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My Mini Course: Using Technology to Promote Literacy in Students with Disabilities

Using Technology to Promote Literacy in Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities struggle with reading and writing and most traditional ways to teach literacy do not benefit these students. This course is designed to help educators learn the importance of using technology to increase learning outcomes in literacy for students with disabilities.

Kids tech.jpg

Topics to be Explored:

  • What is a balanced literacy approach?
  • Why do students with disabilities struggle with literacy?
  • What technology is available to help promote a balanced literacy approach for students with disabilities?
  • How can teachers effectively incorporate this technology into the classroom?

Needs Assessment

Step 1: Describe your Intent

Instructional Problem: Students with disabilities may have physical and/or mental impairments which can make it more difficult for them to learn to read and write. Most often these students require accommodations or modifications to the learning curriculum in order to be successful. Research tells us that technology used as an accommodation can greatly improve the literacy outcomes in students with disabilities, yet teachers are still not using technology in their literacy lessons. Through literature review and personal observation, this is most likely because teachers do not know what technology to incorporate or how to effectively make use of it within their lesson plans. With the recent push for inclusion, many general education teachers are seeing more and more students with IEP's in their classes. General education teachers have not been trained to meet the needs of these particular students, which poses a problem in the classroom for both the teacher and the student. Without a command of literacy, students will struggle with all academic subject areas, therefore it is imperative to provide students with disabilities tools that will assist with their learning.

Nature of learning: By participating in this mini-course, teachers in grades K-12 will use cognitive abilities to understand the importance of using technology to promote literacy in students with disabilities. Teachers will also use intellectual skills to learn what technology is available to them, and how to effectively make use of this technology within their classroom. Through completion of the course, teachers will have a more favorable attitude about implementing technology into their literacy lessons. Although, elementary school teachers are often the ones who teach reading and writing, secondary school teachers can benefit from this course by learning how to assist those students who still present with literacy struggles.

Step 2: Gather Information

Learner Analysis: The learners for this course will be K-12 general education or special education teachers who wish to use technology to assist with literacy concerns in their classrooms. At the very least, learners will have a Bachelor's Degree in Education and/or Special Education. Many may have already begun to obtain a Master's Degree, while some may have already completed this step. It is predicted that learners at this level, will have the ability to self-assess and effectively monitor their own learning. Since this mini-course is voluntary, learners will be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. Teachers taking this course want to learn how to better assist their students with reading and writing. They also want to achieve better results with regard to literacy with their students.

Context Analysis: This mini-course is a self-paced, online course. The learners will be provided with various instructional strategies to assist with successful completion of the course. Instructional strategies will include but are not limited to: video, text, graphics, self-reflection and hands-on activities.

Instructional Solution: This mini-course will help K-12 educators effectively incorporate technology into their classrooms to help promote literacy in students with disabilities.

Step 3: Identify Goals


  • Learners will develop a better understanding of the importance in utilizing technology to promote literacy in students with disabilities.
  • Learners will explore different technology tools to help teach a balanced literacy approach to struggling students.
  • Learners will create a classroom activity that targets one area of literacy and incorporates technology to assist the students with disabilities in successfully completing the activity.

Performance Objectives

Performance Objectives are as follows:

Verbal and Intellectual:

After reading various texts on a balanced literacy approach to teaching, teacher students will be able to correctly identify the components of balanced literacy and briefly describe each.


Following video clips and informational text, teacher students will be able to describe problems with literacy that students with disabilities face within the classroom.


Using the knowledge derived from the course, teacher students will be able to identify and explain several types of technology that aides in promoting literacy in students with disabilities.


After reading literature and viewing videos, teacher students will be able to demonstrate effective uses of technology within the classroom to assist with literacy instruction.


By completion of this course, teacher students will be able to create classroom activities and/or lessons that incorporate technological strategies that aide in teaching literacy to students with disabilities.


Teacher students, by becoming more comfortable with technology to help promote literacy in students with disabilities, will choose to incorporate such technology into their daily lessons.

Task Analysis

Course Purpose

The purpose of this course is to provide teachers with an increased awareness of the benefits that technology offers in promoting literacy for students with disabilities. The course will provide teachers with a better understanding of the struggles these students face with literacy and tools for creating success for these students in their classrooms. The course will allow teachers to recognize the importance of incorporating technology into their lessons, which will lead to better learning outcomes in literacy for students with disabilities.

Learning Outcomes

At completion of this course, teacher students will be able to:

▪ Explain the balanced literacy approach to teaching

▪ Describe literacy problems that students with disabilities face in the classroom

▪ List and explain various technologies to aide in promoting literacy in students with disabilities

▪ Demonstrate effective uses of technology to assist with literacy instruction for students with disabilities

▪ Create classroom activities that incorporate technological literacy strategies in the classroom

Prerequisite Skills

Essential Prerequisites

In order to complete this course successfully, the following prerequisites are required:

▪ Visual and auditory processing skills

▪ Ability to read and comprehend a variety of text

▪ Understand educational pedagogy

▪ Classroom experience

Supporting Prerequisites

The following prerequisites are strongly suggested, but not required:

▪ Familiarity with the area of special education

▪ Experience working with students with disabilities

▪ Intrinsic motivation

▪ Computer proficiency

Curriculum Map

Here is the curriculum map for this course: File:LW Curriculum Map.pdf

References and Resources

Burkhart, J. (2011, December 14). Rick Kniebuehler speaks out about literacy issues (Video File). Retrieved from

Carnahan, C. R., Williamson, P. S., Hollingshead, A., & Israel, M. (2012). Using Technology to Support Balanced Literacy for Students With Significant Disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children , 45 (1), 20-29.

Capiel, G. (2012, July 3). Software Aids Students with Disabilities to Learn (Video File). Retrieved from

Leech, D. [PSB1829]. (2011, February 8). Early Literacy 2 of 5 (Video File). Retrieved from

Lemons, C., Mrachko, A., Kostewicz, D., & Paterra, M. (2012). Effectiveness of Decoding and Phonological Awareness Interventions for Children with Down Syndrome. Exceptional Children , 79 (1), 67-90.

Mims, P., Hudson , M., & Browder, D. (2012). Using Read-Alouds of Grade-Level Biographies and Systematic Prompting to Promote Comprehension for Students with Moderate and Severe Developmental Disabilities. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities , 27 (2), 67-80.

National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities. (n.d.). Reading, Writing, and Literacy for Children and Adults with Severe Disabilities. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:

Roberts, K., Takahashi, K., Park, H.-J., & Stodden, R. (2012). Tips for Using Interactive Whiteboards to Increase Participation of Students with Disabilities . Teaching Exceptional Children , 44 (6), 40-48.

Stanberry, K., & Raskind, M. (n.d.). Assistive technology tools: Reading. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from Great Schools:

Thompson, J. R., Bakken, J. P., Fulk, B. M., & Peterson-Karlan, G. (2004, December). Using Technology To Improve The Literacy Skills Of Students With Disabilities. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from Learning Point:

Trehearn, Miriam. (2002). Balanced Literacy + Early Intervention = Success for All. Reflections: The Journal of Manitoba ASCD, 8 (1)

Trehearn, Miriam. (2003). Comprehensive Literacy Resource for Kindergarten Teachers. Vernon Hills, IL: ETA Cuisenaire

Williamson, P., Carnahan, C., & Jacobs, J. (2012). Reading Comprehension Profiles of High-Functioning Students on the Autism Spectrum: A Grounded Theory. Exceptional Children , 78 (4), 449-469.