In the ever-evolving world of inclusive education, technology continues to become even more pivotal, shaping how students learn and educators teach. Keshet’s therapeutic schools are made up of students of diverse abilities and needs. As a team, we strive each day to ensure that each of their voices are heard, giving them the tools that foster growth, communication and a sense of belonging for every student. With the help of Educational Technology Coordinator Kelly Troup, we have been able to bring technology to the forefront of Keshet’s school curriculum, providing the tools to help students and staff succeed. Every day, we see the impact of technology in contributing to a more inclusive classroom environment for everyone.
Nearly two years ago, Keshet received a grant from JUF that allowed us to purchase additional items to improve learning in meaningful ways. Every student has their own iPad, equipped with the individual tools to support their communication efforts. We also have Smart Boards inside all classrooms, in addition to other forms of adaptive equipment and assistive technology that all students can use at any time. With this added technology, students can appropriately communicate their needs, engage in classroom material and interact with their peers and staff. We’ve also noticed a decrease in behaviors due to our student’s ability to better express their thoughts and feelings.
Keshet’s staff have also taken advantage of all the technology at their disposal to make instruction more individualized and increase students’ participation. If a student is done with an activity early, a teacher already has a puzzle pulled up on the Smart Board for them to work on to fill the time. When it comes to students with lower gross and fine motor skills, they can use an adaptive switch on their iPad to be able to participate in a classroom activity from their seat. All of these examples contribute to more unique ways to teach and get students involved in classroom material. As a result, our staff are more excited about what they’re doing when they can discover new ways to engage all students.
Our technology efforts transcend beyond the classroom. When students go on community outings, they take their devices with them, where they have practice ordering at restaurants or communicating with store workers. For Keshet Peer Buddy Groups or other inclusive activities, students can more easily connect with their peers. Students are also encouraged to bring their devices home and use them when interacting with family and friends outside of the school day.
However, it’s important to find that balance between using technology in a positive and effective way rather than as a way that can hinder a student’s growth. We have found a good mix of what works for us at Keshet. Staff are extremely mindful of how students use their devices to ensure that they are being used functionally. Oftentimes, students have two iPads–one as a communication and academic tool and one for leisure. This allows them not only to understand their limits when it comes to using technology at school but also in differentiating their “voice” (i.e., their communication tools) from everything else that they use their devices for.
Since the start of the school year, we have seen how technology creates a supportive and inclusive learning environment for all our students. Technology may be the building blocks, but the foundation really comes from the support of our families, staff and the broader community to ensure that all of our students’ voices are heard. We are grateful to be able to provide the tools for our students to succeed in and out of the classroom, and are confident that it’s allowed them to achieve more than we ever thought possible.
Special thanks to Educational Technology Coordinator, Kelly Troup, for her contributions to this blog.