Education technology, or edtech, is one of the fastest growing technology sectors in the world. In fact, figures from EdTechXGlobal suggest the worldwide edtech market could reach $252 billion (£198.6 billion) by 2020, the equivalent of 17 per cent year-on-year growth.
Of course, as the market grows the hope is that all children will benefit from easier access to information and learning resources thanks to technology developments. But some experts reckon that improvements in technology could prove to be particularly significant in Special Educational Needs (SEN) learning.
For educators and school tech leads hoping to enhance the learning experience for SEN children, the growing education technology market has a lot to offer. Teachers now have a huge array of specially designed aids to choose from, whether children require basic teaching aids or the use of full technology systems designed for pupils with more demanding special educational needs.
"We're no longer limited to helping one particular student with a single specialised technology," Karen Heilbronner, director of secondary special education for SRVUSD, told Edtech Magazine. “[Edtech] tools are easily extended to any student who needs them.”
Ultimately, the aim of teachers and the manufacturers behind the technology is to foster inclusion in the classroom, while making sure all pupils receive a high standard of individual attention regardless of their requirements.
One of the latest systems under development is called Eye Gaze technology, which looks set to have a significant impact on students with moderate to severe physical disabilities.
Eye Gaze technology tracks the user’s eye movements to move a computer cursor around the screen, click on icons and even use learning programmes. According to EdTechnology.co.uk, progression in this area could eventually lead to SEN pupils being able to work independently of teaching assistants, creating a greater feeling of inclusion and participation from everyone in the classroom.
Virtual reality is another development that is already making a positive impact on the lives of SEN children around the world. While we’ve only just got VR headsets in our living rooms, they’re not actually that new to the classroom.
VR boasts a number of successes to its name in the edtech world having previously helped blind children learn to cross the road and autistic children learn how to cope in social situations.
But Ben Behrens of EdTechnology.co.uk has suggested these achievements are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential impact virtual reality could have on SEN children: “Every area of life is set to be impacted by VR and the SEN sector is no different.”
While Eye Gaze and VR still feel a bit futuristic for most classrooms, established edtech is proving to be a big help to SEN pupils in the here and now.
Clevertouch is one brand that’s working particularly hard to ensure its education technology is put to good use.
According to the leading touchscreen firm, classroom solutions can be used to promote accessibility by supporting pupils visually, physically and through their auditory learning, resulting in a more immersive learning environment.
Specifically, pupils with additional mobility or social communication needs can be included in everyday classroom activities with the simple addition of an easy-to-use interactive touchscreen, which makes it easier for children of all abilities to engage with the topic at hand.
The Clevertouch V Series 70 is an excellent example of how the brand applies this forward thinking to its touchscreen solutions. Featuring a 70 inch Full HD display, this device offers particularly immersive learning that’s capable of capturing students’ attention no matter where they are in the room.
The Clevertouch suite of software, which is bundled free, also makes learning and engagement easier for pupils who with special needs so students can feel confident contributing no matter what their educational development.
The V series is particularly budget friendly for such a high-tech, responsive touchscreen experience and their annotation and overall operating system is incredibly easy to use.
Clevertouch have considered ease of use and accessibility for SEN pupils to interact with the learning materials onscreen, making it easier than a traditional mouse and keyboard setup.
This really is an amazingly well priced range of products and it’s features are second-to-none. If you want to go into higher resolution 4K touch screens then you can step up to the Clevertouch Pro range. This has all the same ease-of-use benefits of the cheaper V series but offers a higher screen resolution and better connectivity options if your SEN class has distributed devices such as iPads.
The higher resolution could be vital to students with visual impairment, so your budget will have to increase, but you are getting a touchscreen that has four times the pixels and is much more flexible for an array of input devices.
The rise of iPad and tablet use in the classroom has made the jump to larger and higher resolution touchscreens a logical and highly beneficial move for many teachers. Some experts have gone so far as to suggest that for SEN pupils, touchscreen devices – both personal and shared – bring an additional benefit of comfort and a certain reassurance.
Jonathan Bishop, founder of the Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems, states that iPads and other mobile devices are now considered by many to be user friendly for SEN children, providing them with access to thousands of apps that aid learning while also helping them to feel included.
With these bold, highly-visual tools, children are able to communicate with their classmates through sounds and colours, helping to bridge the gap between SEN children and their peers.
Mr Bishop added: “As most people often disengage from a social situation by using their smartphone or tablet, a person with a SEN will be able to use their smart devices without looking out of place.”
If you’re unsure about what equipment is best for your classroom, please feel free to call our experts on 0800 073 0834 or send us an email and we’ll get back to you quickly.