Lesson 3: Available Technology for Literacy Instruction

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Take a few minutes to think about the following question. Then write a 200 word minimum response. How has technology added value to your daily life? You may write your response Here

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Promoting Literacy in Students with Disabilities

According to Clendon and Erickson (as cited in Carnahan et al., 2012) literacy instruction for students with disabilities traditionally focused on teaching sight words, frequently out of context. Sight word recognition is important for many reasons. It helps learners read words that cannot be sounded out, such as there, was, high, etc. It also helps learners read words that possess more complex spelling rules, such as boy and eat. Lastly, sight words help learners read longer, more complex words that may be of greater interest to the learner, such as Spiderman or Dora the Explorer. Although sight words are important to literacy instruction, additional instruction related to comprehension and communication is critical. Literacy skills are necessary to reach your full potential both in and out of school. "Education, self-determination, employment, quality of life, and enjoyment as a fully participating member of society all may hinge on an individual's ability to read and/or write." (National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities)

Technology to promote literacy has increased drastically over the years. Yet, these technologies are still not being used in the classroom as much as they should. Today we have electronic text, digital storybooks, trade books, and an array of Internet-based materials that are easily accessible. Other examples of technology to assist with literacy include word processing, word prediction, text-to-speech, voice input devices, and multimedia software programs. An increasing range and efficacy of assistive technologies makes it possible to address the diverse needs of students with disabilities. (Jeffs, Behrmann, and Bannan-Ritland, 2006) With so much at our disposal today, it is surprising that teachers aren't better trained when it comes to technology and disabilities. Assistive technology, according to Lewis (as cited in Jeffs et al., 2006), can augment an individual's strengths so that his or her abilities counterbalance the efforts of any disabilities, and provide an alternate mode of performing a task so that disabilities are compensated for. Incorporating such technology into the classroom should be the job of the teacher. After all, isn't the goal of education to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn?

Technology to Assist with Reading

Educators need to consider many aspects when it comes to reading instruction. They must consider the accessibility of reading materials, the interests of the students, the reading levels of the students, and the particular strengths and weaknesses of all students. When a teacher takes in to account all of the above, he or she is creating a more engaging environment for the students.

There are many ways that materials can be adapted to meet the needs of students with disabilities. These adaptations don't always have to come in the form of high-tech solutions that are costly and hard to come by. There are many free resources that can and will do the trick.

Interactive Teacher-Made Books

Teacher-made books can be created with the specific needs of the children in the classroom in mind. This ensures that their interests are incorporated and developmental needs are met. These books can also be easily adapted for future use. These books can be typed, dictated, illustrated, and/or recorded. Another great thing about teacher-made books is that images, audio, and video can be easily added. "Adding matching pictures or removable words and incorporating music...increases engagement." (Carnahan et al., 2012) One of the programs that can be used to create digital books is the CAST book builder tool. It is free, and easy to use. The books integrate text and graphics into an interactive format. (http://bookbuilder.cast.org)

Online Books

Students often enjoy reading books online. Teachers can schedule online reading activities to ensure that all students have access to literacy throughout the day. Students can read books online individually or with partners. The Internet Archive, which is a nonprofit organization, has built an Internet library with around one million books that are easily accessible for people with disabilities. Especially those individuals suffering with dyslexia or blindness, because the books are converted to DAISY, which can be downloaded to a device (computer, iPad, etc) that can read the books aloud. This provides special education teachers with another way to introduce material for struggling students. There are a variety of websites to access electronic books. Tar Heel Reader, (http://tarheelreader.org/) offers a collection of free, easy-to-read book. Each book can be speech enabled, and accessed using multiple interfaces. In addition to using books that are already created, you may create your own. The Children's Digital Library (http://www.storyplace.org/) is an interactive web site that provides children with the virtual experience of going to the library and participating in the same types of activities offered by going to the library. Additional Sites to check out: Little Animation 4 Kids http://www.littleanimation4kids.com/ Magic Town http://www.magictown.com/ Storyline Online http://storylineonline.net/

Technology to Assist with Writing

As suggested by Koppenhaver and Williams (as cited in Carnahan et al., 2012), "writing is a powerful and flexible tool of communication, problem-solving, and learning." Therefore, the essence of writing is more about the ability to develop ideas and less about the ability to properly hold a pencil. Unfortunately, many teachers feel that if a student lacks the ability to hold a pencil, that they are not ready for writing instruction and are therefore excluded from such activities. Daily writing, is equally, if not, more important for students with disabilities, in order for them to develop as readers and writers. Students who lack the motor skills necessary for traditional means of writing, simply require adapted writing tools so that they may communicate their thoughts and ideas, as well.

