Top 5 technology trends in special education (2023)

Driven by technological advances, state policy changes, and an ongoing push from educational technology advocates, companies and researchers are creating new tools and strategies to better serve students with disabilities.

Behind a number of new trends, experts say, is a growing recognition that designing learning resources from the ground up with students with disabilities in mind can benefit all students.

“Developers and [K-12] consumers are on the same page right now,” said Cynthia Curry, director of theNational Center for Accessible Educational Materials for Learning, more commonly known as the AEM Center. “Not only are they aware of legal requirements, but also social change to ensure all students have opportunities to progress.”

In this context,Education Weekscoured the field for ideas on new developments in the use of technology to support special education.

Some promising technologies, such as virtual reality, are still in the experimental phase.

Some segments of the K-12 industry, such as the growing "Computer Science for All" movement, are struggling to make up for past oversights.

And some experts are issuing cautionary notes.

"Technology is great, but it can also diminish opportunities for slower mental processing that creates a foundation upon which children can build over time," said Sheldon Horowitz, senior adviser to theNational Center for Learning Disabilities. “For kids who are struggling because of a learning disability or an attention disorder or some other challenge, this can present a dual hazard.”

Still, there's a lot to look forward to. Here are five trends in educational technology use for special education that K-12 educators and policymakers need to be aware of.

1. Greater customization

As a technology lover who is blind,Luis F. PerezIt has long used assistive technologies and features such as screen readers (which "speak" content displayed on a device) and high-contrast display settings. But it's frustrating and time-consuming to have to reset your preferences every time you start from scratch on a new computer or application.

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Now, however, that is changing.

“Profiles can now follow you as you sign in on different devices,” said Perez, Technical Support Specialist at the AEM Center. "It's there for you when you need it."

Leading the charge is Google, which madebig attackson K-12 with its web-based Chromebook devices and popular G Suite productivity tools.

Elements that Google promotes in these products include a "select-to-speak" feature that allows users to highlight text and have it read to them; Braille monitors for reading and editing documents, spreadsheets and slides; and artificially intelligent tools for predicting and translating words that users can adopt through extensions for the Google Chrome browser.

All can be permanently linked to an individual user's account.

All of this means that students using Chromebooks can "log in on any device running Chrome and enjoy the same accessibility and experience settings without going through another onerous setup process," said Naveen Viswanatha, senior product manager at Chromebooks for Education.

2. Early detection

Over the past 17 years, millions of school-aged children have tested their basic reading skills using a digital tool calledCLASE m, developed by educational technology company Amplify.

However, recently, Amplify has modified its software. In response to new legislation in more than a dozen states, the company added new measures in mCLASS that also screen for dyslexia.

“Early identification is critical,” said Krista Curran, general manager of assessment and intervention at the company. “Schools and districts across the country are now [required] to use observational assessments to help with this. We help them do it more efficiently.”

It's not just about Amplify, and it's not just about dyslexia or just for schools.

Researchers like Fumiko Hoeft of the University of California, San Francisco and Nadine Gaab of Boston Children's Hospital are leading efforts to develop new early detection mobile apps that can be used at home and in healthcare settings.

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And a startup calleddrinkeris taking a similar approach, targeting pediatricians with a suite of mobile apps they can use to assess children for delays in the development of motor skills, language, social-emotional skills, and cognitive processing.

These tools can be used for risk factor screening, but not for formally identifying learning difficulties, which requires direct interaction with a trained professional.

And Babynoggin founder Jin Lee emphasized that his company isn't trying to reinvent existing, validated screening tools. Rather, Lee said, it's about making the screening process more efficient and accessible for parents, clinicians and schools.

“One million children enter schools each year with undiagnosed developmental disabilities,” Lee said. "It's about making sure they aren't forgotten."

3. Virtual Reality

For students with autism, navigating a crowded school hallway or standing in line at the cafeteria can be stressful.

Sean J. Smith believes that practicing in a virtual reality environment can help.

"We took the literature on effective ways to build social skills and competencies in students with autism and learning disabilities and created scenarios that can help children learn how to interact with these challenges in their environment," said Smith, professor of special education at the a. University of Kansas.

