Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Web 2.0 and the Special Education Student

I have really enjoyed all the conversations about using Web 2.0 tools and the impact they make in our classrooms but I haven’t heard many special education teachers come out about the impact it can make for their students. When I hear of collaboration projects between classes, I hear teachers say they take the highest level students and I’m sure it is because these students need to be able to work independently more than students working on the regular school work. But I hope we make sure we include the special education students too even if it means we will have to work more closely with them the others. I think teachers may find out that special education students may shine using these new tools and actually show strength where pencil and paper may show a weakness.

Maybe because of confidentiality laws, no one is mentioning that the students in the projects are special education students and they are using these tools also. I can only speak from experience with the special education teachers at my school who were already overwhelmed by paperwork that they could not fathom the thought about learning new technology tools. The part that I have trouble convincing them is that at first it may seem cumbersome but once learned, it can give the teacher more time and freedom to do other things. I remember learning to drive and how hard it was to remember all the hundreds of things to do in order to get from one place to the other. Now I take it for granted because all those hundreds of things I do automatically. The same thing works for doing things on the computer with the students. Once they learn the process, they eventually will learn how to do it independently. There may need to be more guidance given or repetition for special education students but they are usually more successful on computers because it is kinesthetic-tactile, visual, and sometimes auditory which is perfect for students with different learning styles.

Here are some suggestions when working with special education students that may help:
1. Explain what you plan to do and why you want the student to do this. Special education students have trouble transitioning to new things so they may be reluctant at first, but with perseverance, they will get over this.
2. Before working with the student, write out a list of steps they will need to follow (task analysis). Some students can even check off each step as they finish it. Having written steps to follow is a safety net for some special education students and they can refer to it whenever they forget what to do next.
3. Try each step and make sure you didn’t leave anything out. Too many times I have not tried the procedures myself only to find out that I did something automatically but didn’t write it down in the steps which causes major confusion to the students.
4. Model these steps while the student is watching. If students watch you follow the steps, they can see that it works and will feel more confident when it is their turn to try this.
5. Explain what to do if you make a mistake (edit or undo). You might also make a note of this on the bottom of the steps you have for the student. This shows the student that an error is not a terror and they did not break anything or ruin anything. It is this fear of failure that tends to paralyze the student because they have such low self esteem.
6. Let the student follow the steps while you are watching. Then you will know if the student understands each step or where there is confusion.
7. Give the student praise after each step is done successfully. Praise works wonders for these students because they have had so little success in their lives.
8. Let the student work independently while you are not too far away. This shows that you believe in them and trust that they can do this. Too many times they are told that they can’t do something and this will help them realize their capabilities.

These are just some of the ways that a special education student can be successful when using Web 2.0 tools. If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment.

Photo credit: success by vmaurin


Mathew said...

Are you familiar with the Rock Our World project? It's worldwide but initiates from a class of sight-impaired students in California.

I am not a special education teacher but I have had the participation of mainstreamed autism students in nearly all of our film projects at the video in the classroom site.

Christine Southard said...

I'm a special education teacher and I use web 2.0 with the students in my co-teaching class. We blog, we wiki, and we podcast.

I recently presented at a technology conference and discussed how my integrated curriculum uses technology to help level the playing field for students with special needs. In my inclusion class, technologies like blogging and podcasting are being used to meet IEP goals and to prepare students for 21st century learning. During the presentation, however, I realized that I was a minority in the teachnology revolution, so I would encourage other inclusion teachers to start getting their feet wet with technology and web 2.0. You'll only be successful with the technology if you play with it.

In our class, we use classblogmeister to blog and audacity to podcast and we use these tools to meet IEP goals across the content/related service areas. Student work in these two programs can be used as authentic documentation for student progress during CSEs. My co-teacher and I collaborate with related service providers like speech and occupational therapists to further assist students who are struggling with speech/language or fine motor deficits.

Lastly, we encourage students to be independent by teaching them to use technology tools like the spell/grammar check in WORD and free text to speech software like so they can be more successful on their own, which boosts their self-esteem.

loonyhiker said...

christine: Thank you so much for telling how you use these tools in your classroom. You are truly an inspiration to me!

3GK blogs said...

I agree with your comments about including students with disabilities. I have one autistic student in my class who becomes very anxious when he is asked to write using pencil and paper. Watching another student add a post to our class blog intrigued him and he volunteered to write a post himself. Excellent for his self-esteem. Thanks for your post.
Grace Kat

loonyhiker said...

3gk blogs: that was a great story about your student! Glad to hear success stories like this.

Sue Waters said...

Hi Pat

Grace Kat left a comment on my blog suggesting I check out your post about Web 2.0 and Special Education. I've heard lots of stories about how Web 2.0 has helped kids with autism; especially digital story telling.

hfinley said...

I am a special educator and use Web 2.o tools in my resource classes. Students who are usually unmotivated to work become heavily engaged when I use these tools in class. One of my favorite performance tasks this year was our Reviving The Art of Storytelling Project. After a unit on fables, myths, and folktales students created their own modern day myth, fable, or folktale and had to podcast it on our class blog. This project was my first attempt at web 2.0 and it worked phenomenally. The most amazing thing was how I was able to help students read with more inflection in their voice simply by using audacity. The students could see when they were reading monotone visually in audacity!
We now use audacaity to docuemnt progress on fluency.
In addition, I now frequently use my blog site for students to post responses to readings and to collabortate on new vocabulary. They even go as far to correct each other!
And here is the best part! The class was pretty much labled as non readers and the hope of them passing state mandated testing was long gone. Not so! We just got back our test scores and All but one passed the reading portion of the test!
Now my challenge is to encourage the co-teachers I work with to use this in the inclusion class as well.
We just have to model the use of Web 2.0 and spread the word!

loonyhiker said...

hfinley: What a great story! I love how you use audacity and the success that followed. It is stories like this that I plan to share with other teachers in the course that I'm teaching this summer. Thanks for sharing this.