Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Educational Apps and websites for young Children and Students with Special Needs

As a teacher, I get asked a lot what kinds of sites are good for kids at home. On the spot, I always choke and can't think of them. So I decided to compile a few of them I can refer people here and I know where to come when I forget!!!

Currently, I work in special education and it has been an absolutely inspiring and delightful high in my career. I never thought I would end up in Special Education. I always felt it took a special person to take on Special Education, and 10 years ago, thought it could never be me. Maybe becoming a mother changed me, or at least bought something out it me I had, but didn't see. Either way, I am happy and love learning from my students as much as we teach them.

One particular site that we use quite often is Help Kidz Learn. This is a great site for students particularly in primary school,  but is catered for children with special needs. If your student or child uses a switch and it can be connected to the computer, this is an awesome site. If your students or child is in mainstream, you can use this site on the IWB (interactive whiteboard) and computer. Its heaps of fun and activities range in games, stories, art and a few others. Some games are for free, and others you will need to pay for. You will need to create a login to be able access the website, in the past this was not the case, but its an easy process. My students currently love the Christmas present game and Mystery Egg. Both of these games are cause and effect based. A present is on the screen and the student must touch the screen, or press the switch within a certain time frame to see/hear what happens next. An angel, reindeer, santa, or elf  pops out and christmas music plays. This is similar with the mystery Egg game but a monter or dinosaur pops out of the egg. There are heaps more games to enjoy. This is a great site for early learners too.

Just a little side note. A switch is a communication device. They come in all shapes and sizes and are used in many different ways. An adaptive switch can be connected to a specialised computer mouse, so that the switch works like a mouse would. Its so amazing and opens up so many more opportunities for students. I have added a photo so you can see what a basic adaptive switch looks like.

We use other switches like VOCA, which is stands for Voice Output Communication Apparatus. This is is like the above, but doesn't have a cord. We can record our voice to help a student communicate their wishes or a choice. For example, I could record my voice saying "More Please". On the switch I would have a picture symbol attached that represents this request. When feeding the student, I would stop momentarily and ask them, "What would you like" and they would learn to press the switch "More Please". If they don't want anymore, they don't press the switch. It takes time to teach this, but when it works, it awesome!
Another that comes to mind that is perfect for Early learners is STARFALL. This is an american site, not that it matters, but the voices have an american accents and there are American themed holidays and the sign language part is in ASL (American Sign Language) not Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and this does matter because there are big differences between the two.

I was actually referred to this site by one of my children's teachers a couple of years ago and I mentioned it to a teacher at school and they found it a wonderful tool for students at our school who are more independant and higher functioning in their learning ability. It basically starts with the alphabet and phonics. You learn about a letter (again its an american accent) and say words that start with that letter. There are activities for the letter too. Stage 2 helps you with reading with read-a-long books. Your child can read independantly and if they are unsure of a word, they use the mouse to have it said to them. Its also a good way to learn reading, by having the book read (modelled) first, then the child can read the book themselves, and use the mouse to help with words they get stuck on. These are great on the IWB, and I can assist my students to turn the page using a switch.  My students can't read, but we use the read-a-long feature, or I read to them.  You can also find STARFALL on the iPhone, Ipod, Ipad. Its a great all-rounder.

I will leave you this time with one more, that I use with one particular class. The students are older, and are quite good with their knowledge of maths and money. We go out into the community once a week to practise purchasing items. We have been practising money skills and we found, MATHS IS FUN. This site covers a range of topics. On the front page if you look to the left of the screen, you will see the Money topic. This is an awesome feature. We choose Money Master, which helps our students learn how many coins and which coins make up the amount requested. Its a lot of fun, very visual for the visual learners. You can choose your currency from quite a number of choices, which can come in handy if you are heading overseas and want to practice what the coins look like and how to use them!!
I had a lot of fun using it myself!!

I also want to share with you a site I found this evening. I came across THE IMUM. A mum who is in love with her MAC and became a little crazy over it decided to share her tips and reviews for apps found in the App Store for Iphone, Ipod, and Ipad. As there are so many apps, its great to come to a site with great recommendations, and especially the FREE ones!! I like how she details which Apps are suitabel for which devices, and what model. A lot of my apps, I find for my youngest and then realise they can be used in the classroom and vice versa. My students love watching and listening to books on the Ipad, so I was excited to see more FREE books that they can enjoy!  So thanks Imum for creating such a wonderful site for us to utilise:)

Before I leave you, if you have even been fascinated with AUSLAN, Australian sign language like I have then there is a really cool app available that can help you with the basic signs for AUSLAN. It is owned by the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Blind Centre. Its very interesting and easy to follow and the basic or key signs version is free. You can purchase other apps that are more detailed. The App is called, Auslan Tutor.

That's it for now, I will write more soon:)


The iMum said...

Thanks for the mention! So glad you like the site. We have some exciting giveaways coming up soon so be sure to check back often!

Curating Book App Mom said...

Then you must visit the site for special kids: He compiles only apps for this special audience, and provides viedo reviews. He also gives away ipads to special kids who can't afford one. And delivers them himself!

The Book Chook said...

Great to get tips for special ed this way - Thanks!

W. Home said...

The existence of online app has also paved way for many e learning courses to target the needs of online users seeking both professional and personal development, trainings and certification, and a lot more of education online.

W. Home said...

The existence of online app has also paved way for many e learning courses to target the needs of online users seeking both professional and personal development, trainings and certification, and a lot more of education online.

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