Supporting All Learners with Technology

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Ideas on multiple intelligences have popularized the notion that people learn in different ways. Good teachers have always worked to provide alternatives for students. It's now relatively common to see lesson plans that acknowledge different learning paths. Accommodations and modifications are frequently discussed which make curriculum accessible to different ability levels and language proficiencies. Technology can play an important role in making for the success of all students.


  • Students will be able to describe at least three different ways that technology can provide access to information for persons with disabilities.
  • Students will be able to describe at least three different ways that technology can support expression of ideas for persons with disabilities.
  • Students will identify at least three different ways that technology can support people learning a second language.

Go to Part 2- Independence and Integration

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Part 2: Independence and Integration



"Speech recognition systems, electronic communications, personal computers, robots, and artificial intelligence are transforming people's lives."


Technology has helped people with disabilities gain greater independence and integration in our society. Speech recognition systems, electronic communications, personal computers, robots, and artificial intelligence are transforming people's lives. The movement toward miniaturization, use of lighter materials, and higher-capacity information processing devices present even greater opportunities for this population in the future. As schools move to mainstream and provide full inclusion environments for persons with disabilities, it is important that teachers are aware of possibilities with "assistive technologies."

The George Lucas Educational Foundation devoted their entire Summer 1998 issue of Edutopia to assistive technology. Please read the article titled, "Assistive Technology Success Stories," by Yuri Wellington to learn more about possibilities with assistive technology.

Assistive Technology Success Stories by Yuri Wellington
from the Summer 1998 isssue of Edutopia
Newsletter of the George Lucas Educational Foundation


As teachers plan ways that they can increase student independence and create classrooms that support differentiated instruction, assistive technology becomes a vital resource. The table below provides ideas on student needs and potential assistive technology solutions.

Area of Need


Potential Uses of Technology

Auditory Processing Difficulty

difficulty following oral directions; barriers understanding lectures and direct oral instruction

Pen and paper

Computer aided note taking

Tape Recorder-

student, peer tutor or instructional assistant records assignment directions and key parts of lectures for replay at a later time

Sound Field Systems

similar to a public address system, these setups amplify the teachers voice allowing learners to focus on "who has the microphone"

Reads at Lower than Expected Level

difficulty reading assigned materials

Predictable Books


Changes in text size, spacing, color, background


Use of pictures/symbols with text


Single Word Scanners


Tape Recorder-

use of books on tape

written materials are recorded for student to listen to

Talking Word Processor-

materials formatted as "electronic text" are read by a talking word processor

Optical Character Recognition Software-

written material is scanned and processed for use with a talking word processor

Electronic Books

Writes at Lower than Expected Level

discrepancy between verbal and written fluency

Word cards/Book/Wall

Pocket Dictionary/Thesaurus

Writing Templates

Electronic/Talking Spell Checker/Dictionary

Graphic Mapping & Outlining Software-

assists student in pre-writing activities of generating ideas and associating concepts

Tape Recorder-

student dictates assignment into tape recorder; transcription to writing occurs by either student or instructional assistant at a later time

Word Prediction Software-

predicts logical word choices based on subject verb agreement, grammar rules, and student writing of the past

Portable Word Processor-

affords access to a computer like word processor anywhere in the school/home environment

Voice Recognition Software

Calculates at Lower than Expected Level

discrepancy between reasoning/problem solving abilities and ability to do calculations

Number Line

Enlarged Math Worksheets

Talking Watches/Clocks

Calculator with Large Keys and/or Display

Manipulatives and counters-

help student obtain a visual and kinesthetic understanding of the problem

Software for Manipulation of Objects

Talking Calculator

On-screen/Scanning Calculator

Voice Recognition Software

Spells at Lower than Expected Level

discrepancy between written fluency and ability to spell words correctly

Word cards/Book/Wall

Pocket Dictionary/Thesaurus

Writing Templates

Electronic/Talking Spell Checker/Dictionary

Word Processing software-

student uses word processor to enter text and locate/correct words that are misspelled

Fine Motor Writing Difficulty

discrepancy between written fluency and ability to form readable letters and numbers

Thicker Pencil/Pen-

provides student with more writing tool surface space to grip


Pencil/Pen Grip-

slides onto pencil/pen providing more surface space to grip


Word Processing software-

student copies handwritten text into computer for review and editing by others


Alternative Computer Keyboard-

modifies traditional keyboard offering alternatives in key arrangement and keyboard size


Portable Word Processor-

affords access to a computer like word processor anywhere in the school/home environment for generating and composing written work


 Use of assistive technology as a learning resource needs to be balanced with:

  1. student learning potential- an individual's academic strengths and weaknesses
  2. motivation- the student's personal desire to learn
  3. chronological age- older students may be more receptive to solutions than younger students
  4. desired goals- expected outcomes

Additional support related to assistive technology for students with special needs can be found at the following websites:

LD Online's Tech Guide
A comprehensive, up-to-the-minute listing of hardware and software products for people with learning disabilities, what it does and where to get it.

