Technology for the Special Education Classroom

Rebecca Bencosme
Dec 18, 2018 · 5 min read
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Educational technology is constantly changing and adapting in our modern society. However, the everlasting main goal of these technological tools is to create an education that is accessible for all students. This article explores the different types of tools that can be incorporated into inclusive and special education classrooms. These new technologies can “accommodate different learning styles, increase motivation and have the potential for widening access beyond the constraints of the traditional classroom context” (Underwood, n.d.). Students with disabilities have the most to gain from the new advances in technology. The tools that are most popular are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).


Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality allows students to explore STEM concepts in a visual and tactile way. According to Fernandez, AR blends digital information with real world environments in which people live (2017).This technological tool is usually accessed through various applications on smart devices like iPhones, iPads, tablets and Androids. They can access the content in new visual way, as seen in the video above. Students can open the any of the applications listed below, and begin their AR journey.

A few Educational AR apps that can be downloaded on the App Store:

  • Quiver Education
  • Planets
  • Augment
  • Science AR
  • StarWalk
  • GeoGebra Augmented Reality
  • Zappar
  • JigSpace

“Through this technology, a student can display an image of a final result over a real space, without the need to complete a physical manufacturing process.” (Fernandez, 2017)

Upon exploration of the GeoGebra AR App, I found that you can access 3-D graphs and polyhedrons in a new way. Students that learn best by using their spatial reasoning skills can now manipulate equations, shapes and figures like never before. The students can bring the shapes into their own worlds in order to discover the properties of the mathematical relationships. Students with disabilities can now discover these relationships on their own instead of learning strategies to memorize the relationships that are given to them by a teacher.

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

I believe making students active learners and self-regulators is the most important job of an special educator. Students need to take control of their own learning in order to fully understand concepts. Fernandez also stated that the immersion into this new world allows students to experience learning by using all of their senses (2017). It is so important to include differentiated learning strategies for students with disabilities since one size doesn’t fit all in an inclusive classroom. Giving students the opportunity to explore AR technologies for the more abstract concepts makes all the difference in their learning.

“An experience is worth more than a thousand images” (Fernandez, 2017)


Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality is breaking down the barriers for students with severe disabilities. VR technologies use a screen to display two images and puts the user in a virtual environment. There are low and high end versions of this technology that only differ in the ability for the image to move, and the cost of course! Both versions can still virtually immerse a student in a new world. This new innovative technology is not as accessible to schools as AR technology is, however the educational experience is so worth it! Students get to experience ancient worlds in their history classes, underwater ecosystems in Science, and fictional worlds in English class. These experiences would not be possible without the help of VR technology.

A few Educational VR apps that can be downloaded on the App Store:

  • Jaunt VR
  • VeeR
  • Sites in VR
  • Discovery VR

VR allows students to immerse themselves even deeper into the content than AR technologies. More than half of the students in school today are visual learners. This means that as teachers, our curriculum should include diagrams, visual aids and immersion technology such as VR to reach the majority of the student population. Students with mild to moderate disabilities will benefit from the tangible nature of the abstract concepts that they can now build on within their minds (Fernandez, 2017). These students need to experience the differentiation in curriculum that this technology brings.

“Virtual reality could be defined as an environment created by a computer system that simulates a real situation.” (Fernandez, 2017)

Students with severe disabilities, such as autism, can benefit from VR technologies in a very different way. Most of the educational curriculum for students with severe disabilities is centered around life skills, community outreach and taking care of oneself. These vulnerable students can be immersed into a virtual world, that is completely danger free. This allows them to develop essential skills such as shopping, preparing food, road safety and manufacturing skills before facing a threatening real world (Underwood, n.d.). The possibilities of exploration in VR for these students is endless. They can experience real world problems in the safety of their classrooms through simulations.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In conclusion, students with mild to severe disabilities will benefit from the experience of diving into the content they are learning. This new educational technology can be used to help students discover their world on their own and formulate conjectures based on their experiences. Underwood explained, “the use of technology also allows those with special educational needs to demonstrate competencies thought to be beyond them” (n.d.). These technological tools will allow teachers and students alike to experience new things and find the learning style that works best for them individually.

“New technologies can accommodate different learning styles, increase motivation and have the potential for widening access beyond the constraints of the traditional classroom context” (Underwood, n.d.).


Resources

Fernandez, M. (2017). Augmented virtual reality: How to improve education systems. Higher Learning Research Communications, 7(1), 1–15. http://dx.doi.org/10.18870/hlrc.v7i1.373

Underwood, J. D., & Farrington-Flint, L. (n.d.). Learning and the e-generation. (pp. 1–17). Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Age of Awareness

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Rebecca Bencosme

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