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Book Review: Making Technology Work for Learners with Special Needs: Practical Skills for Teachers (J. Ulman)


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computer boy.jpgThis book which came out in 2005, available for $28.95 on Amazon, highlights the fact that technology is no longer just a nice thing to have for special needs students, it is a critical life skill for survival and success in the real world.  Ulman, an instructor of special education at Ball State University, nicely explains the importance of technology skills and how important it is for teachers and parents to also be up to date on technology, so that they can better teach their children.  Although the book is obviously not up to date due to the many advancements in technology since 2005, it still provides a great framework for teachers to get started in incorporating technology into their classrooms, although teachers will want to research more updated software titles (some suggestions at the end of this article).

Chris with E at computer.gifThe book takes the reader through a step-by-step, practical approach to doing a variety of tasks on the computer such as word processing, graphics, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, and using the internet.  Using pictures and easy-to-understand instructions, Ulman explains how teachers can break these sophisticated steps down into manageable instructional sessions and build the skills over time.

My favorite chapter is Chapter 7, which discusses how to use educational software in the classroom.  Ulman points out that computers are often used as a reward in the classroom, but not effectively as a learning tool.  Suggested uses for computers in the classroom include:

* Reinforced Practice (software reinforces previously taught material) (e.g. Stanley’s Sticker Stories from Edmark Reading (now Riverdeep) which reinforces writing skills)
* Tutorial (teach new concepts) (e.g. Creature Chorus from Laureate LearniLAUSD Feb Melvin Dontell Computer_00011.jpgng which teaches young children to use the mouse or touch screen)
* Simulation (simulates some aspect of real life) (e.g. The Oregon Trail from The Learning Company which teaches the student to make decisions to help travelers arrive safely in Oregon (e.g. what to take, when to leave, how fast to move, etc))
* Problem Solving (solving instructionally relevant problems) (e.g. Puzzle Tanks by Sunburst Technology which teaches the student to fill, empty, and transfer liquids between different storage tanks to reach target amounts)
* Graphics (allows users to express their creativity without having to use paper and pencil) (e.g. Kid Pix Deluxe from The Learning Company)
* Reference (dictionaries, thesaurus, encyclopedia, etc) (e.g. The American Heritage Dictionary for Children from Houghton Mifflin)
* TeacherLAUSD Feb Parthenia Jackie Computer_0001.jpg Utility (programs that make the teacher’s job easier) (e.g. Boardmaker from Mayer-Johnson which provides thousands of picture communication symbols that can be printed and used for schedules, communication, etc.)
* Student Utility (programs that make the student’s job easier) (e.g. word processing, spreadsheets, etc) (e.g. Inspiration from Inspiration Software helps students plan, organize, outline, diagram, and write)
* Authoring (provides teachers with tools to create their own lessons) (e.g. HyperStudio from Sunburst Technologies helps teachers make lessons as well as presentations for meetings or classroom use)

The book is also very helpful for how to make adaptations for special needs students and gives ideas for the mouse, keyboard, touch screen, switch inputs, and speech recognition.LAUSD Feb Parthenia Isaah Computer_00011.jpg

Because this book is from 2005, I thought it would be helpful to provide a few links to sites that specialize in software for special education, check these out!  Please let us know if you have other suggestions, these are sites that offer multiple products, not specific product sites.
Turning Point Technology

Timberdoodle

Super Kids Educational Software Reviews

SmartKids Software

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