Best in Tech 2010: Assistive Technology
The right choices for special needs education.
Scholastic System 44
Goal: I was looking for a product that would meet the needs of the learners who had phonemic awareness/phonics deficiencies coupled with comprehension difficulties. Those students made some progress using READ 180, but needed a product targeted specifically for their deficiencies and level.
Response: System 44 addresses the needs of the learner in a respectful way and also comes with all of the materials and explanations that teachers need in order to successfully deliver the instruction to their students. The teacher training and optional in-person training are great supports for teachers using System 44.
Learning Curve: System 44 remediates the students in their individual needs-consonant sounds, blends, word endings, etc. It closes reading gaps in a short amount of time.
Usage: In our district we use System 44 with Special Education, ESOL, and those students who simply had gaps in their learning of phonemic awareness and phonics. It is used as a stand-alone program in some classrooms and in conjunction with Read 180 in other classrooms.
Future Plans: My expectation is that the students using System 44 will have their phonemic awareness/phonics base built up so that they begin addressing their comprehension issues, if they exist, and eventually become capable of completing grade-level work. —Kathleen Bast
Goal: We wanted to address learning-disabled, struggling readers at the secondary level. The goal was to establish solid reading strategies in phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension to assist students with content area reading.
Response: The teachers embraced the software due to the fact that each student could begin lessons on their own reading level or specific needs. Students gained confidence as they mastered one level of instruction and moved on to the next level.
Learning Curve: You must facilitate learning using tools and lessons-like Lexia-that are relevant to secondary students. All students embrace technology, so it is necessary to use technology as a tool for learning.
Usage: The software is used one period per day in a reading support classes for struggling readers.
Future Plans: Since Lexia software has worked so well in the senior high, the goal is to add additional software to the junior high and each elementary building for all students. —Linda Dobbie
Goal: I wanted to quickly find out my student's reading comprehension levels, and intervention strategies to assist teachers with differentiating instruction.
Response: As a whole we are becoming better planners. We are no longer spending weeks just to do assessments. We are all much more efficient and spend more time on teaching and instruction.
Learning Curve: We had been using another program to assess our students' reading progress several times a year, however this program was too time consuming and subjective. RAPS 360 assessments can be completed in one day.
Usage: RAPS 360 is a computerized assessment. The students sit at a computer for a maximum of 30 minutes and will be assessed individually. You can use it daily, monthly or yearly. Every assessment is saved and you can just print out a variety of reports from any session. We then follow the recommendations from the RAPS 360 program and assign students other MindPlay reading programs to fill in the gaps.
Future Plans: I expect that our students will continue to increase their reading achievement with these programs. We will most certainly continue to use it to do assessments. —John Walker
HELP Math for ELL and Special Needs
Goal: Originally, we wanted to improve results for our ELLs and bilingual students in math, who often displayed a lack of academic vocabulary making math incomprehensible. We wanted to increase both their content area proficiency and state test scores.
Response: Administrators like that our math test scores are increasing at a rapid rate. Students are more engaged and empowered, have increased self-esteem, and are taking more responsibility for their own learning with HELP Math at all levels.
Learning Curve: Teachers have integrated HELP Math into more classrooms, due to its easy-to-use management system, close alignment to standards, effectiveness with all students-including those more advanced-and focus on both the processes and concepts of math.
Usage: Originally, HELP Math was selected for addressing the needs of ELLs. The entire student population (including ELLs, special needs, resource room/pull-out programs and advanced students) is now using it. It has been used in our Students with Interrupted Formal Education program, and our daily before/after school support program.
Future: As a technology magnet school, we're encouraging all teachers to use these tools for the maximum benefit of the students, and to increase instructional effectiveness and efficiency. —Joseph Costa
AutismPro Professional & AutismPro Workshops
Goal: Over the past five years we've charted an alarming rate of the number of students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) entering into our school system. We recognized the need to find a way to become well versed in Applied Behavioral Analysis and supporting children with autism. AutismPro Professional was purchased at two ASD elementary classroom sites.
Usage: These demonstration sites have six students at each site and the student centered school-based teams use AutismPro Professional daily at both sites. AutismPro Workshops is a unique approach to educating teachers, support workers, administrators, parents, and community service providers. This Web-based tool gives staff the opportunity to do professional learning and to have resources at their fingertips 24/7.
Response: Teachers at our ASD demonstration sites are new to AutismPro Professional this year, however, the teacher from last year was very impressed with this resource for not only students with ASD, but students with developmental disabilities. They are pleased with the activities, tracking systems provided, and regular feedback to parents.
Learning Curve: AutismPro is a tool that supports collaboration. Training through AutismPro Workshops provides staff, parents, and community service providers with a better understanding of ASD. We are currently working on improving individual education plans to reflect the eight developmental areas outlined in AutismPro. Individual education programs (IEPs) need to be realistic, manageable, and give direction to both educator and parent.
Future Plans: Our next direction will be making AutismPro Workshops available to school bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, and even lunchroom supervisors. Education is power, and we need to provide opportunities for the community to understand ASD and developmental disabilities. —Joel Godecki
Goal: Provide quality visual language lessons, and icons for students with autism.
Response: Monarch Teaching Technologies has an awesome customer service department to provide basic and advanced levels of training.
Learning Curve: Overwhelmingly positive. Teachers are able to build individualized lessons, and explore lessons that have already been tried by others.
Usage: The software allows teachers to quickly respond, develop, and use lessons that are individually appropriate.
Future Plans: The district plans will continue to offer the software for use with our students with the most intense needs. —Judith Hudgins
Goal: To provide an effective, user-friendly, Web-based format for developing and maintaining IEPs for special education students that meets federal, state, and local compliance standards.
Response: The WISE IEP program provides a means for creating and archiving all data related to the development of IEPs for special education students in the Blue Springs School District. It's responsive to requests for changes required by compliance directives issued throughout the year by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Learning Curve: The program is intuitive in nature. Users navigate from one aspect of the IEP writing process to another in a natural progression with little to no direction or training needed. Staff members quickly become proficient in the development of the IEP and have reported significant reduction in the amount of time required to complete the process.
Usage: Approximately 160 special education staff members access the program on a regular basis (3–4 times per week) to create and maintain IEPs for more than 1400 special education students in the district. The system archives previous IEPs, maintains current IEPs and associated amendments, and allows for the development of draft IEPs. In addition, related documents such as evaluation reports may be attached to each student's data increasing the ease with which information is shared.
Future Plans: The most recent enhancement lets us attach related documents to each student's data in the system resulting in greater access to a variety of student information. Future plans include allowing for exporting or sharing data with the current student information system. —Barbara Woolsey
Co:Writer Word Prediction Writing Tool
Goal: We wanted to improve writing, reading, and communication through authentic and motivating opportunities for adolescents with disabilities and have students use an assistive technology word prediction tool with everything they write-including email, Twitter, and commenting on our blog.
Response: Co:Writer is used successfully with e-mail and socially appropriate Web 2.0 tools like blogs and Twitter in terms of motivating students to read, write, and communicate. Our junior high students are working independently and making considerable progress with literacy.
Learning Curve: Training takes about 30 minutes with the tutorial. Co:Writer works in any common writing software or Web. 2.0 applications.
Usage: Many students with ASD have visual memory as their strength. Co:Writer helps transfer students' thoughts from brain to paper. Picture support helps answering and asking questions. The speech feedback gives reinforcement to self-select words and independently edit.
Future Plans: Having college e-pals will be extremely motivating for students. —Barbara Wollack