Educational Technology for Students With Special Needs

As many of you know, my journey down the organizing road started with my son. My constant search to find ways to untangle his school world led me to uncover many tools available on the technology systems he uses every day. Who knew that his iPad and iTouch would become his constant companions!

iPad Apps

More and more schools are allowing students to use their iPads and iPod Touches in the classrooms, and therefore these types of educational applications are growing by leaps and bounds. For students with special needs specifically, check out iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps for Special Education, a list compiled by assistive technology specialists and broken down by category such as math, writing, art, etc. These apps are truly life changing for the special needs student.

Also be sure to check out “The iPad: a Near-Miracle for My Son with Autism”. Written from a mother’s perspective about her autistic son’s use of assistive technology and educational apps. She offers great suggestions and even videos of her son using various apps.

There are also many apps available to middle and high school students on their iPads that help make learning interactive and engaging. The Elements(exploring the Periodic Table), and Alien Equation(games that teach math skills), are just some of the apps that students might enjoy.

There are so many new educational apps appearing every day that it would be prudent to check out reviews first, particularly ones that teachers have put their stamp of approval on. I Education Apps Review has a collection that should help you get started.

Cell Phone Apps For Students with ADHD

I spend a lot of my time working with high school students to assist them with paper and time management skills. The learning has really been a two-way process as my students are always sharing with me their favorite cell phone features that benefit their learning, time management, and study skills. Other than the basics, such as calendars and alarms, here are some of their favorites:

Cameras

Do I need to say more? If they are allowed to carry their phone to class, then using the camera feature to snap photos of the blackboard or SMART Board after class will ensure that they don’t miss important class notes or assignments. In addition, photos can also serve as a useful visual reminder of what a student needs to get done. For instance, a photo of the student’s soccer gear laid out will act as a reminder of what needs to be packed up before heading off to practice.

Text Messaging

Yes, you heard me correctly. Students can use Google SMS to get definitions, facts, and conversations sent directly to their phones. Online to-do lists such as Remember the Milk (Love!) can send alerts or an instant message reminding students of an upcoming project, deadline, test or appointment. Students can even receive flashcards and study materials directly to their phone allowing them to study wherever they are.

Although many of theses technologies are used to assist students with special needs, they are truly useful for any student looking for tech savvy techniques to streamline their educational world.

Language Translations for Real Life How to Raise Multilingual Kids

In my last segment I discussed how being multilingual makes one a better multi-tasker, a great problem solver, very creative, emotionally controlled, able to fight the effects of aging, and more… The benefits of being multilingual are compelling enough to make parents consider the notion of trying to foster an environment of “multilingualism” for their offspring…

One might find it odd that I refer to children as “offspring”, but in the whole scheme of things, we humans are driven – like all creatures that have the capability to reason – to nurture an environment that allows every possible opportunity for the successful advancement of our own offspring – survival of the fittest…

  • Male lions kill the offspring of competitive males in the pride.
  • Humans pay for a spot on the waiting list of the best of best preschools for their toddlers.
  • Mother pigs only feed the piglets who are strong enough to get to the breasts first, showering her resources on the more stronger aggressive piglets, allowing the remaining to starve.
  • Humans enroll their children in Healthy Start programs, and send their kids to Harvard.

So naturally, many modern parents want to foster their offspring’s abilities to be bilingual or multilingual. How do you raise multilingual kids? I’ll share some tips, but before I go there, make sure that’s what you really want, because it is not always a walk in the park having multilingual kids… there are some perils:

Peril #1: If I had a dollar for every time my kids corrected my communications… I’d be a gazillionaire! You have to get used to your 6 year old and your 4 year old correcting your pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Spanish is not my language; I’ve only learned it recently. While I can get by, I am far from fluent.

This summer, I created my son’s birthday party invitations. My 6 year old daughter read the invitations and made 3 comments:

  1. Instead of saying “traje de bano” change it to “banador”… she reminded me the difference between South American Spanish and Castilian Spanish
  2. You don’t have to use the formal “usted” verb tense when talking to kids, use the informal “tu” verb tense
  3. Next time, ask me to proofread your invitations!

Peril #2: When your kid swears in another language, find out the meaning. One day, I noticed my kids saying “ho-pay“, when they were expressing discontent. I didn’t think much of it until one day, I was in my own Spanish lessons, and I heard a guy running down the hall shouting what sounded like “ho-dar“, now I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded close to what my kids say so I didn’t think much of it.

