DEN Fall VirtCon Recap-EdTech in Special Ed


Education technology can be very effectively leveraged to provide functional and engaging learning opportunities to students with disabilities, as Sam Blanco demonstrated in her VirtCon session “EdTech in Special Ed”.  iPads are an especially motivating tool to use with students who have diverse learning needs.  And there is so much untapped potential for students to communicate, interact and learn real-world skills.

Sam notes that when using iPads with students receiving special education, often teachers use the devices as  rewards and motivators (preferred activity).  This is great, and certainly a valid reason for using the.   But Sam also argues that iPads are so much more powerful when used purposefully to reinforce goals and objectives, practice social interactions and and to create content to showcase learning.  If, as teachers, we take the time to overcome some of the tech barriers (learning the app, meaningful integration and giving ourselves permission to think outside the box where student IEP goals are concerned) we can open up new doors to these students.

Sam explained that gaming was a particularly effective way to teach content-especially using the very popular Minecraft game.  The webpage Minecraft in Education offers a number of ideas and lesson plans across a variety of subjects.  Another resource is  called Autcraft (which is a safe Minecraft server reserved for individuals with autism).  For older students, even tying in World of Warcraft (WoW) can be a valuable learning tool.  World of Warcraft in Schools is another website with great resources for lesson plans and activities.  These gaming opportunities help facilitate appropriate social interactions (both online and face to face) and help tie in student interest and strengths.

Sam also shared some tried and true apps and websites  that she finds useful for students with learning difficulties.  Among them:

Scratch (coding)

Toontastic (storytelling app)

Plotagon (scriptwriting and movie-making)-good for older students.

Finally, she shared some tips for iPad management, which can sometimes add an extra layer when working with students who are reluctant to use a learning app, to give back the iPad, or to use the iPad responsibly.  Sam notes that giving students choice about how they want to complete the task (iPad versus a tradition method), practicing the act of having the student give the teacher the iPad and having the teacher had the student the iPad back (to reinforce that the student will be able to get it back another time), and teaching students how to interact with the iPad makes for smoother transitions and iPad use.

To watch the full session, I would encourage you to visit this link.  You can also learn more at





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