Students arrive to the classroom with a variety of talents as well as some with disabilities. The National Center for Learning Disabilities indicates that those students with learning disabilities (LD) suffer from “reading, writing, math, reasoning, listening, and speaking” skills that makes learning extremely frustrating. Fortunately, addressing different student aptitudes can be helped with the multitude of Web 2.0 tools available on the web.Here are 5 tools that can make participation, presentations, and communication easier for students with LD giving them a means to succeed. 1. Blogs and Wikis provide multiple elements that can enable student achievement. Often times students with LD have difficulty keeping up with note taking and experience comprehension difficulty with lectures; blogs and wikis can be used to fill the gaps that have occurred in class. Teachers can provide lecture notes – text, audio, or video format – on blogs/wikis, as well as assign collaborative writing projects. Blogs and wikis are a forum that can be used as an extension to classroom discussions or a location for student portfolios, as well as many other uses. A number of free sites are available and can easily be put to use, but since many may be publicly accessed it may be necessary to a check into your district’s technology use policy and gain parental permission. 2. Glogster is an online tool to create virtual posters. Students can combine text, images, music, and videos on online posters either as individual or collaborative projects. For those students with language disabilities, it can be difficult for them to find the right words to express their thoughts or communicate with others. This tool can be used to scaffold learning for students by adjusting the level of difficulty, tasks, and requirements according to the needs of students. The collaborative element on this site provides the opportunity for peer interaction and mixed-ability grouping creating an opportunity for students to learn from one another. Students with fine motor skill disabilities may not be able to operate scissors to complete a traditional poster assignment, but an online poster can make participation possible. Glogs can also help those students that struggle with logic and reasoning skills since they allow the manipulation of elements on the site giving students repeated attempts to get things just right.
3. Poll Everywhere is a easy way to gather live responses from students. Those students with auditory disabilities can benefit from this site since responses can be displayed for the class to view. All students can interact and participate in class discussions by texting, tweeting, or responding via the web. For students with speech disabilities, the use of this site as a backchannel provides students with a way to ask questions, and comment and respond to lessons. Poll Everywhere creates an atmosphere of inclusion by encouraging interaction through safe, fun, and quick live responses.
4. Voice Thread is an online tool that provides students a place to discuss topics and participate in conversations on the web. This discussion and participation can be accomplished through webcams, text, or audio permitting students to develop their ideas, modify them, and post when ready according to their preferences. Students, who have difficulty with organizing or expressing their thoughts through traditional classroom discussions, can take the time they need to formulate a thread that reflects their views. The threads are structured to encourage interaction amongst participants through peer comments, which can be beneficial for students to view the writing organization, coherence, and structure of others for future modeling.
5. Voki is a site where students can express themselves through the use of avatars. This is especially helpful for students who experience anxiety when asked to speak in front of the class. The site has many lessons plans that can be used as is or modified to a specific grade level or subject. Students write the monologue for their avatar, listen to it, and can modify it as needed. This gives students an opportunity to check their work as much as they desire before others hear it. This ability to listen and modify gives those students who struggle with organization, logic, and reasoning as much time as needed to feel confident with their work without the pressure that live presentations bring. There are a number of sites available on the web that can assist in engaging and including students of all ability levels. Many learning disabilities involve difficulty with the output of information, which makes it hard for students to create projects or participate in many activities that routinely take place on classrooms. Incorporating these tools or others like them can make a difference in leveling the playing field for all learners.