So far, Smith said, his team has developed more than 30 scenarios, spanning 10 virtual environments. When a student uses the tool, they interact with avatars and are given options for how to respond, receiving real-time reinforcement for appropriate behaviors and instructions on what they can do better.

Other examples of virtual reality for students with disabilities include environments that promote attention and allow motor-impaired users to manipulate objects in ways they cannot in the physical world.

Most of this work is still in the testing phase, experts warn. Some observers alsoraised concernsthat virtual reality can trigger emotional and psychological distress and may have as yet unknown effects on brain development, especially in young children.

But the hope, Smith said, is that virtual reality can fill a new gap that is emerging in schools, which increasingly expect students to demonstrate an aptitude for teamwork and collaboration.

“We don't teach these skills directly, so many students struggle,” he said. "VR offers a way to introduce this in an environment that feels realistic."

4. Make computing accessible to everyone

More than 100 companies, universities, non-profit and advocacy organizations have signed a new "accessibility promiseintended to make K-12 computer science education more inclusive.

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Among the groups that took the most significant steps:Ear, a research project based at Brown University that develops computer science curriculum modules to be used in existing math and physics classes in schools.

One of Bootstrap's goals is to make its user interfaces more user-friendly, even for students who cannot use a computer mouse. Another is to incorporate a screen reader capable of reading the output of a user-created program. The most ambitious is to create a "toolkit" that can integrate with multiple programming languages, read code aloud, and also verbally describe the structure and purpose of code, in multiple languages, at age-appropriate reading levels .

“Users we've worked with on this, some of whom are professional programmers, have said, 'God, I wish I had this when I grew up. I wish I had that now,'" said Emmanuel Schanzer, founder and co-head of Bootstrap.

For many of the pledge's other signatories, embracing accessibility will mean more basic steps, like captioning videos.

Pressure is needed to take such action, said Ruthe Farmer, whose title is senior evangelist for the nonprofit group CSforALL, which is behind the accessibility pledge. She said the market for K-12 computing supplies had developed so quickly that such shortcomings were often an afterthought.

"It's early enough that if we address this now, we can build a fully inclusive movement," Farmer said.

5. Make the 'open' more open

School acceptance of free open educational resources, or OER, (which educators can use, adapt, and share as they see fit) has many potential benefits.

But Jose Blackorby, senior director of research and development at CAST, a nonprofit that promotes principles known as universal design for learning, says the OER movement also has an often-overlooked problem: the pdf is not our friend.

The commonly used electronic file format for documents with text and graphics generally does not work well with screen readers. Generally does not allow incorporation of support and assistance resources. And pdfs are hard to make searchable.

“If you're presenting content using digital formats, you should have a lot more options for how to customize it for students with visual impairments, autism and dyslexia,” said Blackorby. "But none of that works very well on PDFs."

Now, however, CAST, through its Center for Inclusive Learning Software, has a five-year grant from the US Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs to address these issues. Blackorby outlined three main goals: Develop new authoring tools that would make it easier for OER creators to produce their content in more adaptable formats such as EPUB. Create a "preference discovery tool" that allows students to learn what kind of personalized and integrated digital learning support works best for them. And create a new "OER Player" that makes it easy for users to turn on assistive features like text-to-speech when they open files on any device.

(Video) Top 3 Technology Trends in Special Education | Future with e-Learning |Teachmint

There will undoubtedly be obstacles, Blackorby said, including the "Wild West quality" of the current OER landscape.

But there are reasons to be excited.

“The market is changing very fast,” he said. "But nobody knows where this will end."

Top 5 technology trends in special education (1)
benjamin herold

contributing writer, Education Week

Benjamin Herold is a contributing writer covering learning environments and educational technology issues for Education Week.

A version of this article appeared onDecember 05, 2018edition ofEducation WeekasTop 5 technology trends in special education


What are the trends in special education? ›

Some of the current trends in special education include increased inclusion in mainstream classrooms, differentiated instruction, personalized learning plans, use of assistive technologies, and a focus on social-emotional learning.

