I feel very privileged to have the knowledge and understanding to twice help my students with learning disabilities. Under my special education hat, I provide the remediation and skill instruction that is needed. Under my educational technology hat, I can show them how they can leverage their everyday technology (i.e., iPads and iPhones) for their learning. Additionally, understanding the power of technology, also enables me to craft lessons that utilize devices in ways that not only can allow for engaging instruction, but also easy differentiation for working with students learning strengths and weaknesses with tools they are eager to use.
It is hard to keep up with all the educational technology that is popping up each day, let alone researching the tools to best support those with learning differences. When the opportunity arose to co-author Utilizing Technology to Engage Students with Learning Disabilities, I was right on board. I am passionate about sharing via conferences and social media, along with my blog, iplantes.com, on the tools and possibilities that exist for LD learners with regards to the field of educational technology. The hope with the book is that it will provide a broader group of educators and families with a glimpse of the technology that exists that can address various areas of learning. It can help begin the exploration of incorporating apps and sites that can address areas of differing needs.
I wish we could say there are set go to apps to be the end all be all for providing support, but no learner is the same, and neither are their needs, but there is a vast array of options available. However, it is key not to throw every available tool for students and hope it sticks and fix things. Students should begin one tool at a time, and often need direct instruction as to how to engage with it. Technology itself is not the answer, it needs thoughtful choice and instruction, just as any other component in education. Empowering students who learning differently to learn to use the technology themselves, not only can help level the playing field among their peers but additionally can create independent learners who can find success. From the basics of speech-to-text and speech-to-text to tools such as Adobe Voice, Book Creator, and Explain Everything, there are many possibilities that exist. Additionally, I would argue that many of the tools we highlight would benefit utilizing with all learners, for it is not only those identified students who have strengths and weaknesses.
Sharon LePage Plante, an educator with over 19 years teaching experience in special education, has been an educator at Eagle Hill-Southport for over eleven years, as well as currently serving as Director of Technology. She utilizes her educational training and love of technology to engage students with learning disabilities in building their skills and finding success. She has presented at Everyone Reading, EdRev, Edscape, ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association), and New York Chapter of ALTA (Academic Language Trainers Association), as well as at several EdCamps, on using technology to empower the dyslexic learner. Sharon is the 2015-2017 chair of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Commission on Technology, as well as a member of the board for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities. Additionally, she hosts a podcast for Bam Radio Network on Learning Differently bringing together the voices of those working in the many aspects of special education. Sharon is also a co-founder of #edtechchat, and co-organizer of EdCampSWCT.