January 2017 Newsletter: Special Edge

As audiovisual technology changes and progresses, so too do the needs and capabilities of the classroom. This holds particularly true for special needs classrooms.  Teachers have found that the traditional use of textbooks and worksheets are often ineffective for special education students.  The use of assistive technology in these classrooms are already working in a positive direction – schools across the country report many success stories regarding the use of technology in special education programs.  Read on to learn more about this exciting trend.

APS-Image-1One of the main technologies driving this positive trend is the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). For those who are not familiar, this product is an interactive display in the form of a whiteboard. Typically, these devices are capable of touch-interactivity and the use of white-erase markers. Over the past ten years, there has been a large-scale introduction of this technology into classrooms.

A particular advantage of IWBs is the potential that this technology holds for special needs classrooms. Special education as a whole faces a unique set of challenges and requirements that have been difficult to meet using traditional teaching methods. IWBs provide advancements in supporting students’ auditory, visual, mobility, communication, and social learning requirements. The multi-sensory experience of visual feedback and collaborative interaction provides multiple modes of learning simultaneously.

IWBFor example, a student working on a math problem can interact with physical quantities of objects on the IWB alongside of another student. Not only will both students learn something new about math through kinesthetic or tactile learning, but the students will learn valuable lessons in social interaction. In addition, this multitude of features provides the students motivation to learn and encouragement to participate.

The beauty of IWBs is that students can interact with it in a fashion that suites him or her. A student with autism spectrum disorder will benefit from self-regulation, visual interaction, and social engagement. Students with attention deficit disorder will exhibit increased focus, performance, and attitude due to the diverse, interactive, and flexible capabilities of the IWB. A student with a learning disability will prosper from the engaging methods of learning new information derived with the integration of these multi-sensory educational techniques into the classroom.


As another part of the toolbox, consumer technologies have converged with traditional assistive technologies over the last five years.  Today’s smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices come equipped with universal  access functionality making it possible for users to deploy built-in or easily downloaded assistive technologies.  These technologies allow the school to better and more easily integrate special needs students into the general student population.

The varied nature of needs in special education necessitates an equally varied set of teaching tools. With real-time feedback and easy-to-use interfaces, a teacher can quickly provide alternate examples and resources to a student who is having difficulty understanding a concept. The flexible nature of IWBs offers teachers the ability to tailor-fit educational styles to the needs of a particular student or class.  Now all students can go to the head of the class!

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