So I asked my Spanish friend, who told me the real meaning. I was shocked! My kids are saying what? Well it turns out that “ho-pay” is actually not bad, they say it on Dora the Explorer, “Oh Man“. The Spanish equivalent for the kid’s expression of “darn it” or “Oh Man” is “ho-pay“. But what I heard that guy saying down the hall was really an adult swear word… I dread the day that an innocent kids’ expression transforms into the other expression.

Peril 3#: It doesn’t take long, but when it happens, at first you’ll be sad, then you will laugh. My older child is embarrassed when I sing songs in Spanish. Many American songs played on the radio are translated in Spanish. I like it when I hear an American tune on the radio, sung in Spanish. I like it even more when I understand the lyrics, so I sing it, in Spanish… “si fuera un chico… ” and my girl says:

  1. I’m pronouncing it wrong,
  2. I don’t sound cool,
  3. Stop it!

So what do I do? I sing it louder, so her friends can hear!

Now that you know some risks, you still want to raise multilingual kids?Here are 6 tips to help foster an environment for bilingual or multilingual kids.

1. Move to a multilingual country. Luxembourg, Israel, Switzerland, Canada, the Philippines… Maybe not so easy, but if you have the opportunity, why not have a real multicultural experience for the entire family? Guaranteed to have a multilingual kid.

2. Send your child to a school that teaches in another language. If you live in the US, why not send your child to a French or Chinese school. They will surely learn the language; the curriculum will follow the same general academic material, just in another language. It is a great way to immerse the child in another language for 6-8 hours a day. Believe me, the child will still learn the local language, because all the kids will speak the local language on the playground and outside of the school.

3. Speak in tongues. If you or your spouse speaks another language, then go ahead and speak in your native language to your child. The child will learn fast. In our home, the kids speak English with me and French with their father. It has been like that since the day they were born.

4. Get Help. Hire an au pair from another country or a nanny from abroad. This is a fabulous way to expose your family to another language and culture on a daily basis. If the au pair speaks in his or her native tongue to the child, the child will pick up the language. The concept of one adult one language will work in this case because the child will be accustomed to only communicating with the au pair in the foreign language. As parents, you may want to speak English or the local language with the au pair, to help inspire the culture exchange spirit of the au pair program, but the child and the au pair can stick to the foreign language.

5. Study Abroad. If your child is adventurous, why not let him or her have a summer or semester or year abroad? There are many academic and cultural exchange programs that allow the opportunity for kids of all ages to experience international life. When I was growing up, we often had foreign exchange students at our school. My friend’s child is involved in a Summer Space Camp, sponsored by the European NASA equivalent where kids age 8 and above go to another country for a few weeks and learn all about science… how cool is that?

6. Summers with Aunt Sophie or Grandma Sue. If you have a relative or friend living in another country, why not let your child spend some quality time abroad? I know a family here in Spain, who exchanges their kids for a few weeks every summer with another family in France. Each family has two kids, one takes one of each, so that each kid has a playmate and a cultural experience. It’s a great opportunity to live abroad and be in an international environment with a relative or someone you trust. Godmother Judy, here we come!

I am continually impressed with children. They are like little sponges, there is really no limit on what they can absorb and learn. When my children were younger, people said that my kids may be “confused” and have verbal impediments or would be slower to speak. I was often told that it was actually “wrong” to confuse them with too many languages – back then my girl was exposed to 4 languages daily, true she was a little shy and less verbal to strangers.

But we stuck with our instincts, and today at age 6, she speaks three languages fluently and understands a fourth one. Living in a multilingual and multicultural environment, I asked her, how does she decide which language to speak with others. She responded, “Well, it depends on which language the person first speaks to me.” Pretty clever for a kid!

Challenging Resources For Your Students That Will Aid Career Development

Overview and Features of Elementary/ Middle School Career Development Models

Counselors and teachers know that the elementary/ middle school development is important. Schooling is a time of transition, a threshold to the student’s future, and a bridge into the student’s destiny. In elementary/ middle school, career development is a time to build career awareness, not a time for premature career choices or career preparations. Career development is an ongoing lifelong process. During the career development process, students remain open to new career ideas and possibilities. Counselors and teachers build readiness for future career planning. Students build visions of what they desire to do in their lives as they contribute to the society.

