Special needs students are always thought to be less than what they are since they do not have the chance to show their potential. Modern learning methods have not considered the disadvantaged position of intellectually disabled students (Ryba et al. 82). One clear example is the limited utilization of computer technology in their school environment. While the rest of the world's learners are advancing by learning and applying information technology, the special needs students have been left behind. This state of things, however, is gradually changing as it is becoming increasingly apparent that every student needs the appropriate learning opportunities to fit into the 21st century. Some adaptations help special needs students to access computer technology such as voice recognition, alternative keyboards, and laser scanning. These technologies allow students with disabilities to optimize their learning experience.
The primary benefit of the computer is that they empower students to gain control of their learning activities. Computers were previously viewed as distractive tools that would limit the classroom performance of a student. This view has changed now since this technology creates excellent opportunities for students to work together and share information. Microcomputers can be utilized to help students with intellectual disabilities to improve their word recognition. An experiment conducted in New Zealand showed that there were unexpected benefits that improved the learning activities of the participants (Ryba et al. 82). One socially isolated woman who rarely spoke with others was observed working cooperatively with her partner to discuss the issues presented in the computer. The woman would still be considered uncooperative if it were not for the new technology.
Computers are a critical tool for the social development of special needs people due to its focus on interpersonal skills. There are simplified formats of the LOGO computer language that have been used to help the intellectually disabled to master academic concepts and follow directions (Ryba et al. 82). Computers can be used to create learner-centered environments where positive interactions among students can thrive. The cooperative learning strategies emerging from the computer environment will help special needs students to develop socially. Students will learn while depending on each other positively to realize their capabilities. In one experiment, intellectually disabled students taught computer software to others in the university. The latter group then developed new software and had the special needs students run it for tests. It shows how the high level of interaction can help special needs individuals in social development (Ryba et al. 83).
Computers can enhance the learning opportunities for people with disabilities via features like multimedia pictures and digitized speech. These two aspects help significantly in improving the learning of individuals with speech impediments. For example, a learner will see an image on the screen and click on it to listen to its voice description (Ryba et al. 83). This word recognition program empowers the disabled people if it is personalized to fit the individual's environment. Improving their ability to learn is the best way of addressing the interests, needs, and desires of the special needs individuals. Schools must embrace this technology since, like other learners, special needs students need to prepare all students for the reality of the 21st century. Intellectually disabled students should have access to computers to realize their actual capabilities.
The learning opportunities are further increased by the possibility of accessing the internet to conduct research and gather information. Some schools of thought consider the internet as a destructive technology that will cause students to deteriorate in class, and engage in unethical behavior (Moll 600). These shortcomings, however, are incomparable to the massive benefits of accessing the internet. Technology is a great equalizer, and numerous hardware and software programs have enabled the intellectually disabled individuals to gain access to computers. The internet, one of the most revolutionary phenomena of our times, has helped to shape the lives, and research habits of many learners. The wealth of information and ability to network make it almost a necessity for the modern individual (Kilfoye 55). Computing knowledge will help the special needs individuals to make use of the internet, in their capacity, to explore their capabilities.
Computers can make use of multimedia programs to focus on the students' abilities that need to be improved and to engage them actively in the learning process (Ryba et al. 83). These programs can be applied to almost every aspect of learning to improve various ability levels. The computers also benefit students with a low response rate since it allows them to be in control. The act of switching the machine on and off is an excellent way to explore and understand cause and effect situations. Dan Sawyer, a special education instructor, has used multimedia programs to help his students learn numerous things. He uses Optima graphics to create images such as a car, pig, chair, etc. When the intellectually disabled students click on an image, it produces a sound to guide the learner. The high level of interaction and excitement makes students get engaged in the learning process. Other media involves voice recognition exercises where students have to listen to something and determine who spoke. These programs can target specific areas of interest, and hence the teacher can help the students with a well-rounded improvement program. Non-verbal students will benefit significantly from such multimedia programs as teachers can easily customize a way to teach effective communication.
Computers make it possible, and fun, to celebrate the learning achievements of students with special needs, which helps to improve their confidence, motivation, and self-esteem levels. It is important to observe even the smallest victories to inspire these learners since some have endured many periods of failure (Ryba et al. 84). An integrated class system can be used to announce the achievements of individual students to the entire class. This ability to earn recognition for efforts is a motivational tool that will spur the intellectually disabled students. The teacher can create certificates of appreciation for mundane events like starting up the computer, engaging in productive teamwork, or using a multimedia program. People get excited when their efforts are appreciated, and they are likely to increase their energy in class.
Technology is rapidly advancing around the world, and this is evident in most schooling programs. Teachers are increasingly exposing students to computing technology since it is the norm of the 21st century (Kilfoye 53). Special needs students deserve a similar opportunity to access and utilize computers in a learning capacity. It will improve their lives considerably, and make them ready to face today's world regardless of their situation. Computers can help individuals to learn and communicate. Multimedia programs have proven their effectiveness in assisting learners with speech impediments. The learning environment becomes student-centered since the teachers can easily customize programs to suit each learner. Special needs students can explore their capabilities in a supportive, and exciting environment. Students who have underperformed, or grown frustrated, due to conventional learning methods stand to benefit considerably. The ability to assess small victories and congratulate the student is a motivational aspect of computing technology that must be appreciated. Computers should be viewed as a compliment, rather than an impediment, to the learning activities of intellectually disabled students.
Kilfoye, Charles. A Voice from The Past Calls for Classroom Technology. Phi Delta Kappan, 2013. pdf
Moll, Marita. Computers and Kids: Pulling The Plug Can Protect the Planet. EBSCO Publishing, 2003. pdf
Ryba, Ken et al. Computers Empower Students with Special Needs. EBSCO Publishing, 2002. pdf
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