What are the five trends of education and technology in a sustainable future? ›

We address here the following changes: 1) changes in aims and objectives; 2) changes in educational ecologies; 3) changes in our conceptions of teaching and learning; 4) changes that specifically affect teachers; and 5) changes in governance.

How technology has changed special education? ›

The main benefits of technology in special education are: Personalized learning experience. Mobility impairment assistance. Address social anxiety and attention-based disorders.

What is the latest innovation in special education? ›

Personalization is another new trend in education. It allows special needs kids to set custom options just once. Content and other settings can be automatically altered based on actions they perform with their profiles.

What are the 5 factors that make special education special? ›

Answer and Explanation: The behavior, limited English proficiency, blind or visually impaired, communication needs or deaf or hard of hearing, and assistive technology are the five factors that IEP team must determine to make special education effective for the students with disabilities.

What is technology in special education? ›

Assistive technology is anything that helps students with special needs engage in basic tasks their peers can do without assistance. Both low-tech and high-tech devices can make a significant difference in ensuring lessons and activities are accessible to all students.

What are the 5 technologies that will change the future? ›

AI and machine learning are the foundation on which many other technologies are built. For instance, without AI, we wouldn't have achieved the amazing advances in the Internet of Things, virtual reality, chatbots, facial recognition, robotics, automation, or self-driving cars, just to name a few.

What are 5 emerging or current trends in information technology? ›

What are the emerging trends in information technology? In addition to the mentioned tech trends, computing power, big data analytics, extended reality, digital trust, new energy solutions, 5G, and sustainable tech are among the emerging technologies that will give you a competitive advantage.

What are the 5 essential areas of technology powered learning? ›

The NETP presents a model of 21st century learning powered by technology, with goals and recommendations in five essential areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.

How does technology help individuals with disabilities? ›

Hardware and software tools–known as assistive technology– can aid in tasks such as reading and writing documents, communicating with others, and searching for information online.

What technology is used in inclusive education? ›

Technology makes classroom environment more invigorating with the use of audio visual aids, talking calculators, modern software and apps helping children overcome challenges in a streamlined pattern without discrimination. Learners are more engaged and participate actively in the classroom.

What are the six 6 common examples of innovation in higher education? ›

Since administrators and professors are thinking about innovation, we've included examples for the course, program, and school.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) ...
  • 3D printing. ...
  • Flipped classrooms. ...
  • VR & Augmented Reality. ...
  • Virtual labs. ...
  • Social media. ...
  • Blended/hybrid learning.
Nov 10, 2022

What changes do you see for the future of special education? ›

According to Resilient Educator, new technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence will be at the center of technological advances in special education. Technological advances greatly increase educators' abilities to personalize learning.

What are the new innovative ideas? ›

  • Cloud Computing. The modern cloud of 2022 supports development, new applications, and provides robust infrastructure. ...
  • Immersive Experiences. ...
  • Blockchain Technology. ...
  • 5G. ...
  • Conversational Intelligence.
Feb 21, 2022

What are the seven C's of special education? ›

The seven skills are: • Collaboration • Communication • Creativity • Critical Thinking • Character • Citizenship • Computational Thinking If we believe our work as teachers is mainly to prepare students for successful futures, then we should give opportunities for students to strengthen these skills.

What are the six pillars of special education? ›

Key to the legislation are six pillars that ensure a child's education needs and progress are met with:
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP). ...
  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). ...
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). ...
  • Appropriate Evaluation. ...
  • Parent and Teacher Participation. ...
  • Procedural Safeguards.

What are the 3 important components that make up special education? ›

That's three separate, distinct, and critical elements–special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services–and each is worthy of a book on its own. Don't worry!

What is educational technology examples? ›

Education ICT is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for educational purposes. Examples of education ICT include using cloud-based learning software, apps, blogs or discussion boards, digital whiteboards, and other interactive online tools for students and teachers.

How technology has helped autism? ›

Benefits of Technology for Kids With Autism

Touchscreens are much more accessible to those with Autism than a keyboard. Tapping and sliding motions are easier than typing on a keyboard. Using tablets improve non verbal communication with others. Handwriting is a challenging motor skill for Autistic children.

