2010-2011 Rainbow Creek - iPads as Assistive Technology Findings

Innovative Technologies: iPads as Assistive Technology

In our school, twenty percent of the students are English Language Learners and approximately 10% have needs that require accommodations and/or curriculum modifications to be successful. It is our goal as a school to address the needs of these learners in their regular classrooms as much as possible. As such, our resource team is committed to supporting classroom teachers in infusing the principles of universal design for learning in their lessons. To do so requires access to accessible instructional materials and a variety of contemporary technologies. We’ve already committed resources to the development of a repository of accessible instructional materials and are now seeking support in the acquisition of technology that will engage even our most reluctant learners.

The applications, the interface, the size of the iPad all make it attractive to students. Elementary students, especially the youngest, have a natural instinct to touch computer screens and the iPad’s interface would make it easy to engage them in activities. The size and weight of the iPad make it easier to transport than a laptop and for some of our children with communication difficulties it could become a tool to increase their independence and the ‘cool factor’ with their peers. The sheer number of applications that are available may seem overwhelming at first but we would suggest that within these numbers we could find applications that meet many individual learning styles and preferences.

Our work with the iPads this year has involved a lot of exploration of applications. We began by examining lists of apps that we collected from a variety of sources – the Internet, other schools, and other professionals (Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Psychologists). We also performed searches on iTunes that led to trialing other apps that were not on our lists.

In order to track our investigation of the use of the applications, we used (with his permission) a rubric developed by Harry Walker, Principal of Sandy Plains Elementary
School in Baltimore County http://iteachthererforeipod.blogspot.com/. To make the process simple, we created a form on Google docs to collect the data into a spreadsheet. To this point, we have not made this document public as was our original plan but we expect to do so in the next school year when we have more data.


Success Stories

Liam is a 6 year old boy on the Autism Spectrum. He struggles with written tasks, particularly journal writing. During journal time he would often refuse to write and would disrupt the entire class. The iPad has been used so that Liam can record his journal rather than write and he uses one of the applications that gives him ideas and picture cues. Liam now looks forward to his daily journal time and to sharing his ideas with the teacher and other students.

Alan is a 10 year old boy with severe Autism. Alan found it difficult to communicate with others and it was difficult for us to engage him in any type of learning task. We began using the iPad and the many apps available. Alan’s motivation increased, he was much more involved in the learning process and we discovered that he had a better grasp on many concepts than he could express to us in any traditional way.

Submitted June 10, 2011

Resource Team



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