I've been thinking about kids heading back to school this month, and thinking about the importance of access to a STEM curriculum and to digital learning tools for all children. As a former special needs teacher and administrator, insuring equitable access to curriculum and to innovative learning tools will always be a core goal of mine, Also I've just read the Step Centre's back to school post, and it reminded me of the work they are doing with their special needs students.
Below are some tools we’re using now with all learners. In a future blog post, I plan to write about some of the many apps designed now especially to support special needs learners.
Bluebee Pal is a Bluetooth Interactive talking plush stuffed animal toy that connects to any device. It’s great for all young learners, including special needs learners, offering focus, motivation and support.
Primo Toys Cubetto is a coding toy for students age 3 and up. With no screen needed, Cubetto is a child’s first robot, powered by a real programming language that is tangible, allowing students to learn through play. We’ve been working and playing with this robot for over a year, partnering with Primo Toys in testing and development as they've gone from concept to market, and have found it to be a powerful tangible introduction to coding for all ages. Because Cubetto doesn’t use letters or screens, readers, non-readers and students speaking various languages can all play. Students succeed with this tool.
Copernicus 3 in 1 Interactive Easel incorporates 3 interactive modes in 1 mobile unit, alleviating common space and storage constraints in the classroom. It supports diverse learning methods for group and independent learning. The 3 in 1 is developmentally appropriate for students in Pre K through grade 3, including those with special needs. Students with access challenges are able to participate side-by-side with their peers.
iOS devices, including iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, all include accessibility features,
These include VoiceOver, AssistiveTouch, and Guided Access.
iOS devices also pair with HumanWare Braille Keyboard for Visually Impaired learners.
Step Centre students and staff in their outdoor garden lab.
The Step Centre, a school for special needs students that I visited this spring in Kingston, Jamaica (see my blog post of June 7, 2016 ), was founded in 1993 by students' parents. The Step Centre lives their motto -- Believing in one child means believing in ALL children -- by providing therapy, education, and parenting for children with multiple disabilities.
When I visited I was impressed by these young people and their learning experiences in the digital world. The Step Centre has a computer lab as well as mobile devices and assistive tech tools. I had the chance to see their music and literacy lessons enhanced with technology, and had the opportunity to gift the center with Bluebee Pals for cross-content activities.
The Step Centre is a truly fantastic organization insuring access for their students, with a focus on expansive gardens, technology, and hands-on learning, all individualized for ability and need.
Bluebee Pal’s Winston the Puppy enhancing a student’s communication lesson.
Hilary Sherlock, Director of Schools for the STEP Centre, greets guests.
Circle time at the STEP Centre enhanced with edtech.