Technology can be used to enhance teaching in many ways. One of the most beneficial uses of technology in the science classroom is to help students with unique needs. Below are some technology resources for various types of students with special needs.
Students with Cognitive Difficulties
Diigo is a wonderful website that allows students to collect and organize things online. It lets students keep a record of any websites, notes, videos, highlights, pictures, screenshots, and audio all online in the cloud. The information is then accessible on any internet connected device. This is wonderful for students with cognitive difficulties in many ways. Students could keep organized if they have trouble with that skill. They can also keep notes easily so they can find them later if they have trouble remembering things. The teacher could also share Diigo notes with a student. I could share instructions or class notes if a students could benefit from that.
OneNote is a note taking software that allows students to keep organized. Students can be given a copy of lecture notes from presentations, text, or labs and keep them in OneNote. The students can then annotate them, make additional notes, and categorize them. The notes are then searchable and can be easily found if they are needed. This can help students with cognative difficulties in a science classroom by helping them stay organized and have the information they need easily accessible. OneNote allows these students to pull up their lab notes and find a particular observation in a matter of seconds rather than flipping through a notebook looking for a particular sentence on a page somewhere in the notebook.
Students with Physical Difficulties
Dragon Naturally Speaking
Dragon Naturally Speaking is fantastic software for students with a physical difficulty that makes it hard for them to type. Dragon Naturally Speaking would allow a high school science student to write a lab report that would be otherwise impossible for them to do. By using their voice instead of their hands, they can fully operate a computer and manipulate data the way they need to in a science class. The students can use the software to make and edit spreadsheets, look up information, and compose a professional looking lab report.
The IntelliKeys Keyboard allows students who have difficulties with motor function to interact with a computer with more ease. The keyboard is customizable and has many included layouts for students who have various levels of fine motor control. They even have a mouse control overlay for students who may have difficulties operating a mouse. This is helpful in science education because it will allow students who have motor difficulties to manipulate a computer more easily. This will allow them to more easily complete labs, record data, and find information vital to their classwork.
Students with Sensory Difficulties
JAWS Screen Reader
JAWS is the premier screen reading software available. Students with a visual impairment may have trouble reading a computer screen when they are completing a lab or when they are reading an online text. JAWS reads the information out loud to the student and allows them to get the same content as the other students. This is important for science education because we are constantly having the students look for current events articles and read materials on the internet.
iZoom is screen magnification software that students could use to read a computer screen. Students with visual impairments have varying levels of impairment and iZoom is highly customizable. This, again, is important for students to do anything on the computer. Students completing virtual labs, real labs with data acquisition software, or reading articles online may need various levels of assistive technology and iZoom allows easy customization.
iClickers are a great tool for getting responses from students. This system is particularly great for at-risk students. Students who may otherwise be reluctant to respond or pay attention may be more comfortable giving a response because other people can’t see what their answers are. The public anonymity the iClicker offers will prevent students from being embarrassed if they don’t know the answer or answer incorrectly. At the same time, teachers still get the responses from all students. For reviewing for their physics test or for responding to questions about the latest lab, the science classroom can benefit from this technology greatly.
Khan Academy is a great resource for all students. When students miss class, they can get the lecture notes and find out what they missed, but in a physics class, that is difficult because they can’t see the equations being used or see examples done if they just copy notes or read the book. Khan Academy allows students to see a teacher doing problems and giving a virtual lecture. This is particularly important for at-risk students who miss a lot of school. If they are able to keep up with the class at home, they will have an easier time when they get back into school and will not get as frustrated by missing the material.
Gifted and Talented Students
WebQuests are great for students who like to explore on their own and find solutions to problems that are not readily available. Gifted students can push themselves to do more and dig deeper into the material that they are learning. WebQuests in the science classroom are great for introducing inquiry labs. Because the WebQuests require higher level thinking, gifted students can show what they can really do and can go beyond the basics to accomplish something of real meaning. The projects allow students to actually apply knowledge right after they learn it.
Instead of the traditional linear plan, MyLab with KNEWTON adaptive learning allows students to learn at their own pace. This is particularly benefitial for gifted students because they won’t get bored with assignments that are below their level. In science classes, if the student already knows the scientific method, they will have a short lesson on that topic and move on while other students are still working on that topic. The technology is great because it is adaptive and constantly reassesses students and makes sure they are being pushed at the right pace. By keeping students moving while preventing them from being left behind keeps all learners on task. Too often the gifted students are asked to wait. This no longer has to be an issue.