Plugged In: A New Way of Teaching…And Learning
Michele Washart, a speech language pathologist in New Jersey’s Gloucester Township Public Schools, knows that her young students have grown up immersed in technology.
For those born into a digitally literate world, the classroom is no exception.
“Technology has never been more important in education as it is today, especially in the learning of those students with special needs,” Washart wrote in her winning essay, submitted as part of Drexel University Online’s American Education Week contest.
The contest, which asked teachers to explain how their classrooms would benefit from a technology-based curricular program, highlights a larger trend in special education.
“In our Special Education program, we have a high focus on technology. It can certainly help students access the curriculum and get the same information that their peers are getting,” explained Lori Severino, Ed.D, assistant clinical professor in Drexel University’s School of Education and director of the Special Education program. “It takes some of the roadblocks that are holding them back out of the equation.”
Washart will be presented with an iPad with special learning apps installed on it to help provide differentiated instruction for her students with various communication disorders.
This technological approach infusing its way into classrooms is shifting the way many special education teachers approach their students. Typically, the standard model involves pulling students out of their classes to receive speech and language services. Alternately, a push-in collaborative model, facilitated by technology, allows these services to be delivered right in the classroom, according to Washart.
“Each of my students has a different goal or objective to work on that we want them to achieve throughout the year,” Washart explained. “There are a lot of great speech apps that provide them with a great way to work on their individual goals. They don’t even know they are working; it feels like a game.”
Faculty and students in Drexel’s School of Education understand the seismic importance of classroom technology and are hard at work developing strategies for the most effective—and least distractive—ways to implement it.
For example, the M.S. in Special Education curriculum offers a concentration in Technologies for Special Education. In addition, students in the school are going a step further to actually help Drexel professors develop technology. A team of researchers, including School of Education students, is hard at work developing Adolescent Comprehension Evaluation (ACE), a patent pending technology-based reading assessment to be used in classrooms to monitor how students are meeting reading standards. ACE is unique in that during the pilot phase, it uses functional near-infrared (fNIR) technology—which uses light to monitor changes in blood oxygenation in the brain as individuals perform tasks or take tests—to make sure test questions are text-based.
The future is here…and it’s found its way into the classroom.