by Kindy Segovia, OTR
Assistive Technology Coordinator, Kent Intermediate School District
“No matter how helpful computers are as tools (and of course they can be very helpful tools), they don’t begin to compare in significance to the teacher-child relationship which is human and mutual. A computer can help you learn to spell HUG, but it can never know the risk or the joy or actually giving or receiving one.” – Fred Rogers Center
The National Education Technology Standards (NETS) state that early childhood learners should have the ability to responsibly use appropriate technology to communicate, solve problems, and access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information to improve learning in all subject areas and to acquire lifelong knowledge and skills in the 21st century.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center have compiled many examples on how to use technology tools and interactive media in age-appropriate, intentional ways. But nothing replaces the human touch. Educators should focus on the most important part of the experience — not the technology itself, but the warmth and support of an adult play-partner.
How can we make this happen for our young learners, especially those with special needs, unique struggles, or developmental differences? Working with the current educational initiative — “Flipping the Classroom” — a toolkit of strategies can transform an early childhood program for both the students and their families.
First, create a digital space to post materials that support classroom lessons and instruction. This is essential to “flip” some of your student’s learning. Children can be exposed to content, with their families, prior to the classroom or therapy lessons. Videos, ebooks, speech therapy lessons, occupational therapy strategies and social emotional skills can be hosted online. Families can access these activities, providing opportunities for interaction and pre-learning with their children.
Symbaloo is one option for hosting online content, that is very visual and user friendly. Other educators are using blogs, Facebook, simple, free websites, or even a Google Docs to make lessons and activities available outside the classroom.
Online content could include a slide deck/Powerpoint, video, or audio version of the weekly classroom book. Recent versions of slide deck programs such as PowerPoint allow saving as a video file such as Windows Media, which can be uploaded to YouTube.
You can also upload a screencast or recorded audio file of the speech sound of the week, or a link to an educational game supporting a classroom language or math lesson. The options are only limited by the creativity of the educators!
Once a platform is established, it is important to communicate with families often and through various methods. Social media provides regular opportunities to connect — Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram posts can prompt parents to access weekly material. For example, you can create a page in Facebook and ask your parents to “like” it. (For instructions on creating a Facebook page, see “Using Facebook to your advantage” in the May 2014 issue of Special Ed Tech.)
Encourage parents to share their at-home tech experiences with their children through comments on the classroom Facebook page, Instagram photos of reading an online book as a family, or videos of the parent and child practicing the weekly sounds.
Consider taking the challenge and “flipping” your special education classroom! Start small, collaborate with co-workers to create content and share the work, and begin to connect with families to expand the learning beyond the physical walls of the classroom!
Kindy Segovia, OTR, is currently the Assistive Technology Coordinator at Kent Intermediate School District, Grand Rapids, Mich. She has worked as an occupational therapist in both schools and pediatric rehabilitation for over 25 years. She has provided educational training for teachers, parents and administrators over the past 15 years with a focus on adapting curriculum, classroom accommodations, and integrating technology into instruction. She is also an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University.