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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Using Compensating Technology With Special-Need Children
Ed Clement

A couple of summers ago, I had the opportunity to work for a company that helped local industries set up work stations for their disabled employees. One day a very distinguished and impeccably dressed man rolled into our office in a powered wheel chair. It was equipped with a speech synthesizer, similar to the one the mathematician Steven Hawkins uses, and a lap top computer with a modem connected to a cell phone. I later learned that after being crippled in his youth in an auto accident, he had become a self-made millionaire.

It was hard for me to imagine how so disabled a man could have become so successful. I eventually got up enough nerve to ask him. His simple one word response was "technology."

Sometimes it is obvious that a student, or students, just aren't going to master educational skills in the traditional way. When that happens, maybe a technological solution is worth trying. Some of the modern technologies that I've found particularly useful in my classroom are:

  • Calculators: This technology is so useful in improving computational skill and math literacy that I encourage all my students to use one. I especially like the Texas Instruments TI-83 graphing calculator, which lets a student enter a string of math operations in the order in which they're presented.
  • Pocket Translators: these devices have really helped my non- English speaking students function more effectively in an English speaking educational system.
  • Pocket Speaking Dictionaries: These are particularly useful because they allow my poor readers as well as my bi-lingual students to work more independently, allowing me to give my other students the time they need.
  • Spell Checking Pocket Electronic Dictionary: No wonder half the people in America can't spell when we have words like pneumonia in the English language.
  • A PC with Internet access: This is the most useful technology by far because it will allow you to find the grant money, and there is a lot of it out there, to purchase all the compensating technology your students will need. Keep an eye out at this site for my tips on grant writing.
I'd like to end with a quote from American philosopher Eric Hoffer's book The Passionate State of Mind: "Where there is the necessary technical skill to move mountains, there is no need for the faith that moves mountains."


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