiterate. The software essentially translates written text, provides image descriptions, and iterates other things that are happening on the screen using key commands, text-to-speech, Braille displays, and sound icons. Using their preferred commands, students can search for information, spell out words, navigate a website, format text, and much more.
AI EdTech tools are excellent for transcription and word prediction. Students can use AI to transcribe written documents like lecture notes or emails from their instructors as well as create their own text documents using voice or Braille commands.
AI, along with Machine Learning technologies, can also help educators further personalize a student’s learning experience. These software technologies examine and keep track of student inputs, their preferences, the pace at which they learn, and other data and provide feedback to instructors so they can create a customized education plan for their students. Because they can anticipate student needs and preferences, these tools can also provide students with the information they need for course work without them having to look it up on their own and even make suggestions to help them complete their homework and facilitate other classroom tasks.
Furthermore, AI can also be used as a teaching aid. Many schools are using AI robots in place of educators or as teaching assistants to ensure students are able to get the attention they need. This is critical for special needs students who often require a more hands-on approach or additional attention from their teachers that may be difficult to obtain in larger classrooms.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the importance of being able to provide alternative forms of education to students, including distance learning. Unfortunately, distance learning isn’t something that is easy for any student, much less special needs students who require more dedicated attention from their teachers.
Luckily, Virtual Reality (VR) technology can eliminate those barriers and allow students to interact with their teachers and other students in a simulated classroom environment. Depending on the student’s preferences, teachers can create a one-on-one experience or a full classroom setting that enables students to feel as though they are interacting in person.
Many of these EdTech tools also offer the ability to create unique profiles for each student that can be carried over to other technology devices so that the students themselves, their teachers, or their parents/guardians won’t need to input the student’s preferred settings every time they switch between devices.
2. Assists Students with Mobility Impairments
Students with physical limitations, such as mobility or motor impairments, have a hard time being able to participate in many of the more hands-on types of learning activities. EdTech can bridge that gap by allowing students who rely on wheelchairs, walkers, canes, braces, and other aids to be able to fully participate in activities via the use of interactive technology tools and virtual experiences.
These types of educational technologies rely heavily on intuitive technology, such as touch screens, wireless keyboards, and gesture-based recognition. They allow teachers to provide a more balanced learning experience to students with mobility impairments, especially students who are sharing a classroom with non-special needs children.
3. Helps Students with Social Anxiety and Attention-Based Disorders
Students who have social anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, Down syndrome, and other disorders that affect the way in which they interact with others often face struggles in the classroom. These students have unique learning needs that need to be addressed because even minor distractions can affect their progress.
Offering a one-on-one experience between a student and their teacher or between a student and their learning materials is one of the many benefits of technology in special education schools. In lieu of sharing a classroom with several other students, EdTech apps allow each student to work on tasks by themselves or with their educator so they can stay focused.
Choosing the Right EdTech Tools for Your Classroom
The benefits of technology in special education classrooms are evident. These EdTech tools offer a personalized educational experience that helps students learn at their own pace and addresses their unique needs. However, in order for EdTech to provide the right solutions to students, educators need to understand the type of tool that their students will need.
For example, students with visual impairments won’t benefit from Virtual Reality tools since the software offers a primarily visual experience. Conversely, students who are hard of hearing or deaf won’t benefit from screen readers or voice command technology. Understanding the specific needs of each student and what they require the most help with can help ensure you pick the best EdTech tools. Speaking with an experienced app developer can also help you gain a better understanding of how these types of applications work and even help you build your own EdTech app with customizable features.