Special Education teachers are constantly looking for ideas to engage and improve learning in students with diverse needs and abilities. SMARTBoards can be a great tool to in teaching students with special needs.
SMARTBoards are large interactive whiteboards that were invented in 1991 by SMART Technologies. The SMARTBoard uses touch technology to detect user input, as compared to mice and keyboards attached to personal computers. The computer’s video output is displayed by a projector onto the whiteboard, which serves as a large touchscreen. For educational purposes, the interactive whiteboard mounts on a wall or sits on a floor stand. Instead of whiteboard markers, a SMARTBoard’s digital writing instruments use digital ink to control input information for handwriting and drawing.
Advantages of SMARTBoards in Special Education Classrooms
SMARTBoards support inclusive classrooms by offering students many ways to learn information, express ideas, and demonstrate understanding. The SMARTBoard also allows teachers to address different learning styles - visual, auditory and kinesthetic. This technology engages all types of students and facilitates differentiated instruction. A SMARTBoard helps students with autism, for example, improve communication skills through group collaboration. The interactive whiteboard gives educators the ability to present things visually, and provide ease in creating and altering activities to control students’ learning.
For students with physical disabilities, the SMARTBoard’s touch-sensitive surface gives all students the opportunity to participate in learning. It allows all students, even those who cannot hold a pen, to write and interact with content using the finger-touch capability. For students who have trouble using traditional keyboards and mice, the touch and click ease allows them the opportunity to interact with a computer.
Benefits to Teachers
Teachers enjoy using the SMARTBoard to create visually engaging and interactive lessons. Since students with special needs frequently respond well to visuals, the SMARTBoard takes this one step further by projecting really large visuals. The technology provides teachers with an easy way to project worksheets, pictures for background knowledge, or any other visuals to share with the entire class.
Special educators like the fact that the SMARTBoard is flexible and gives the opportunity to change activities quickly. Teachers can create an activity and change it as students watch. This technology is very intuitive to use, too. While most users do require some training, most people can walk up and start using a SMARTBoard immediately. A SMARTBoard does not require any special software; software currently installed on a personal computer will work seamlessly.
Teachers who have used SMARTBoards report that students with special needs have made huge strides in learning. Many attribute these gains to teaching with these interactive whiteboards in their classrooms. If this technology is not available in your school, advocate for it today.