Accessibility features on iOS or Android Devices, including iPads, iPhones, smartphones and tablets, are used by educators to support technology integration among those with cognitive, physical and sensory disabilities. Assisstive technology can also be used with gifted and talented students, as well as at-risk students, whom according to Roblyer, have learning difficulties similar to the aforementioned groups (2016). In addition, these devices can access and store apps that students can use during and after class, to support their education while providing them with beneficial life skills.
There are 5 categories of students with learning difficulties, which include Cognitive, Physical, Sensory, At-risk & Gifted or Talented.
Students with cognitive disabilities, such as autism, benefit from touch screens and apps, because, “These applications have the advantage of making a more direct, hands-on connection between the students’ actions and the software’s response” (pp.415, 2016).
Those with physical disabilities require their IEP team to, “Identify appropriate tools for access and control that will allow the individual to function across environments” (pp. 412-413, 2016).
Students with sensory disabilities, including those who are deaf, blind or who have losses in one or both senses, benefit from the following:
- Tools that convert printed information to sound, such as screen readers, and canes & sensor technology for mobility, can be used to aid students who are blind, while Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) can be used with students who have partial sight. “Users place materials on the desktop below the camera, set the desired magnification level and move materials around as necessary” (pp.413-414, 2016).
- Hard of hearing can benefit from the use of assisstive listening devices, such as a teacher wearing a small microphone near her mouth and the student hearing through a receiver that he wears. Also, American Sign language (ASL) is taught by educators to deaf students, and due to technology, there are many apps available to help interpret and teach sign language.
At-risk students exhibit similar learning difficulties as disabled students and can benefit from similar assisstive devices.
Gifted & Talented students benefit from assessments that are completed while completing a lesson involving technology. Roblyer lists 3 strategies to use with these students, which are enabling, enhancing and transforming. All 3, “echoe many of the best-practices findings reported by Periathiruvadi and Rinn” (2016).
In their own way, these students can benefit by using technology to access educational content, including Android tablets, iPads, smartphones & iPhones due to the following traits that these devices share:
(1) Touch screen and stylus pens for easy navigation (no mouse required):
- Physically disabled students may have difficulty using a stylus pen or touch and instead, use a voice activated Switch. Otherwise, these students can watch, listen and hear a math tutorial and complete online assignments with little assistance.
- Those with cognitive disabilities will enjoy the touch screen navigation and will need assistance staying on track or from becoming distracted by possible pop ups or advertisements during math lessons on Khan Academy, for example.
- Students with visual and hearing difficulties, along with at-risk and gifted students will be motivated to use a technological device in class.
(2) Virtual or detached keyboard (N/A smartphones) for selecting or writing:
- Physically disabled students can access keys on their virtual keyboard to select the correct answer to a multiplication problem or write out story problems.
- Students with vision loss can adjust the font size of their virtual keyboard to see and type answers to math quiz questions.
- Students with cognitive and hearing difficulties, along with at-risk and gifted students will benefit from this feature.
(3) Light-weight design for mobility (use a protective case) & creating “work stations”
- Physically disabled students can hold and move with the device, allowing them to change their own wheelchair, for example, into a computer workstation.
- Cognitively disabled students can access online math games, away from distractions and other student’s screens.
- Students with visual and hearing difficulties, along with at-risk and gifted students can use this feature. All students could take their work or device with them or access learning materials or sites from a capable device at home.
(4) Large display with high resolution (N/A smartphones) & headphone port:
- Visually disabled students can create larger font or use an app that reads online text, like Natural Reader.
- Students with hearing difficulty can use headphones with much louder sound or adjust the size and font of text.
- Cognitive and physically disabled students, along with at-risk and gifted students will benefit from this feature.
(5) Lots of storage and quick operation (depends on bandwidth and exact device capacity): Allows all students to get work done, faster, with storage available to save notes, narrated lessons, pdf worksheets, apps, etc.
(6) Long-lasting battery: Allows longer use for all students during class & afterwards, without limited mobility due to a charging cord or need for an outlet. Educators and parents need to ensure the students or owner of the device, such as the school librarian, charges devices overnight, prior to checkout.
(7) Front & rear camera and microphone: All students can take pictures for assignments, including parallelogram webquests or snap a picture of worksheets for completion using a pdf app, and could also speak to someone across the planet about geometric equations, via Skype or Facetime.
One example of a newer and high rated device is the Android Pixel C Tablet, starting at $499.00. This tablet includes:
- 10.2-inch LTPS LCD display with 2560 x 1800 resolution, 308ppi
- 64-bit 1.9GHz octa-core NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor
- 3GB of RAM
- 32/64GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
- 8MP rear camera, 2MP front camera
- Non-removable 34.2WHr battery
- For more information, see Android Authority
Another example of a high rated device is the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro Tablet, starting at $799.00. This tablet includes more storage and a larger screen, but its other features are similar to the Android Pixel C. For more information, see iPad Compare Models.
The Apple iPhone SE is the newest iPhone and provides a small 4″ screen, but has many qualities that smartphone users and students can appreciate. For more information, see iPhone SE.
Android offers the new LG G5, which has a 5.5″ screen and 2 rear cameras, a removable battery and expandable storage. The volume buttons are located on the side of the phone, rather than the back, which is a change for this device. For more information, see LG G5.
Students, with or without disabilities, will benefit from the use of newer technological devices, such as tablets and smartphones, and for health purposes, even smart watches. Technology is always improving and with educating students as its main purpose, students with learning difficulties will soon be able to accomplish anything their peers can.
Roblyer, M.D. (2016). Teaching and learning with technology in special education. In Roblyer, M.D. and Edyburn, D. (7th ed.). Integrating educational technology into teaching (pp.400-420). Nova Southeastern University: Pearson.
Android Authority: http://www.androidauthority.com/best-android-tablets-267136/
Android Specs: http://www.androidcentral.com/lg-g5
iPad Comparison: http://www.apple.com/ipad/compare/
iPhone Comparison: http://www.apple.com/iphone-se/specs/