What is the difference between a IEP and 504?

13% of all students enrolled in school receive special education services.

Educators remain flexible to manage their classrooms and reach students. After all, everyone learns differently. But, individuals with either a 504 plan or an IEP (Individual Education Plan) need a specialized approach.

As future and current educators, we all want to make sure we meet the needs of our students. Since more than 1 in every 10 students needs special education being knowledgeable will be an asset.

We are responsible to attend parent-teacher conferences, grade papers, and manage a classroom. But, we are also responsible to meet guidelines for 504 Plans and IEPs.

Knowing about these plans in advance helps you as an educator to feel more prepared. You will feel more confident in teaching students with specific educational needs.

Both 504 plans and IEPs protect students with disabilities. Each aims to meet the needs of a student but differ in their approach, services, and goals.

So, what’s the difference? Read on to learn more.

The Difference Between IEPs and 504 Plans

1. The Degree of Services Needed

Students with an IEP need special/individualized education based on an evaluation. Students with a 504 Plan need accommodations within general curriculum classes.

A student with an IEP needs a higher degree of special education services. This includes placement in special education classes or modifications/accommodations in the general education classroom.

Students with a 504 Plan typically need certain accommodations within the general class setting. These students need fewer accommodations than students with an IEP. This includes accommodations such as needing more time to complete assignments.

2. Applicable Laws and Rights

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) enables students with disabilities to IEPs. This federal law entitles students with disabilities to free and appropriate education. Enforcement of this law is from the ages of 3 to 21 years old.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also guarantees that students with a disability receive free and appropriate public education. If a student meets the requirements to receive an IEP, then an IEP outweighs the 504 Plan. If a student only qualifies for a 504 Plan then the IDEA does not apply.

Each of these laws provides services to the student at no cost. Both laws require school districts to follow the requirements outlined. Schools must follow each plan to avoid discrimination.

3. Qualifications

504 Plans include a broad spectrum of physical and mental impairments as qualifications. These impairments interfere with learning or a major life activity such as reading. Examples of impairments include mental illness, loss of motor capabilities, or specific learning disabilities.

These impairments create classroom accommodations for the student. Accommodations include a test read out loud, extra bathroom breaks, or assistive technology.

To qualify for an IEP, a student must meet one or more conditions outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Conditions include specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, or emotional or physical impairments.

The child’s outlined condition must also interfere with educational performance. Their condition and interference in the general classroom benefit them to receive a specialized education.

Special education is sometimes separated from the general education curriculum, but not always. Special education can mean being in classrooms with modified curriculums and instruction. These modifications exist on a continuum based on the needs of the students and their level of academic ability.

Sometimes students with an IEP are able to be in the general education classroom setting. Supervision on the part of the teacher or a paraprofessional may be necessary.

A paraprofessional is an individual who is trained to meet the specific needs of a child with a disability. A paraprofessional assists the students with tasks outlined in the IEP.

Some students are assigned an individual paraprofessional. In other cases, a paraprofessional assists all students and the special education teacher in the classroom.

4. Type of Documentation

By law, IEPs must be documented in writing. 504 plans are not required to be in writing. Schools generally do document 504 plans in writing to maintain clear communication.

An IEP includes the present academic status of the student, accommodations, and modifications. It also outlines educational goals, duration of service, and a participation plan. Lastly, the IEP shows how the child will take part in standardized testing.

A 504 Plan outlines specific accommodations the child needs. The accommodations are based on the student’s impairment.

Each time an IEP plan changes it must be in writing. 504 Plan also can change but it does not need to be in writing. Some schools do make these changes in writing for a 504 Plan to maintain clear communication.

Any significant changes to an IEP must be presented to the parent before the changes take place. These changes need to be in writing prior.

Significant changes to a 504 Plan must also be told to the parent. It is not a required for changes to be documented in writing.

5. Support System

Children with IEPs and 504 Plans have a support team which ensures that the plans are carried out. The IEP support team is more in-depth than the 504 support team.

