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March 23rd, 2012
iPad and iPod apps open up world for special-needs students
When Marissa Rega was assigned to teach the special-needs students at Clairview School in Greensburg, Pa., how to use its new iPod Touch devices, she planned to start from the very beginning.
But as soon as Rega put the iPods in front of them, the students turned them on and started using them.
“We don’t like to put limitations on them, but even we didn’t realize what they could do until we gave it to them,” said Rega, the technology integration specialist at Clairview, a school operated by the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.
Special educators throughout the region say the iPod and the newer, larger iPad tablet are becoming important tools in teaching and communicating with their students.
Special-needs students are using the devices — and software applications for them — to learn reading and math along with social and life skills.
And, the devices are holding their attention.
Rega said the iPod has intrigued low-functioning students with autism.
“They’re engaged for 20 minutes or more — an entire period,” Rega said. “You can’t hold them for two minutes when you’re standing in front of them.”
Clairview has moving labs of 24 iPod Touch devices acquired in the past two years through a private donation. They have requested 15 more iPads, which are easier for some students to operate.
Cindy Shaffer, curriculum specialist at the IU, said the devices promote independence for students who can’t easily use a computer keyboard and a mouse.
The colors, graphics, and sounds provide visual and auditory stimulation. Teachers can use apps that suit a student’s skill level.
“It just engages so many types of learning styles,” Rega said. There are apps for number and letter recognition, adding, and subtracting.
A Clairview secondary classroom, geared toward preparing students for life after graduation, was using a job interviewing app, complete with questions employers might ask.