Need for Elementary/ Middle school Career Development

Since most elementary and middle school students have limited understanding of how school relates to work, students use career development curriculum to build a foundation and the connection between career development, Twenty-First Century Skills, school academic subjects, potential careers, and future training options. As a result, students build self – awareness, possess intrinsic motivation, build a positive self-concept, and begin problem solving about career choices.

Benefits of Elementary/ Middle School Career Development

Elementary/ middle school career awareness lays the groundwork for future career exploration by helping students achieve the following goals:

  • Knowledge of personal characteristics, interests, aptitudes, and skills
  • Awareness of and respect for the diversity of the world of work
  • Understanding of the relationship between school performance and future choices
  • Development of a positive attitude toward work

Students who complete career development activities have the following positive outcomes:

  • Expanded understanding of the world of work leading to an openness to an increased number potential careers
  • Improved skills to make informed decisions and complex career information problem solving
  • Enhanced academic, personal, and teamwork skill development
  • Amplified career awareness, self-esteem, sense of direction, motivation to persist, clearly defined goals

Eventually, as students participate in career curriculum programs, the number of dropouts is minimized.

Elementary/ Middle School Career Education Models

There are 4 major career development models:

    • National Career Development Guidelines
  • 21st Century Skills
  • New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards
  • Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program

National Career Development Guidelines

The National Career Development Guidelines (NCDG) determine career development knowledge, skills, and decision-making processes. The NCDG Guidelines have three domains, goals, and mastery indicators.

The three domains are:

    • Personal Social Development (PS)
  • Educational Achievement and Lifelong Learning (ED)
  • Career Management (CM)

The learning competency stages are:

  • Knowledge Acquisition (K). Students at the knowledge acquisition stage expand knowledge awareness and build comprehension. They recall, recognize, describe, identify, clarify, discuss, explain, summarize, query, investigate and compile new information about the knowledge.
  • Application (A). Students at the application stage apply acquire knowledge to situations and to self. They seek out ways to use the knowledge. For example, they demonstrate, employ, perform, illustrate and solve problems related to the knowledge.
  • Reflection (R). Students at the reflection stage analyze, synthesize, judge, assess and evaluate knowledge in accord with their own goals, values and beliefs. They decide whether or not to integrate the acquired knowledge into their ongoing response to situations and adjust their behavior accordingly.

An example of the Personal Social Development domain is:

  • PS1.K2 Identify your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents.
  • PS1.A2 Demonstrate use of your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents.
  • PS1.R2 Assess the impact of your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents on your career development.

21st Century Skills Model

The 21st Century Model and Skills is the collaboration of the efforts of education, business, and government organizations. These organizations create a 21st Century Learning Framework that outlines the essential learning, innovation, technology, and career skills necessary to be successful in the today’s workplace. A rich, well-designed learning environment promotes creating, applying, remembering, analyzing, understanding, and evaluating processes. The 21st Century Model seeks the development of knowledge, skills, motivations, values, attitudes, beliefs, feelings, health, safety, resilience, and other qualities.

The three major 21st Century Model main skill areas are:

  • Learning and innovation
  • Digital literacy skills
  • Career and life skills

Within the Career and Life Skills area, the focus is on:

  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Initiative and self – direction
  • Social and cross-cultural interaction
  • Productivity and accountability
  • Leadership and responsibility

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards

The New Jersey Department of Education Content Standards connect the 21st Century Model and elementary/ middle school career awareness.

  • In K-5 grades, students learn the interrelationship between 21st Century life skills and personal, academic, and social development. Curriculum areas range from career awareness information and to basic personal financial literacy skills.
  • The development of 21st Century life skills and personal financial literacy continues in the grades 6-8. Students explore careers, academic and personal interests and aptitudes.

The New Jersey Department of Education has four career education standards:

  • Standards 9.1, 9.2, and 9.3 cover life and career skills within the K-12 curriculum.
  • Standard 9.4 includes specialized, career and technical education program skills in grades 9-12 curriculum.

These standards cover the following areas:

    • Career Awareness (grades K-4)
  • Career Exploration (grades 5-8)
  • Career Preparation (grades 9-12)

An example of one of the objectives is:

Standard 9.3 – Apply knowledge about and engage in the process of career awareness, exploration, and preparation in order to navigate the globally competitive work environment of the information age.

