April was Autism Awareness Month in America. Apple marked the occasion with a series of educator workshops and a dedicated section in the App Store. A lecturer in special education, Olivia Karaolis, attended one of the field trips with her cohort of Santa Monica College students who are all training to work in the field of Early Childhood Intervention or Special Education. “We gathered at the Apple store on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and the excitement and interest of my students was measured by the fact that everyone was on time and no-one was absent,” Karaolis told F2L.

“Two bright and enthusiastic Apple trainers in bright green shirts ushered us downstairs into a designated education area where teachers have an opportunity to learn, at no charge, how to use their devices to engage students in their learning. For children with disability, this requires adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of a variety of learning styles and skills. Technology can lend you its ears, its eyes, its voice or its motor skills,” she said.

One of the many accessible devices from Apple is the Skoog, a tactile cube that provides children with a range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism, a way to join an orchestra or garage band without playing a musical instrument. This fun music interface for the iPad opens up a world of ‘music-play’ to everyone and features a range of applications in Special Education and inclusive music provision.

Karaolis was thrilled to see her students learn how to use their own devices more effectively with children. “I had no idea my phone could do this”, one said. Another, Paula Drake, who was completing her practicum with a child with autism commented, “The most important thing I learned was that modern technology can improve people’s lives whether they have a disability or not. I liked the fact that people who have vision impairment can take photos or make the light on the screen less bright and the app that can make music”.

According to Karaolis the ‘take away’ for teachers from the field trip included the following:

  • Look at the accessibility settings on your iPhone or iPad. You will be surprised at the options that are available and how these features can make life and learning so much easier for your students. And follow the arrows that lead you to more options.
  • The Skoog is fun. Use this device to engage students of all abilities in their learning, especially those that require sequencing
  • Take advantage of the training programs. Use this technology to promote learning. Technology is part of our world. Let’s use it for all of its capabilities and not as a distraction or deny it. All training programs can be found online.