Sunday, February 26, 2012

Technology Helps Special Needs Students Learn

Technology has become an essential part of American education, whether through the use of mobile devices in a classroom or through the creation of online learning platforms. Education technology can enhance the learning experience for students of all ages and can even assist the education of students with special needs.

The special education category does not just include students with mental retardation, but encompasses a larger group of students such as those with learning disabilities, physical illnesses, speech, auditory, and visual impairments, and autism, among others. Over 1,000 students within Lufkin Independent School District (LISD) in Texas require some form of special education- nearly 12 percent of the district's total student population. Most special needs children in the district are enrolled in regular classrooms but require additional instruction or more one-on-one attention. The idea of offering extra help to these students is to get them back into regular classes full-time. And technology is helping special education teachers to do just that.

In the past two years, Lufkin Independent School District (LISD) in Texas spent around $40,000 on new educational technology devices designed to help special needs students learn. Resources to purchase the technology were provided by funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Examples of technology that have been incorporated into the classroom are touch-screen computers and oversized "switches" which are used to help students in decision making.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Benefits and Applications of Instructional Technology

The recent advances in technology made possible by the internet have resulted in a rapidly changing world. In order to keep up with such advances, the presence of technology in the classroom has become of increasing importance.

Integrating Technology into Teaching is a great way for an educator to enhance the effectiveness of their lessons and connect with their students. After all, the current young generation has been immersed in technology like never before, and using instructional technology is a way to accommodate their educational needs in a way that is familiar and fitting for them.

So what are some of the meaningful ways to include technology in the classroom?

To begin, instructional technology can be a great way for an educator to have their students conduct research. One way an educator could do this would be requiring students to conduct internet research for a project.

In order to supervise and direct the effectiveness of this lesson, teachers could supervise computer lab time to make sure students are making correct use of their time.

They could also assign requirements for references and citations in order to teach children best practices for internet research. Selecting a particular website for research on a particular unit or topic could be an effective way to provide students with further direction.

Integrating technology into teaching can also be done by using computer software with the internet. Instructional technology can provide information and insight in creative formats, and software programs can provide lesson plans in a very effective manner.

This technique could be used for any subject, such as math, science, social studies, and English. Examples of this could include students viewing a series of videos online to learn about the cultures of another country, or online educational presentations that can help them learn about geometric shapes.

One of the great potentials of such examples of instructional technology and the internet is the fact that they can be interactive and hands-on activities for students. These online tools usually provide a small test at the end of the viewing material or throughout the presentation to involve the student directly in the process.

Another effective method of utilizing instructional technology could be assigning students to create presentations using software. The effectiveness of this could be further enhanced by requiring students to post several links to websites, or embedding videos in the presentation. This will help students in their presentation skills, research skills and technology comprehension skills.

Another wondrous benefit for educators to consider about integrating technology into teaching is the fact that using instructional technology is a way for teachers to diversify their teaching lessons with a different kind of approach.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Education Technology Integration - Computer Microscopes Are Enhancing the Science Classroom

Computer microscopes are changing the way science is taught in the elementary and middle school classroom. Traditional methods involved setting up bulky equipment along with making flawless slides for getting a clear picture of the object to be studied. Students would many times struggle to locate the critical elements of the prepared slide. With the computer microscope it has become easier for the teacher to concentrate on content rather than setting up the equipment. Images can be projected on a large screen for the entire class to view.

Hand-held digital microscopes such as the SmartScope are one of the best science tools for use in the classroom. Firstly, it can be easily set up by simply connecting to a computer through the USB port. This simple feature has eliminated the need for the teacher to explain details of the instrument, as in the case of the light microscope. Secondly, the hand-held digital microscope has a flexible lens which is capable of achieving a range of magnifications.

Viewing prepared glass slides of common specimens of animals, insects, plants, amphibians and frogs, is as easy as setting the tip on the slide and adjusting the light level and focus dials. Many students struggle with making their own slides, for instance when the slides develop air bubbles. The computer microscope allows teachers to project a single slide for every student to see allowing them to discuss important features using only one slide. Students can even work individually, eliminating the need for constant attention of the teacher.

With the help of the computer microscope teachers can now encourage self study, as the instrument is easy to operate. Students can study in groups since the device can be connected to the computer using the USB port and images can be studied on the computer monitor. This method allows a more interactive learning experience, as students can discuss different ideas and new things with each other. Students can work in groups to import images and make PowerPoint presentations.

In addition to everyone being able to view the samples, many computer microscopes feature the ability to record video and time-lapse videos which can be used to study different stages of a particular process such as cell multiplication or a chemical reaction.

Computer microscope software often allows the students to take still images of the sample being studied. The advantage is that students can take the images over a period of time as well as at the exact time when a process takes place, thus providing them accurate picture of the process under observation.

Computer microscopes have not only improved the teaching standards, but also encouraged students to work together and learn as well as they share different ideas on the subject being studied. In most cases students found it difficult to learn and understand subjects such as biology, physics and chemistry. More often it is difficult for the teachers to create a picture that correlates theory with the actual environment. For instance, when intricate structure of rocks is being taught in the class, it may not be possible for the students to visualize its existence in the real world. However, technology has now made it possible for the students to relate concepts learned in the lectures with what actually exists.