The iPod has certainly changed how we listen to music. Apple’s portable digital media player enables us to carry thousands of downloaded songs at our fingertips. Various versions of the iPod, like the iPod touch, also let us store data and transfer photos, videos, games, contact information, Web bookmarks, and calendars. With all of these entertaining uses, though, using an iPod in the classroom might sound strange. The use of iPods for special education students, however, has new, exciting opportunities in learning.
Using iPods for Tests
For students with learning disabilities, taking tests can be especially stressful. Often, these students have to be separated from their peers in a regular education classroom so that a paraprofessional can read their tests to them. This situation is no longer the case with the use of an iPod. Students can now remain in class as they read the test on paper, see the text on the iPod screen, and listen to questions through headphones. The approach has led to better academic outcomes for these students who receive special education services. In addition, it lets students test at their own pace, hitting a button when they want a question repeated and continuing with the test as they are ready. Educators do have to learn to code software to get the text and the audio into the iPod. Using this device, though, gives students freedom to take tests without being separated from their peers, which can boost self-esteem and self-confidence in school.
Some school districts have taken the use of iPods one step further and allow students to use the device during standardized testing. In Iowa, educators developed the idea of iPods as assistive technology after discovering that other states used them to improve fluency in students learning English as a second language. Although transferring the audio of the test questions into the media player can be time consuming, educators have seen many benefits. Along with better tests scores and the reduced need for special education services, students are being tested in the least restrictive environment. (Source: The Iowa Independent)
Some other ways to use an iPod for education work particularly well for students with hearing impairments. Teachers can use the device to record stories read to the class, while employing video capabilities to show book pages and a sign language interpreter. Students can then enjoy the book again while seeing its pages and the signs of its words. The iPod can be used to make videos of sign language gestures matching current vocabulary in the curriculum to help parents sign to children about what they are learning in school. Teachers can make video tutorials for specific signs requested by parents.
Aside from the above uses, many special education apps exist for the iPod touch. These include reading apps with narrated children’s books, writing apps for Dragon Dictation voice recognition software, and math apps that help with every level of the subject, such as Freddy Fraction. Communication apps include MyTalk, or Advanced Audio Code software with photos and a voice recording feature that can be used with web authoring software. Assistive technology apps guide the user on making the iPod more accessible. With all of these uses for students receiving special education services and those who educate them, the iPod will not be thought of as only for entertainment purposes much longer.