Over the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to attend some workshops on the iPad in general and for use with those who have special needs. I have come away more solidified in my vision of the use of iPads in schools
The iPad is a game changer when it comes to supporting differentiated instruction and universal design in learning. I know there are other devices out there but Apple made a commitment to accessibility a long time ago and continues to build in extensive accessibility features into its OS. Built-in is usually a better option than an add-on. There are tools to promote access for those with vision, hearing and physical motor disabilities. The wonder of universal design is though tools and resources may be designed for a specific disability they can benefit many others. For example features designed for the visually impaired user may also be useful to a struggling/developing reader.
I am often asked what is the best app for ….. fill in the blank. The answer is that there isn’t. The iPad screams “individual!” Each user will have their own tools, apps and work flows to help them do what they need to do. It empowers users to differentiate their own learning and access to content. No two iPads are the same…
…except in schools with shared devices. Which is just not how they are meant to be used. In schools we are accustom to whole group instruction – with a nod toward differentiation with smaller group instruction within a classroom. We try to make all iPads the same and teach with a specific app. We try to use an iPad with a teacher centered instructional approach, and we wonder why we get frustrated. Only when a school has a true 1:1 environment where the users can choose the tools, resources and develop a work flow that works for them will we really individualize learning, promote equity of access and remove barriers to content for many of our special needs students.
Some resources worth exploring
Equity and Excellence Tutorials on Universal Course Design
Review of iPad for the Blind