What makes a technology and assistive technology for students with disabilities? ›

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act defines assistive technology devices as items, equipment, or systems that serve to “… increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.”

What are the top future trends in technology by 2030? ›

Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) are among the key technologies that will underpin the delivery of education in 2030.

What technology has changed the most? ›

10 Technologies That Changed The World
  • The Wheel. It's pretty hard to argue that the wheel isn't one of the biggest engineering marvels the world has ever seen. ...
  • Electricity (Battery) ...
  • Automobile. ...
  • Lightbulb. ...
  • Transistors. ...
  • The refrigerator. ...
  • Television. ...
  • The Computer.
Apr 12, 2022

What are examples of technology? ›

6 common types of technology
  • Television. Television sets transmit signals over which we can listen to and view audio and visual content. ...
  • Internet. ...
  • Cell phones. ...
  • Computers. ...
  • Circuitry. ...
  • Artificial intelligence. ...
  • Software. ...
  • Audio and visual technology.
Mar 10, 2023

What are 5 examples of emerging technologies? ›

In this article, we will discuss the top five emerging technologies for 2023 and their use cases: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML); Blockchain and Web3 technology; Intelligent automation and robotic process automation (RPA);

What are 3 emerging trends in technology? ›

Artificial Intelligence (AI) for development. IoT technologies, infrastructure and applications (smart societies) Blockchain technologies, infrastructure and applications. 5G.

What are the five 5 characteristics of emerging technology? ›

The resulting definition identifies five attributes that feature in the emergence of novel technologies. These are: (i) radical novelty, (ii) relatively fast growth, (iii) coherence, (iv) prominent impact, and (v) uncertainty and ambiguity.

What are the 4 C's education technology? ›

The four C's of 21st Century skills are:

Critical thinking. Creativity. Collaboration. Communication.

What are the three 3 educational technology domains? ›

It is hence important for teachers to ensure that the three (3) domains of learning which include cognitive (thinking), affective (emotions or feeling) and Psychomotor (Physical or kinesthetic) to be achieved.

What is the most used technology in the classroom? ›

Tablets. It's hard to believe that tablets have been around for less than two decades. These devices are part of our daily lives, and they're one of the most-used types of technology in the classroom.

What type of technology helps people with disabilities? ›

Assistive technology, also called AT, refers to assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices designed for people with disabilities and the elderly. These groups of people encounter difficulties in activities of daily living. They may need assistance to bathe, dress, eat or get around.

Which type of technology is used for people with disabilities? ›

Assistive technologies (ATs) are designed to improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. Some are relatively low-tech and very familiar, such as such as reading glasses, crutches and hearing aids.

What are two examples of assistive technology helps people with disabilities? ›

Examples include:
  • magnifiers,
  • talking devices such as a talking thermostat,
  • Braille displays,
  • screen reading software,
  • text-to-speech systems using Optical Character Recognition (OCR),
  • large print materials, and.
  • phones with large tactile buttons.

How can technology help inclusion? ›

Improving employee wellbeing

The correct management of diversity and inclusion through improved connectivity, employee training, the removal of bias, and the provision of employee support can be assisted through technology.

How can technology be used for inclusion? ›

Technology can cultivate greater inclusion by creating new ways of working, such as through digital labour platforms, and by mitigating obstacles to employment, such as long commutes.

What is educational technology as used in instructional methods? ›

Educational Technology is the field of study that investigates the process of analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating the instructional environment, learning materials, learners, and the learning process in order to improve teaching and learning.

What are the benefits of using technology for children? ›

Interactive websites and games help children learn to solve problems as they work their way through the challenges presented to get to the next level. Even simply using the devices makes them more adept at this, learning how to solve problems like programs not working correctly or connection issues.

What are the new technologies used in schools? ›

Schools are incorporating emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality, into the classroom. The aim is to enable more innovative and engaging teaching methods and learning experiences.

What are the 5 innovation strategy? ›

Five critical elements lie at the core of any successful innovation strategy: Innovation Culture, Leadership Buy-In, Enable Team Members, Reward and Recognize, and Defined Metrics and KPIs. These concepts are imperative to achieving results and maintaining a scalable, sustainable innovation model.

