Use of Technology in the Special Education Classroom Essay

Total Length: 3364 words ( 11 double-spaced pages)

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Chapter 1: Introduction

The epigraph above is reflective of the views of many special educational needs teachers. Indeed, innovations in technology in recent decades have created a wide array of new opportunities for helping special needs student achieve their full academic potential. These trends are especially noteworthy today because tens of millions of young American learners are struggling with their academic pursuits due to their special educational needs. In this context, the term “special educational needs” can be defined as “children who have learning problems or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age” (Special education needs, 2018, para. 2). The purpose of this grant proposal was to identify ways that special educational needs students can benefit from the introduction of technology in their classrooms based on the problem statement described below.

Statement of the Problem

According to the most recent estimates from the U.S. government, the number of special educational needs students aged 3 to 21 years was more nearly 7 million, representing about 13% of all the public school students in the country (Child and youth with disabilities, 2018)..

n 2015–16, the number of students ages 3–21 receiving special education services was 6.7 million, or 13 percent of all public school students. Among students receiving special education services, 34 percent had specific learning disabilities. Moreover, many young learners who are not currently classified as special needs students will nevertheless experience the need for some type of special education during their academic careers (Special education needs, 2018).

Research Questions

This grant proposal was focused on developing timely and informed answers to the following research questions:

1. How is technology currently being used to facilitate learning by special educational needs students?

2. How do special educational needs student perceive the introduction of technology into their classrooms?

3. What are some of the best practices and lessons learned from the use of technology in special educational classrooms?

4. How can this information be used to identify grant opportunities for technology in the special education classroom that will be approved?

Organization of the Proposal

This proposal was organized into five chapters. Chapter one provided an overview and statement of the problem and the questions that guided the research. Chapter two which follows immediately below provides a review of the relevant literature and chapter three describes more fully the research methodology used. Finally chapter four provides a proforma copy of a representative grant application based on comparable proposals and the answers to the above-listed research questions, followed by a summary of the research and key findings concerning the introduction of technology into the special educational needs classroom in the concluding chapter.

Chapter Two: Review of the Literature

The research to date confirms that special educational needs students can benefit from the introduction of technology into their classrooms in a number of ways. For instance, one special needs educator reports that, “In my classroom, technology is a tool for empowerment—it creates a collaborative and innovative space for all students” (Nieves, 2016, para. 2). An important point that quickly emerges from the research concerning technology and special educational needs students is the fact that these tools do not need to be complicated or expensive and even the conventional applications furnished in many word processing suites can help special educational needs students attain the fullest academic potential. In this regard, Nieves emphasizes that, “Along with over 50 million educators and students, I am primarily using Google’s G Suite for Education. The suite is a bundle of Google’s key products, such as Drive, Docs, Slides, and Forms, along with new tools like Google Classroom” (2016, para. 4).

Beyond the conventional suite of technological tools available in these conventional suites, there has been a great deal of scholarship invested in developing other software tools for special educational needs students (McCrea, 2014). For example, the ClickShare application developed by Banco provides the ability for teachers to facilitate collaboration on coursework among numerous students (McCrea, 2014). Likewise, the literacy application developed by Texthelp helps young learners who are struggling to learn how to read and write and so-called “smart boards” can make these applications even more effective. According to McCrea, “At the Glenholme School in Washington, CT, teachers combine their Smart Boards with Read & Write Gold to help the school's special needs student population graphically organize their writing (by concept, mind map or outline)” (p. 45). This application has also been found to be effective in helping students with dyslexia learn how to read and write (McCrea, 2014).

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In addition, other special educational needs teachers have found innovative ways to use technology in their classrooms. One elementary instructional technology coordinator in Iowa installed around 7,000 BrightLink 595Wi projectors manufactured by Epson which transform ordinary classroom walls into enormous interactive mouse pads (Zuger, 2015). This initiative was not inexpensive, though, and BrightLink 595Wi projectors (see Figure 1 below) retail for around $1,500 each, but the impressive results achieved in this school district suggests that this is money well invested (Zuger, 2015).

Figure 1. Representative example of an Epson classroom projector

Source: dc9f90912958f921 dafcfb26b9f/1200Wx1200H?use=banner&assetDescr=536wi_fcs-our_690x460

These types of applications can engage and motivate special educational needs students in ways that are not possible otherwise.

