Education is becoming increasingly more digital everyday. While online educational schooling began finding its footing in the 1990s, remote learning became the norm during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite a return to in-person learning in most school districts, many have found ways to continue offering virtual programming to students, whether it’s through supplemental computer apps by which teachers can assign homework or by offering students the opportunity to work through online courses independently.
In the Special Education field, online or remote learning offers a much needed pathway to reach students who have unique barriers that keep them from having a physical presence in the classroom. Although special needs students have unique challenges they face as they learn, there are many resources online that can be used when teaching special education students either remotely or in the classroom.
Here are 8 resources for special needs educators that can assist with areas like lesson planning, instructional strategies and support in an online setting.
National Center On Intensive Intervention
Google Chrome Extensions
LD OnLine has a vast assortment of resources for teachers, from instructional strategies to articles that help educators manage behavior issues.
There is also a Working with Families page that can be helpful for teaching special education online since you will likely rely on the assistance of a student’s family members.
Instructional strategies are broken down by topics that include language and reading skills, teaching mathematics, and teaching writing. There are also several resources that focus on homeschooling and using technology to assist with learning.
There is even a forum where special education teachers can share their advice with others.
Ginger Tiger is an online platform for special needs learners. This assistive technology can complement a teacher’s lesson plans for a student studying online and can be customized based on specific learning disabilities, developmental delays, visual impairments, hearing impairments, autism, physical disabilities and more.
The activities featured on this site are graded in escalating difficulty levels. This allows an online teacher to work with a special education student by using controlled steps, while further allowing students to enjoy the activities based on their abilities.
The site offers in-person and online training opportunities for special education teachers as well as sample lesson plans that can be used to support continuity of learning. This can be helpful as well for students who miss classroom time due to physical disabilities and rely on remote learning or distance learning.
There are also several best practices resources on the site that assist with progress monitoring practices in virtual settings and ideas for improving interventions for students who are having trouble with specific subjects or behaviors.
Do2Learn offers thousands of free pages that include activities centered around social skills and behavioral regulations. These hands-on resources include learning songs and games, communication cards, academic materials and transition guides for employment and life skills.
A special education teachermight find helpful a specialTeacher Toolbox section on the site that offers material based on techniques that have proven effective for special needs. These tips address a range of disorders from behavior to social and learning.
For first-year teachers, a New Teacher Handbook offers resources to help ensure a successful first year of school, from tips on positive ways to praise to tips for getting organized.
There are several Google Chrome extensions that you can add to your web browser that are designed to assist special education students and can easily complement a special education program already in place.
For example, the Rocket Readabilityextension removes ads and other distractions from web pages, allowing your students to focus on content rather than clutter.
The SpeakIt! extension reads text using text-to-speech technology. To activate it, students select which words they want read outloud. The extension reads text in more than 50 languages, which can assist ESL (English as a Second Language) students who have disabilities.
Lucidchart is a visual productivity platform for teams, but it can be a great resource when working with students who have dyslexia since it can organize notes into a graphic that’s easier to understand and follow.
It’s commonplace for teachers, especially those in their first years, to scour the internet, looking for ideas and resources that will help them provide their students with the attention they deserve. For special education teachers in particular, there is a lot of pressure to provide customized lesson plans and assistance to those who have IEPs, or Individualized Education Programs.
One of the best resources you can turn to for help and guidance is your support network. Your network of mentors may include professors you had in college or teachers you have worked with over the years. If you’re like half of all teachers in the state who have earned their Texas teacher certification through an educator preparation program, you also had a teacher advisor who was assigned to you to mentor you through the certification process in your online program and during your first year of teaching.
This is why the educator preparation program you choose is so important. In Texas, you must complete 300 hours of training, 30 of which is mentor-observed classroom teaching time. The 30 hours of observation by a teacher advisor is a very important part of your certification process. These teacher advisors will inform your program whether you are ready or not to teach in the classroom.
ECAP has former principals, vice principals and teachers who have extensive experience to help you through this process. Not all programs do this. Some simply send past teachers who are even ex-students of their program to evaluate you, so it is important to contact the program you are considering to ensure that you are going to get the best advisor to help you.
These assigned mentors can help you navigate not only your first year of teaching, but your career as well whether you choose to teach special education students in-person or online. The best advisers will have a vested interest in your success … now and in the long term.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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