What is a current trend in special education? ›

Some of the current trends in special education include increased inclusion in mainstream classrooms, differentiated instruction, personalized learning plans, use of assistive technologies, and a focus on social-emotional learning.

What is the most important thing about special education? ›

The most important mission of special education is to provide students with special needs with development opportunities and a learning process that will improve the quality of their life.

What are the 4 types of innovation with examples? ›

The four types of innovation
  • Sustaining, or incremental innovation. “Sustaining innovation” initially seems like an oxymoron. ...
  • Breakthrough innovation. We've spoken about how the current smartphone market is an example of sustained innovation. ...
  • Disruptive innovation. ...
  • Basic research.
Nov 7, 2022

What are three innovative ideas? ›

Below are 10 examples of innovations that are turning problems into progress.
  • A bag that slow cooks food. (Photo: WIPO) ...
  • Bottle light bulbs. (Photo: Liter of Light) ...
  • Energy-producing roads. ...
  • 1 dollar microscope. ...
  • Medical drones. ...
  • Mobile water safety check. ...
  • Solar rechargeable hearing aids. ...
  • Wearable breast cancer detector.

What is the next big technology? ›

Augmented Reality

Look at the current trends and we can foresee the future of technology becoming increasingly interconnected and automated. The next big thing in technology is leaning toward augmented reality, as this technology will enable people to view and interact with the physical world in completely new ways.

What does the future of special education look like? ›

According to Resilient Educator, new technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence will be at the center of technological advances in special education. Technological advances greatly increase educators' abilities to personalize learning.

What is a trend in early childhood education? ›

1) Mindfulness. 2) Nature-based Early Childhood Education. 3) Social Emotional Learning. 4) Technology-Based Learning. 5) STEM/STEAM Education in ECE.

What is the future outlook for a special education teacher? ›

Overall employment of special education teachers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 37,600 openings for special education teachers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

What is learning differences and the future of special education? ›

The Initiative on Learning Differences and the Future of Special Education is an interdisciplinary research, training, and policy effort focused on improving the lives of millions of children worldwide with diverse learning needs.

What is the role of special education in modern classrooms? ›

Special education and general education teachers often work together to develop a curriculum and create a positive student culture. In an inclusive classroom, special education teachers have the essential role of ensuring that students with disabilities or special needs receive a quality education.

What will shape the future of education in the next 20 years? ›

In 20 years, schools will have advanced technology in the classroom to complement teachers' lessons. For example, a science class may cover 3D printing and how it can be used to replicate prosthetic limbs to change someone's life.

How do students use technology in the classroom? ›

Ways to Incorporate Technology in the Elementary Classroom

Students can use interactive games to reinforce math, spelling, phonetic, and reading skills. Sites like Spelling Training permit students or teachers to upload their own word lists to practice word pronunciation and create interactive games.

What is a developmental trend? ›

The patterns that emerge at different ages are developmental trends. It's important to remember that developmental trends simply provide a reference point, and may not necessarily apply to all children and youth, especially children and youth with mental and/or physical disabilities.

What is trend analysis in education? ›

Trend analysis is the method of collecting data and identifying a pattern or trend (upward or downward shift) in the data.

Why do so many special education teachers quit? ›

Lack of support from administrators and colleagues. Large caseloads. Non-teaching responsibilities (e.g., excessive paperwork) Student behavior.

Where do sped teachers get paid most? ›

Maryland has the highest special education teacher salary of $76,282. Mississippi has the lowest special education teacher salary of $38,081. The national average salary for special education teachers is $54,290.

What are the four goals of special education? ›

The framework regards academic goals as the means for achieving other outcomes, namely the four outcomes that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) declared: equality of opportunity, full par- ticipation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

What are the three models of special education? ›

There are six main types of special education within most public-school settings.
  • Push-in Services. ...
  • Pull-out Services. ...
  • Inclusive Classrooms. ...
  • Exclusive Education. ...
  • Specialty Schools. ...
  • Residential Programs.
Jul 24, 2018


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