Captain Strong Elementary: A Promising Practice in Engaging Students with Learning Differences

DO-IT Factsheet #318
http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/articles?318

Kristie Alexander, a fourth-grade teacher at Captain Strong Elementary [1], is using technology to actively engage all students in her class, including those with learning disabilities, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), speech impairments, fine motor impairments, and Asperger's Syndrome.

Through funding from an AccessSTEM [2] Minigrant, Ms. Alexander purchased an ELMO [3] visual presenter, an LCD projector, a digital camera, and a laptop computer. These purchases allowed her to create a classroom presentation station where she can present printed text, 3-D demonstrations, and student work samples to the class. The technology allows the preciseness of student ideas to be shared, the wonder of experimentation to continue, and the self-esteem of the students to be validated.

As the technology became integrated into the classroom, authentic student work samples replaced foreign examples and pieces of writing that held no personal value to the students. Instead, students were able to discuss and learn from examples created by their peers. This method also allowed the students to share their thought processes with the class and allowed Ms. Alexander to evaluate in real time what and how her students were learning.

Ms. Alexander's use of technology in her class is a promising practice because it creates an environment where all students, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, are able to share their work and unique learning styles with the class and to increase their listening, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. This project has resulted in students who have not only a stronger command of technology but also a greater involvement in their own learning.

AccessSTEM [4] mingrants were funded under The Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM, Research in Disabilities Education award # HRD-0227995).

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