Examples of Standard 9.3 are:

  • 9.3.4.A.4 Identify qualifications needed to pursue traditional and nontraditional careers and occupations.
  • 9.3.4.A.5 Locate career information using a variety of resources
  • 9.3.4.A.6 Explain why knowledge and skills acquired in the elementary grades lay the foundation for the future academic and career success

Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program

The Missouri Center for Career Education (MCCE) is a career and technical education curriculum, research, professional development, and innovative instructional resource center.

The Missouri Center for Career Education (MCCE) Guidance Lessons (Strands) are:

    • Academic Development
  • Career Development
  • Personal and Social Development

Within each Strand CD: Career Development area, the Big Ideas are:

  • Big Idea: CD.7. Applying Career Exploration and Planning Skills in the Achievement of Life Career Goals
  • Big Idea: CD 8. Knowing Where and How to Obtain Information about the World of Work and Post-secondary Training/Education
  • Big Idea: CD.9. Applying Employment Readiness Skills and the Skills for On-The-Job Success

The Big Ideas serve as the foundation for building curriculum concepts and behavioral objectives.

Examples of CD.7 Big Idea are:

  • Compare interests and strengths with those of workers in the global community.
  • Describe occupational changes that have occurred over time within the six (6) career paths.
  • Describe the self-satisfaction that comes from completing a work responsibility.

Tips for Finding the Right Elementary/ Middle School Career Development Program

Based upon the National Career Development Guidelines, 21st Century Skills, New Jersey Department of Education Content Standards, and Missouri Center for Career Education (MCCE), the key elements of career curriculum provide information on the relationship between job interests, key characteristics, college majors, hobbies, abilities, and related careers.

Teachers and counselors know that students:

  • Are curious
  • Love colorful, multimedia presentations
  • Use colors to improve attention span, concentration, memory skills, and understanding
  • Use their senses and imaginations in career exploration

Counselors and teachers utilize career awareness programs to help students:

  • Discover career interests
  • Build awareness of career interests, abilities, skills, and values
  • Search for meaning, purpose, and direction
  • Discover potential careers that are linked to children’s identified interests
  • Understand the relationship between education, training, and specific occupations
  • Search for tools that will help students plan for the future and unlock their potentials
  • Clarify thoughts, integrate new knowledge, and promote critical thinking
  • Receive new information so that the concepts are more thoroughly and easily understood
  • Hold attention and absorb information

Elementary/ middle development curriculum includes career tests, assessments, games, web sites, and books. Programs should be fun, educational, and not boring. Career development program are:

  • Eye appealing
  • Easy to use
  • Full of resources
  • Suitable for your students’ needs

An effective career education tool motivates your students to explore careers. Creative career tools build a foundation for more detailed career exploration. Career development lessons should answer the question “Who am I?” and “What should I do as an adult?”

With the right resource, students are ready and willing to:

  • Explore
  • Investigate
  • Learn
  • Ask questions
  • Enjoy discovering who they are
  • Gain knowledge, wisdom, and understanding

Steps to Select the Right Elementary/ Middle School Career Development Program

How do you choose the right career awareness program? Look at 3 major areas:

  • Format
  • Cost
  • Resources

When you look at a career education curriculum, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do your students prefer?
  • What is your budget for the curriculum?
  • What resources do you have? Do you have a computer lab?

Then, follow these steps:

  • Select an elementary/ middle school career awareness program that your students are interested in and that provides valuable information about careers and your student’s interests.
  • Look for career development lessons that use well-known career models.

As students grow older, the students will continue to use career models to eventually expand their knowledge of self, careers and college majors.

In summary, when they use career education curriculum, students:

  • Learn and apply the academic material
  • Know and value self
  • Build self-esteem and confidence
  • Identify interests and build relationships between the school environment and the work force
  • Incorporate academic career pathways into classroom activities
  • Build academic, communication, problem solving, and social skills
  • Increase awareness of the need for future jobs skills
  • See the connections between learning in school, academic skills, job related skills, and careers
  • See career possibilities
  • See themselves as a future contributor to the job force
  • Receive empowerment
  • Build self-determination

As a result of completing the career development lessons, students have:

  • Higher grades
  • Higher academic achievement
  • Improved school involvement
  • Increase in career awareness exploration, personal, and interpersonal skills