The support team for an IEP includes the child’s parent, a district representative, and a specialist who interprets evaluation results. Additionally, at least one general education teacher and a special education teacher. All the members of the support team must be present at IEP meetings minus some exceptions.

The support team for a 504 Plan includes an educator (general or special education teacher), the child’s parent, and the school principal. The educator on the 504 support team understands the students, their needs, and accommodations needed.

IEPs and 504 Plans in the School Setting

For those seeking a career in special education, IEPs and 504 Plans will be discussed in your education courses. Just like each student with an IEP or 504 Plan has a support team, so will you!

Seasoned teachers and administrative staff can help support you in understanding the laws and guidelines necessary to provide all students with access to public education.

To learn more about careers in special education and to see if this may be the right career for you visit our blog.

If you do decide that a career in education is for you, then visit our website to find an online or special education program that meets your specific needs and career goals!

Co-Teaching Partnership

Co-Teaching PartnershipCo-Teaching as a Partnership

Every classroom has a teacher and students.  But what about classrooms that have other adults as well?  Who are these people? Co-Teaching with another adult can add a unique element to the classroom setting. If teachers are in a special education classroom, it is very common to have an instructional assistant or paraprofessional.  Many larger general education classes have these type of assistants as well. In some classrooms, teachers may have a sign language interpreter for a student who is deaf and uses manual communication.

Instructional Assistants in Co-Teaching

An instructional assistant’s primary role in the special education classroom or general education classroom is to assist the classroom teacher with all areas of the classroom. The assistant is a crucial extra pair of hands, eyes, ears and voice. This may include preparing materials, assisting with behavior management, working with small groups, or working one on one with students. 

The teacher is responsible for presenting new material and instruction, as well as responsible for student learning, growth, and gains. Instructional assistants cannot provide initial instruction of a concept or skill.   However, the instructional assistant can provide support after the initial instruction is provided.  For students having a hard time understanding concepts, the instructional assistant can provide further explanations, break down, and expand on those concepts.

When the instructional assistant is in a special education classroom working with one teacher and set of students all day, it is easier to build a partnership.  Both the teacher and the assistant know the routines and the expectations.  If the instructional assistant is providing supports in the general education classrooms, it may only be for a certain amount of time each day.  It is important to keep lines of communication open.  Expectations should be established from day one because each teacher runs their classroom uniquely and assistants may have to adjust to multiple teaching styles and classroom environments.

Interpreters in Co-Teaching

An interpreter is provided to a student who is deaf and uses manual communication, whether American Sign Language, Signed English, or Conceptually Accurate Signed English (a combination of American Sign Language and Signed English).  The interpreter’s primary role is communication.  They become the ears and voice for the student they are working with.  The interpreter will not assist the teacher in any fashion.  They will not work with other students in small groups or for one on one learning.  They will not assist with classroom management or behaviors.

However, the interpreter will provide access to spoken language and environmental sounds.  If the phone rings, an airplane flies overhead, there’s a knock on the door, the fire alarm sounds, the interpreter will communicate this information.  Obviously, during teacher instruction, the interpreter will provide the information.  But they will also provide the information being spoken by other students, or between the teacher and another adult in the classroom.  If the student has a question or want to contribute to the discussion, this is done through the interpreter.  The interpreter, like an instructional assistant, can provide support of instruction already provided if the student is having a hard time grasping the concept. 

While the roles of an instructional assistant and an interpreter differ, Co-Teaching can take some time to get used to.  Teachers should keep lines of communication open, be clear on expectations, and be flexible.  Developing a partnership with other adults in the classroom will be a tremendous benefit to the students in the class.

Traumas In Youth, Strategies To Heal

Recognizing Trauma in Today’s Youth

Increasingly, school aged children are faced with traumatic events and situations that make them vulnerable to risk factors associated with mental health illnesses, chronic absenteeism, and low academic achievement, which can impact their overall quality of life.  Furthermore, students with special needs are likely to experience traumatic events at a higher rate than their non-disabled peers possibly due to cognitive, social/behavioral, and/or communication challenges.

