In the modern world, digital literacy is of equal importance to traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic. To succeed in many aspects of life, you must have a basic understanding of computers. Technology can also provide a valuable teaching aid in special education classes. This all means that teachers need to be able to introduce digital competencies into their classes.
Why digital competencies?
There is no doubt that the world is becoming increasingly digital. With so much of modern life dependent on electronic devices and the internet, developing digital competency has become a vital part of learning. It is essential if you want children to become independent adults who are fully engaged with the world. This can be even more important for children with autism or learning difficulties, as technology can be used as an alternative communication method, to make it easier to focus, reduce aggression and generally improve learning outcomes.
Of course, children with autism may also experience specific difficulties relating to technology. A person with sensory difficulties, for example, maybe irritated by the glare of a screen or the buzzing sounds of an electronic gadget. Helping children with autism master digital skills means being able to work with their strengths and weaknesses, so your lessons can be tailored to their needs. Devices may need to be adapted to support different students.
How to incorporate digital competencies in special education classes?
Some aspects of teaching digital skills are similar to the methods used in other special education classes. You need to ensure that lessons are engaging, that children are rewarded when they do well, and adaptations are made based on the specific needs of each student. Possible accommodations may include adjusting screen brightness or backgrounds, for example. As always, consider what makes students more comfortable and what they find challenging.
The obvious first step to trying to improve digital competency amongst your students is to ensure they have access to the appropriate technology. Computers, tablets, and headphones, as well as assistive technology and programmes to improve reading, writing, and communication, are examples. Consider how any communication or sensory challenges may influence how students interact with the equipment at all stages. Handheld devices allow a degree of flexibility and can enable a more personalized approach. They are also an opportunity to improve motor skills and coordination.
TEAL stands for Technology Enabled Active Learning. It allows you to use computers in the classroom in a more personalized manner. Students can actively engage with online learning using different formats and types of media as suits them, whilst also having the opportunity to collaborate with others (important when trying to build social skills for students with autism).
Making the most of technology is a crucial component of improving the overall quality of life for children with autism. This means both finding the technology that can make their lives easier, and teaching them how to use that technology most effectively. Improving digital competency does not just enable students to engage more fully with the digital world, but can also provide a wider benefit in other vital areas, such as communication skills.