Differentiating Instruction and Technology Integration for Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners

It is important to include accommodations and modifications to support students with disabilities and those students whose first language is not English. Technology integration at this point becomes assistive technology, and a mechanism for allowing all students to participate in the lesson and exercise their critical thinking skills. Integrating multimedia, videos, images, and audio experiences within our lessons, provides English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and any student in our class, opportunities to practice, reinforce, and critically think about what they are learning. Graphic organizers and virtual brainstorming tools are great ways to help student with learning disabilities during critical thinking activities. Electronic spell checkers and dictionaries can provide English Language Learners with access to vocabulary. Students may need extra support or a different way to show what they know and this is where assistive technology can really make the difference for any student in our classroom.

Some tips for using technology to support diversity and special needs in relation to critical thinking:

  • Provide students with opportunities to work with partners or small groups to discuss the topic both in class and online
  • Model to students how to use the technology and if needed provide one-on-one support
  • Ensure all students have access to technology and if possible provide time in class for students to access technology and go through the steps together before doing it independently
  • Allow students to share the resources that helped them learn the most about the topic and/or create a wiki where families can share resources too
  • Accept a variety of responses and ensure students that divergent responses are welcome
  • If the scaffolding that is provided for each lesson does not work for a particular student, have a discussion with the student to try to figure out where they are having trouble
  • Use Google translate to provide reflection questions in a child’s home language
  • Research various assistive technology and evaluate what kind of technology would benefit individual students