Assistive Technology in K-12 Schools
Developed by the Alliance for Technology Access, this site has specific information and resources to support educators in their quest to accommodate all learners. Information about best practices along with school success stories are shared.

Go to Part 3- Second Language and English Language Development

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Part 3: Second Language and English Language Development


I don't care about technology for technology's sake... I want it to bring forth reading and written and expression."

- Rita Hatton


Educators can use technology to support English language learners in a number of different ways. Please review the following ideas and consider applications for students you work with:

  • Teachers can use technology to provide interaction, communicative
    activities, and real audience for LEP students. Students can participate in electronic telecollaborative projects through email and web based interchanges.
  • Educators can use technology to supply comprehensible input. By offering classroom presentations with such programs as PowerPoint, Inspiration, and iMovie technology can play a major role in expanding student language experiences in content area learning.
  • Instructors can support development of ELL student cognitive abilities with technology. In mathematics and science students can work with such programs as Microsoft Excel, Geometers' Sketchpad, TableTop, Logical Journey, Graph Club and Science Seekers. In language arts and social studies students can work with such programs as International Inspirer, Hollywood, Timeliner, Write On!, Inspiration, and Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • Teachers can use webquests to present task-based and problem solving activities that require students to exchange information and collaborate. Examples of K-12 webquest activities can be found at the following website:
  • Educators can facilitate focused development of English language skills with technology. Students can practice skills in the writing process using DraftBuilder, Inspiration, WriteOutLoud, and Microsoft Word to brainstorm, compose, peer edit, revise, and publish stories and narratives.
  • Instructors can use multiple modalities to support various learning styles and strategies with technology. Because learning can occur in a variety of ways, teachers can design learning environments that utilize technology to support multiple ways of learning and demonstrating knowledge. Inspiration, DraftBuilder, WriteOut Loud, Microsoft PowerPoint and iMovie can be employed to meet aural, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic learners.


Go to Part 4- Web Resources

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Part 4: Web Resources





"Teachers and parents are changing the educational landscape for students with disabilities through the imaginative and innovative applications of technology."

-Jackie Brand



Using Video With English Language Learners
Check out tips from KQED on strategies teachers can use to increase the effectiveness of video for English language learners. 

Special Education Resources on the Internet (SERI)
Special Education Resources on the Internet (SERI) is sponsored by Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. Educators and parents will find many different topics of interest including: attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, physical and health disorders, inclusion resources, legal and law resources, autism, behavior disorders, vision and hearing impairment and transition resources.

Schwab Learning: Managing Learning Differences
Schwab Learning is a service of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation dedicated to helping kids with learning differences be successful in learning and life. Its founding is directly linked to the effect of learning differences on the Schwabs' lives. Schwab Learning provides support, resources, publications and information free of charge to parents of children with learning differences and to kids themselves.

LD Online: Learning Disabilities Information & Resources
LD Online is an interactive guide on learning disabilities for parents, teachers and children.Visitors will find many articles and resources related to learning disabilities, a kidzone, and various bulletin boards where people can share information about learning disabilities. It is sponsored by the Learning Project of WETA in Washington, D.C., and the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities.

Pronunciation Online
An online resource helping learners with pronunciation.

Little Explorers English-Spanish Dictionary
For younger students, a commercial web site with lots of great images and descriptions.

Council on Exceptional Children- Teaching How-to's
A collection of articles drawn from TEACHING Exceptional Children (TEC), a publication of The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). TEC is published specifically for teachers and administrators of children with disabilities and children who are gifted and features practical articles that present methods and materials for classroom use as well as current issues in special education teaching and learning.

Helping Your Child Learn to Read
A publication of the U.S. Department of Education, this site contains reading activities that parents and teachers can use with children from infancy through age 10.

National Institute of Health and Child Development
This is the site for the National Institute of Health and Child Development (NICHD). It is the premier national organization conducting research in the area of reading and related reading disabilities. Headed by Dr. Reid Lyon, they have produced some of the most useful reading research done anywhere in the world... scientists working under the auspices of the NICHD have had a dramatic influence on the California Reading Initiative.

Language Learning
An award winning site by Chris Dugdale, it contains information and resources for teachers and students of English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL).

McREL : Special Education
An impressive collection of World Wide Web resources from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning Laboratory.

Dave's ESL Cafe
A popular site that presents resources and opportunities for interaction among individuals learning a second language.

Aaron Shepard's Reader's Theatre Editions
Reader's Theater Editions are scripts adapted from stories by Aaron Shepard and others mostly humor fantasy, and retold tales from a variety of cultures. The grade levels for performers fallmostly between 3 and 9.

Foreign Language News and Newspapers
MIT maintains a large college of newspapers and magazines from all over the world here.


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