While I am critical of the ways in which the iPad is implemented for students with special needs, I do think it can be an excellent educational tool. Below are five rules to follow when using the iPad with your students.
- The child’s use of the iPad should be monitored, especially students with Autism Spectrum Disorder who may engage in repetitive actions with the iPad that are not related to appropriate use of apps or programs.
- You should be familiar with the app well enough to prompt the child when they are confused or to show them features they may have missed. It makes my blood boil to see a teacher using an app with a student when the teacher doesn’t even fully understand how to use it. There is no excuse for this! We would never give a child a math problem that we didn’t know how to solve on our own; why do we think it’s okay to do the equivalent with technology?
- Use accessibility features that come on the iPad. For students with Autism Spectrum Disorder there are two accessibility features I use most: screen lock and guided access.
- Whenever possible, the apps you use should be connected to real world activities, such as using an app to create a story based on photos the child actually took or doing an activity with materials in the real world then checking for generalization with the iPad app. I love the ideas in this post from Edutopia which describes using the iPad as a “crutch” with the goal of having our students walk without the “crutch” as soon as possible.
- Use apps that foster interaction with a peer or adult. The apps I frequently use to interact with my students are Toontastic, two-player games such as air hockey (by acceleroto) or ping pong (VTT3 is the version I have), stories with fun interactions to share (such as Lil’ Red or There’s A Monster at the End of this Book), creative games that present opportunities to show your work (such as Hopscotch), difficult visual games such as Little Thing which are fun to do with teamwork, and games that use interactive tools with the iPad (such as Tiggly Shapes).
Combining these tips with the question we discussed on Monday – Is the iPad the most efficient way for me to teach this right now? – will ensure greater success in using the the iPad well with our students.