By Erika Webb
How many of us can say we love every minute of our day at work?
Donna DeArman, a DeLand High School multiple and varying exceptionalities teacher, does. She teaches students with severe cognitive impairments coupled with other disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
In trying to draw out her students' full potential, Ms. DeArman does endless research.
She's organizing a garage sale for 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 2, at the high school to raise money for iPads, the electronic devices she said will aid in the skill building process.
"While students learn differently, one thing remains constant among all the students -- their excitement for technology. Technology engages their senses, vision, hearing and tactile abilities are heightened and their participation increases," Ms. DeArman explained. "The student is engaging on a completely new level -- a level they can succeed on, at their own pace, correcting their work, and allowing for repeated attempts."
A big part of what motivated Ms. DeArman to implement iPads in her class room was the discovery that students "all want to touch the screen and make it move."
"The old computers have no interactive capability, only by mouse and keyboard and it is too hard for our students," she said.
Her goal is based on the curriculum called the Unique Learning System, which integrates all of the subjects with picture symbols, and allows the students to interact while learning, Ms. DeArman said.
The ULS program uses additional software that provides individualized lessons measuring and tracking student progress.
"The reality of today is technology is present everywhere in our lives, from online job applications, banking, shopping, entertainment to communicating with our families," she said. "Students need to be ready and prepared to take on these challenges and function successfully in a techno-world."
This year, DHS became a Bring Your Own Technology school.
A growing number of schools are encouraging students to bring their own smartphones, tablets, laptops and video game players to class.
"Officials at the schools say the students' own devices are the simplest way to use a new generation of learning apps that can, for example, teach them math, test them with quizzes and enable them to share and comment on each other's essays," a New York Times article stated.
Advocates of this new trend cite another advantage: it saves money for schools short of cash.
"Some large school districts in Central Florida and near Houston and Atlanta have already signed on, and they are fielding calls and providing tours to administrators from hundreds of other districts that are considering whether to follow their lead," the Times reported.
"I have a ninth grader now who brings his own iPad every day to class. I knew right then what my next project was going to be, iDevices in my classroom," Ms. DeArman said. "Traditional computers are cumbersome and need a mouse and a keyboard to function, but with iDevices you can use your finger to access information. No keyboard or mouse is needed. This allows students who aren't able to type or use a mouse, access learning like never before."
In an article at mommytechbytes.com, the tech parenting blog's founder, media professional and author Shoshana Stopek, outlined five ways the iPad helps children with disabilities:
The iPad (and other Apple devices) comes with accessibility features -- built-in modifications that make it easier for users with visual, auditory or other physical disabilities to use it. This includes VoiceOver, Zoom, White on Black, Mono Audio and Speak Auto-Text.
Special Education Apps
The App Store has apps designed for people with disabilities that further support its accessibility features, such as the SoundingBoard -- creates custom boards for communication and Proloquo2Go -- touch-to-speak, SoundAmpR -- auditory amplification.
These apps and others are highlighted on the Apple Store's own Special Education section featuring apps for communication, emotional development, seeing and hearing, language development, literacy and learning, organization, and diagnostics and reference, Ms. Stopek added.
Over 20,000 Education Apps for iPad
Apple recently announced at its Education Event that 20,000 education apps have been built for the iPad. They highlight the education apps with links to the App Store on its website. This variety gives educators, parents and children a chance to explore and utilize a vast range of content.
The iPad is completely portable. While desktop computers and laptops posed obvious challenges for those with limited mobility, the iPad can be easily positioned to accommodate a variety of positions -- seated, supine, prone and lying down. Many companies also are creating accessories for iPad to help mount and position the iPad in various ways to make it more accessible to people with physical disabilities.
It is well known iPad touch technology supports interactive features that include drag and drop, tap, swipe, shake and drawing. These features add an element of fun to activities, making many apps, such as Monkey Preschool Lunchbox and Richard Scarry's Busytown, a cross-over between "educational" and "games." This creates motivational incentive for children to engage who might otherwise be less motivated.
According to Amy B. VanCamp, pediatric therapist at Carolina Pediatric Therapy in Asheville, this has proven especially true with children with autism and writing apps -- Pre-K Letters and Numbers, Little Writer, and Doodle Buddy.
"(VanCamp) explained that in the past, many therapists found it challenging to teach writing to children with autism due to a child's lack of motivation or interest," Ms. Stobek wrote.
The very things Ms. DeArman hopes to achieve are attainable through the small but costly devices.
"My highest hope this year is to be able to purchase two iDevices for my classroom, however, I would be grateful for just one," she said.
Ms. DeArman served in the military and in state government before embarking on her third career. She holds a master's degree in special education and is working on her doctorate.
For information about the sale or to donate items, call (386) 747-7975 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.