Eye Gaze Frame

Alternative "Pencils"

Alternative "pencils" have been designed for students who are unable to hold a traditional pencil, or cannot physically manipulate a keyboard. There are several different types of alternative pencils, such as the eye gaze frame, which includes different eye gaze frame setups that use colored cards, colored letters, pictures, words, or symbols. Eye gaze frames are an effective way of using eye gaze for choice making and communication. Positioning the transparent frame between the user and “listener” makes it easier for them to see where they are looking.

The print flip chart is intended for students with multiple physical, vision and hearing impairments. These students are unable to hold a pencil or properly use a keyboard. This "pencil" can be used by students with a variety of visual impairments and hearing impairments. Read more about print flip charts here.

Software to Support Writing

There are many software programs out there that can help support writing for students with disabilities. Prediction software, such as Co:Writer (http://www.donjohnston.com/products/cowriter/index.html) help students with writing proficiency. Co:Writer is the pencil, and the applications are the paper. Co:Writer works in conjunction with any application, such as MS Word, blogs, Email, NotePad, etc. As the user types, Co:Writer interprets spelling and grammar mistakes and offers word suggestions in real time. Programs such as Boardmaker (http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software-family) lets teachers make and adapt materials for students who need symbols. Boardmaker can be used to create talking books, behavior supports, reward charts, lessons and more! Boardmaker can be used with increased interaction when displayed on interactive whiteboards.

Youtubeicon.jpg Boardmaker Curriculum Companion

Using iPads to Promote Literacy

iPads and other touch devices have revolutionized the lives of individuals with special needs. Students with disabilities can enhance and develop their communication skills, learn how to adapt to situations, develop social skills, and increase academic success. iPads are also a great device for people with motor skills deficits. Since there is no mouse, keyboard, or pen to manipulate, they are still able to communicate effectively. iPads have provided individuals with disabilities a way to communicate. They have also become powerful tools in the world of education. They have even made creating and tracking behavior plans easier. There are literally dozens of apps that can assist people with disabilities and provide them with a better quality of life.

Some Amazing Apps

  • Crazy Face Lite encourages shy students to speak more often, and is great with students who have difficulty with speaking.
  • ArtikPik offers an engaging way to practice sounds and words. Children are prompted to practice the sounds which are presented visually, with a picture of the featured word, and a voice recording. Children have the option to record their own voice saying the word, making learning even more individualized.
  • iWriteWords encourages fine motor skills by practicing writing letters, numbers, and words. iWriteWord teaches the child handwriting while playing a fun and engaging game.
  • Stories2Learn promotes social skills and literacy by allowing the user to create personalized stories.
  • Flashcards for iPad is a collection of great learning tools and games for preschoolers. It also provides the option of recording your own sound files for any word or letter.
  • Dragon Dictation is a great app for students who have reading disabilities or are unable to write. Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows the user to speak and instantly see their text.

Youtubeicon.jpg ArtikPix

Additional Resources

Technology for Students with Multiple Disabilities

Literacy and Learning

Meet Sam

Lesson 3 Reflection

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Before moving on to Lesson 4, see how well you can answer the following questions.

  • How has literacy instruction changed over the years for students with disabilities?
  • List three technologies that can be used to help promote literacy in students with special needs.
  • Explain the benefits of incorporating technology to aide with literacy instruction for struggling students.

Thinking back to the activity in the beginning of this lesson and the information you just learned, can you better understand how technology can add value to education for students with disabilities? Explain here

Move on to Lesson 4: Effective Uses for Technology to Promote Literacy in Students with Disabilities