This past year was challenging for educators and students alike. And while virtual learning was especially challenging for special education students and underserved communities, teachers found new and innovative ways to provide effective instruction.
What worked? What didn’t?
With schools reopening for in-person learning in the fall, we asked some special education teachers for tips that they can apply to their classrooms.
Digital Materials are Here to Stay
“The increased use of digital materials is here to stay, and it’s a good thing! I plan to cover technology skills on day one of fall for students and parents.” –Megan, OT/AT Specialist, Albuquerque Public Schools
Special education teachers and specialists plan to continue using a mix of edtech and traditional resources.
“Due to remote learning, my teachers put all assignments in digital format which allows me to use an app that reads the text aloud. This technology can help all students.” –Ella, high school student with dyslexia, Minnesota
Pro Tip: Make time for technology training and practice so that students, teachers, and parents know how to use digital materials for both in-person and virtual learning.
Success Starts with the Right Accommodations for Learning
Students can benefit from multiple pathways to learning. This is especially true for students with specials needs who have difficulty reading printed text. Providing them with ebooks in formats like audio, large print, and braille can give them equal access to the same books as their peers, build confidence, and help accelerate their learning.
“Reading with your ears or any sort of accommodation is still reading, and it counts. Any way you can access a book is worthwhile. I love to read! Once you find the tools and features that work for you, it’s so much easier.” –Ella, high school student with dyslexia, Minnesota
Pro Tip: Evaluate different formats and sources of ebooks to determine which work best for your students with reading barriers.
Audio-Supported Reading Using Text-to-Speech Makes Reading Easier
Not all ebooks are created equal, however. Look for features that allow students to customize the reading experience for different learning styles. For students who struggle to decode, text-to-speech narration turns every ebook into an audiobook instantly. Listening to books removes the cognitive load of decoding so that students can focus on comprehension and learning.
“Audio-assisted reading improves literacy skills, it’s widely available, and should be as common as pencils.” –Cindy, special education professor, Michigan State University
For blind and visually impaired students, digital braille or the ability to enlarge font sizes make books more accessible. And for students with mobility issues who may not be able to hold books or turn pages, the ability to read books with tools like switches and eye gazers can make a world of difference and help to accelerate learning.
Pro Tip: Look for ebooks with accessibility features that can be customized for different learning styles.
Launch into Learning with Bookshare
Bookshare® is a FREE online library of over 5 million books that makes reading easier. With Bookshare, students who struggle with reading can access books in alternative formats and customize their reading experience to suit their individual learning style. Bookshare supports almost any reading device and students can read their books offline when an internet connection is not available.