Although my proposal (in part below) for an iPad integration project did not yield the results I was hoping for, I thought I'd share my thoughts and ideas. So, enjoy. I'd love comments, suggestions, etc. if you have any.
To what extent can the use of the iPad as an assistive technology impact the development of reading fluency and content area achievement for students with disabilities?
Education as an institution is in a stage of transformation. In regard to this process we know these things. Inclusive practices are a reality. High class-sizes and the broad range of student abilities within classes, across content areas, have placed innumerable challenges on schools, their teachers and their students. With the charge of closing identified achievement gaps, special educators must look to build capacity within students through empowerment, skill development, and academic competency.
When students can’t read, they can’t access curriculum. In essence, when they can’t access curriculum they are excluded even when included in the general education setting. For inclusive practices to be successful students need to build reading fluency and skills that generate access to content. Through the use of assistive technologies such as the iPad, students can develop content readiness through the following application of activities. Concurrent use of the iPad within reading intervention programming such as Corrective Reading, Read 180, Language!, and others. Provide process level differentiation across content areas to build pathways to learning. Create opportunities for self-monitoring, empowerment, goal creation, collaborative processing, and metacognition, in which the active progress monitoring is infused within all activities. Integrate fluency and reading instruction throughout the curriculum, in an engaging format.
Research (Tomlinson, 2005) suggests that high quality curriculum is engaging, authentic, varied, interesting, connected to prior knowledge, and incorporates technology, amongst other characteristics. Thus, it is imperative that we meet the students at their level of desire and need. For some, simple exposure to technology is necessary, while for others it can develop skills and become an equalizer for learning. Two specific ways in which I plan to utilize the iPad within this context are as follows: Effective fluency instruction consists of three main activities, modeled reading, assisted reading, and practice. In meeting these elements of effective instruction I will have students record, rehearse, paraphrase, listen, and follow along with reading materials. The ability to read a digital story while listening to it, record individual oral reading, listen and observe fluent models of reading, and reflect upon performance on a single device can be a powerful tool in supporting fluency and access to content.
Over the course of the year I intend to build interest and motivation, and foster self directed learning through empowerment and ownership of education. It is my sincere belief that tools such as the iPad can impact student achievement, student perceptions of school, conceptions of self and ability, while also providing them tools for independence, collaboration, and preparation for the possibilities and opportunities that await them in adulthood. As we look at building capacity within our models of schooling and developing effective, sustainable systems of intervention and practice, I feel strongly that these tools can provide not only the intangibles necessary for educational motivation but for content knowledge and academic growth.
I teach across content areas, provide intensive intervention in math, reading, social skills (affective needs), collaborate through consultation on behavior, differentiation, accommodation and modification, etc. Reading and math intervention tools such as Corrective Reading, Language! others have become tools of the trade for special and general educators alike. Well, sometimes these interventions can come across pretty bland. Lets face it, these tools for intervention, used as a tier 2 or 3 can be cumbersome, dry and lead to continued academic apathy in kids who already have low motivation for school. I do not presume by any means that the iPad is a "magic pill" that will eliminate all academic problems. To do so would be naive. I do however believe in the power of access.