Technology is the Great Equalizer in Special Education

Once regarded as expensive and scarce, the well-planned technological implementation at PUHSD in recent years has made resources available and accessible to students with disabilities like never before. As part of the Scholar+ teaching and learning initiative, PUHSD’s 1:1 Chromebook deployment is one such example of getting needed resources in the hands of students for daily use.

There are many teachers at PUHSD who have spent decades supporting students with disabilities who struggled to gain equitable access to the mainstream curriculum. At times, this uphill battle seemed insurmountable. Now, technology brought about by Scholar+ has been helping PUHSD students close this gap, increasing the possibilities for students with disabilities to equally participate in the general curriculum. The reality of students with disabilities at PUHSD having equitable access to learning experiences is one of the desired outcomes for Scholar+. It is great to see desired outcomes become a reality.

Scholar+ has provided accommodations to students with disabilities that were once expensive and rare. For instance, SpeakIt! is a Google Chrome extension that reads selected text using Text-to-Speech technology that has language auto-detection. SpeakIt! can read text in more than 50 languages and can assist students with learning disabilities and visual impairments to read text. Voicenote is also a Google Chrome extension that uses speech recognition software to take spoken words and convert them into typed words on the screen. Students with fine motor impairments who find it difficult to use a standard keyboard or grip a writing utensil can use Voicenote to complete written compositions. A glowing example of this is that recently a teacher sat down with a student who had visual impairments and was struggling with writing and worked to provide resources. After helping the student install Voicenote on the Chromebook, the student went from writing a paragraph in one hour to composing three pages in half the time. The student’s ability to participate in English class was transformed and this would not have been possible without Scholar+.

Video creation can be extremely beneficial to students with autism or those with more severe cognitive disabilities. There are a number of online tools that allow teachers to create cartoons, comics, screencasts, and live-action videos that can be used to create an assortment of helpful teaching and learning resources. These short demonstrative and informative videos can help students learn how to appropriately act in certain social situations, instruct students in an entertaining way about personal hygiene or safety, or reinforce appropriate behavior by depicting expected behavior. Our teachers are now using this technology to improve the lives of students.

Our students with disabilities live in incredible times where access to technology can result in life changing moments. Everyday, more and more of our students with disabilities are taking control of their lives through technology. Scholar+ at PUHSD continues to provide opportunities for students with disabilities to have equitable access to the curriculum and enrich their lives like never before. Technology is the great equalizer that is making all the difference.