School districts that already provide iPad or other digital platforms including smartphones and Android devices for their students are especially well situated to take advantage of new technologies for special educational needs students. For instance, Hamilton (2014) points out that, “Teachers thus often face the difficulty of addressing the needs of students with a wide range of reading levels in any one classroom. For these teachers-and for parents encouraging their youngsters to read-FarFaria is one of the best reading applications available for the iPad platform” (p. 53). The FarFaria application (see Figure 2 below) contains more than 450 preinstalled songs and captivating that encourage special educational needs student to read, and five additional stories are added to the collection every week. As Hamilton emphasizes, “FarFaria enables teachers and parents to encourage an enjoyment of reading for all children” (2014, p. 54).

Figure 2. Sample FarFaria interface

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Moreover, downloaded stories and songs are also available on the FarFaria platform when the system is offline, overcoming many of the challenges that face classroom teachers today.

Besides reading technologies, there are a number of applications available that can help special educational needs student with math (Roman, 2016). For example, the “Real World Math” program for special needs students is available from PCI Educational Publishing for around $80 (see Figure 3 below).

Figure 3. Real World Math application from PCI Educational Publishing

Source: AB71B8ADEDACF26A3.jpg

Likewise, other vendors have recognized the need for specialized technologies for the special educational needs classroom and have developed interactive platforms that are designed to engage young learners and help them achieve the common core standards that are in place in many states today. In this regard, Shack (2014) reports that, “Goalbook Toolkit is designed to help special education teachers design unit and lesson plans for diverse students. The platform provides instructional resources for teachers, categorized by standard, age, skill set, and a variety of other criteria” (p. 18). In addition, the Goalbook Toolkit features customizable individual education plans for special educational needs students including the use of Universal Design for Learning teaching strategies (see Figure 3 below) (Shack, 2014). Some of the more attractive features of the Goalbook Toolkit include its ease-of-use and intuitive interface that even novice students can readily navigate (Shack, 2014). The “wizard” that is used in this application also allows new users to browse the content and revisit information they need to review (Shack, 2014).

Figure 3. Vocabulary preview featured in the Goalbook Toolkit application


The Goalbook Toolkit also has several useful features that can benefit special educational needs students, including those set forth in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Adaptation features of the Goalbook Toolkit



Clarify vocabulary and symbols

Rather than students beginning by reading the full text, they can benefit from the domain-specific vocabulary being defined first. Many historical and technical texts have words that students may not use in their everyday life so a lesson about these words can aid comprehension.

Vary the methods for response and navigation

Instead of writing a short answer or selecting from a list of multiple-choice answers, teachers can sequence a set of picture/photograph cards representing events from the historical text. Difficulty can be varied by increasing or decreasing the number of cards to be sequenced.

Vary demands for resources to optimize challenges

Instead of students reading through the entire text at once, some students may benefit from the text being chunked into smaller logical sections. Comprehension questions can immediately follow the reading of a chunk. Breaks can….....

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Barnes, N. S. (2009, September). Embracing new technology ... or how a computer program changed my life. Arts & Activities, 140(1), 44-47.

Children and youth with disabilities. (2018). U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from

Goalbook Toolkit overview. (2018). Goalbook Toolkit. Retrieved from https://goalbookapp. com/toolkit-info/.

Hamilton, K. (2014, Winter). Reaching readers through technology: A review of Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 80(2), 52-55.

McCrea, B. (2014, June). Eight great tools for classroom presentations: Teachers are pairing hardware and software to create lessons that engage students and inspire collaboration. Technological Horizons In Education, 41(6), 20-24.

Nieves, K. (2016, November 6). Using technology to empower students with special needs. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Roman, H. T. (2016, September). The math card game challenge. Technology and Engineering Teacher, 76(1), 38-40.

Shack, K. (2014, June). Goalbook Toolkit. Technology & Learning, 34(11), 18.

Special education needs. (2018). U.K. National Institute of Education. Retrieved from

Tkatchov, O. (2018). White paper: Grant-seeking advice for proactive educators. n2y. Retrieved from

Zuger, S. (2015, May). The sights and sounds of tech success. Technology & Learning, 35(10), 22-25.

Appendix A
Proforma Copy of Grant Proposal Form


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