Then students use AlphaSmart software to paste the picture and explain in a paragraph why, how and where in the plot they feel that picture relates to the story. This tests three things: (a) student concentration; (b) student level of understanding of the general plot; and - student imagination. This is an important implementation because it opens the students' horizons and allows them to see the general links and relations that their own lives might have with the stories that they read. The implementation of taking the pictures is one way that this has been successfully achieved. This use of a camera is a very flexible application and is being used in different ways for different special-needs students.
May (2003) found that cameras are being used to also expand the span of words or vocabulary amongst the special-needs students. The teacher hands out a set of words to the students and explains their use and different interpretations and then asks them to take photographs in accordance to what they have understood. Any good reader will relay that the best part about reading is the expressions and vocabulary. Vocabulary is mainly an understanding of the use and interpretation of the words being used and this process has helped the special-needs students in their reading skills when it has been included in the curriculum.
Use of advancing technologies in education
Use of technology has been widely recognized as a vital tool for literacy improvement. Although, the relationship between technology and literacy improvement has been asymmetrical, enough evidence exists to encourage teachers to use latest technology tools to advance student learning. The three most successful applications that have enhanced the literacy education over the years for the special-needs students are (a) Voice detection software; (b) Tele-cooperation operations of the Internet, and - Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) and new portable processors or devices (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
Fisher and Molebash (2003) in their study trace the track of technological advancements and point out that at the advent of the 21st century, all of the above applications were still being tested hypothetically on the drawing board. The speed at which these have been practically implemented and yielded successful result is simply astonishing. Fisher and Molebash found that all technological advancements have followed the pattern that Gordon Moore pointed out more then 4 decades ago. Moore had said that in theory all microchips had the capacity to improve and enhance within a period of 18 months. This statement, called the Moore's law, has held true since that day and stands true for the digitally driven society today. The alteration or adjustment in the Moore's Law is that Moore had restricted the phenomenon of speedy advancements to the speed of microchips while in today's society this theory holds true to include everything from speed, power, memory and price (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
This rapid increase in the advancements of technology is one of the main reasons for the incorporation of tools like computers and cameras and others in the school setting because without them students will not only be bored but also the educational setup would be backward and not up to the par of what is required in the developing societies. Computers, Nintendo, cell phones, e-mail and the World Wide Web have become such an integral part of the daily life that it is hard to imagine a time when they did not exist. The use of technology within a classroom setting of special-needs students makes these students more confident and comfortable in thinking that they can operate all these things and tools that the normal students operate. This technology tools also help special need students' reading and comprehension skills. This ubiquity of technology tools like PDA, TVs, cell phones, video games, Walkmans, computers, and modern publishing resources, is why all types of students feel more accustomed and engaged in a classroom where technology is incorporated in the academic curriculum.
One of the most useful applications to enhance the reading skills of the special-needs students, thus far, has been the tele-collaborative venture that uses the Internet as its main source of communication. The significant fact of the Tele-collaborative ventures is that it mainly incorporates some of the most commonly used mechanisms of telecommunications like the tools e-mail, debate mediums, synchronous chats, and videoconferencing,. All of these tools and mechanisms are then use to communicate within and amongst classroom, schools, and universities as well as across borders to address the commonalities and difficulties faced by the special-needs students. Once these commonalities are identified then numerous organizations join hands to work on problem-solving techniques and structures (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
Enough practical applications and evaluations have shown that the proper and informed execution of the tele-collaborative ventures can immensely benefit the K-12 special-needs students and encourage them to look for multiple interpretations, improve their reading skills and increase their span of knowledge as well as vocabulary (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
The Personal Digital Assistants (PDA)
The rise in the use and success of the Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) is one of the main reasons why it is now being used on such a large scale in the educational institutions as well. Even though the PDA was initially used as a storage device for the names, dates, reminders and/or addresses, it has now become versatile enough to provide the teachers with a sort of an electronic calculator and mobile computer that they can use to access the Internet, perform online tests and assessments, record results, scores, and keep grade books. The popularity of the PDA has forced the Education Committees in Florida to create an efficient software based on the PDA format that will help the special education teachers to document student activities and follow the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
Fisher and Molebash (2003) pointed out that the PDA can also allow the teachers to manage or oversee a group of students and gather/record the facts in their ongoing discussions. This recording once believed to be painstaking, is done without much effort by using PDA's and teachers can use the information gathered to analyze student's comprehension abilities and modify their teaching methods accordingly. They also asserted that the PDA with the compilation and evaluation of information can be used for measuring and ranking the overall performance of the students by analyzing whatever information entered by the teacher (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
One of the most important features of the PDA is the accessibility to the Internet and the online books. It is true that the generation gap makes some teachers want to carry on with books while the students prefer the Portable Document Format (PDF) format. The advantage of having a book stored in the PDA is that it can show the meaning, pronunciation and use of a word that the student did not recognize (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
The downside with the use of PDA though, as Fisher and Molebash (2003) highlight, is that the overall monitoring by the teachers would have to increase. This simply means that the easy access to the email or Internet for the students might be distracting and destructive if used inappropriately and the notes passing between students will become easier and difficult to control. Hence the monitoring and repercussions would have to made stricter (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
Voice Recognition Technology (VRT)
Fisher and Molebash (2003) pointed out that the emphasis on learning how to type has grown in importance over the years and now students, along with learning how to read and write, are expected to learn how to type as well. Most of the time, teachers use the computer lab time to allow the students to type and increase their typing speed with time. However, when dealing with special-needs students, this is not always easy. The current format of the keyboard is based on the Sholes' "QWERTY" which was designed by Christopher Latham Sholes in the 1870s. Over the years, people have been reluctant to change the format as it was seen as too much of a hassle to teach the typists to type in an updated and more efficient keyboard (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
The most likely progress that is expected of the VRT is that it will soon recognize speech and convert it to text simultaneously. Fisher and Molebash (2003) recognized that the use of VRT will change the way the future generations read and write but they also highlighted that the challenge for most educators will be to incorporate the language capabilities, such as reading and writing, in a way that is easy to adjust to and comprehend (Fisher and Molebash, 2003).
There have been criticisms made on the use of technology and how it changes or lessens the expectations for the students on a large scale. May (2003) argues that the truth of the matter is that with the increase in distractions that are present nowadays, the students need to be constantly engaged within a classroom setting and…