Thursday, June 4, 2009

Educational Software

"Every student learns in a different way. This idea that sudetns have different learning needs - is one of the cornerstones of this book." Disrupting Class pg. 10

Disrupting Class briefly addresses the use of technology to assist learners with special needs, but this is an area where instructional technology has been widely used. Special needs software has been used to assist students with learning for 30 years. The UK lead the effort in developing technology tools for special education and continues to be on the forefront of the newest special needs technology products. These software products range from screen readers, programs for Autistic Spectrum learners, switch (mouse alternative) access software, cause and effect programs, touch software, and screening & assessment tools.

Using software programs to reach children with special needs works well because the software can be customized to meet the needs of each learner, has visual and audio support, and allows to work at their own pace without judgment or embarrassment.

Newer software programs are designed to provide curriculum-based content that can be customized for each learner. Educators can change the level of difficulty, change text and color backgrounds for students with visual difficulties, increase font size, add speech to the text on screen, and add a switch for learners with physical limitations.

Software content programs give students the ability to learn at their own pace. Most educational software programs are designed with student login for saving and tracking student work. Teachers can then monitor the student progress over time and adjust the software difficulty, providing focused instruction. Students using software programs with on screen or audio instruction can learn without direct instruction from a person, which works well with some learners. Mistakes made are noticed by the students or pointed out automatically by the program without discouraging the student.

For the BRSU, we are progressing toward using technology tools and can take advantage of many more resources available, in both the special needs and mainstream content area. Our company, Tool Factory, has provided software and technical assistance pro bono to some BRSU schools and will continue as needed.

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