It is important that parents and teachers collaborate and develop a plan to recognize triggers and cues associated with signs of distress with the special needs population.

statistics for child trauma

Triggers

Children with special needs rely heavily on past experiences associated with trauma and are influenced greatly by the emotional reactions seen in their adult caregivers. Although each child is unique, those who know the child best can often predict the behavior or reaction likely to happen based on their observations of the child’s response to past stress related situations. 

Having an understanding and awareness to these triggers and cues can offer great insight into planning a crisis support plan that outlines specific effective interventions to minimizing the stress related impact. Common signs of distress reliant upon age and emotional development may include:

  • Becoming withdrawn, quiet or isolating from peers
  • Changes in speech patterns
  • Psychosomatic complaints (stomachaches, headaches, minor complaints of bumps and bruises)
  • Physical symptoms relating to tics, tremors, excessive sweating
  • Increasingly irritable or distractible
  • Task avoidance to preferred activities
  • Verbal or physical aggression
  • Outbursts or temper tantrums to changes in routines
  • An overreaction to common occurrences
  • Appearing lethargic or fatigued, lack of energy
  • Disruption in sleep and eating patterns
  • Regressive behavior (thumb sucking, enuresis, nightmares, clingy
  • Exhibiting overly anxious or worrisome tendencies
  • Difficulty concentrating or learning or problem solving

Strategies to Heal

Sensory or physical limitations: Students with vision, hearing or physical limitations that do not possess developmental or cognitive deficits can understand information that is appropriate to their age.

During stressful situations, safety and mobility become a heightened need for reassurance. Practice safety drills, patterns of exit/entry into safe places, use visual supports in conjunction with verbal signals, create a safety box of materials (flashlight, batteries for hearing aids, item of comfort), use concrete, clear explanations and check for understanding.

Emotional Behavioral limitations: Students with emotional or behavioral limitations can have limited coping skills for normal, every day life situations and are particularly vulnerable when exposed to trauma or stress. Increased noncompliance, physical and verbal aggression, elopement, oppositional behavior, and risk-taking behaviors (sexually acting out, substance abuse, self-injurious, suicidal thoughts, fascination with violence or weapons) are examples of critical warning signs that warrant immediate attention.

Reviewing functional behavioral assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans, establishing a check in system with mentors, providing immediate schedules of reinforcement and consistent routines with frequent breaks are strategies to employ. 

Learning Disabilities: Students with learning limitations may require additional supports to process thoughts, feelings, and their understanding of events and information. They may experience challenges with concepts involving time, space, abstract reasoning, language and semantics.

Use concrete vocabulary terms, show visuals, provide clear, concise explanations and ensure their understanding.

Acts of healing that help special needs students process trauma and stress can benefit all children include:

  • Making cards and writing letters to the parties involved
  • Drawing and coloring in journals
  • Honoring affected parties with acts of kindness
  • Fundraising for relief efforts
  • Volunteering for charitable events

Experiencing trauma and stress is universal to all children, but employing effective, specialized supports proactively can lessen the impact it has on their overall well-being. To learn more about helping children heal from trauma, visit https://www.nctsn.org

 

 
 

Visual Supports For The Special Education Classroom

Visual Supports

task cards

Visual supports are all around us in our daily lives.  A shopping list, a calendar to write down appointments or plans, signs to tell us where to go, a recipe, or a to-do list. Verbal or auditory information is said and then is gone.  It is temporary. Using visual systems, such as those listed above, allow for information to be present as long as we need it.  If we use visual supports as adults, why can’t students?  

Classroom Uses

To assist those who struggle with understanding or expressing language, visual supports can be used. You can use objects, photographs, drawings, or written words. Because of this variety, visual supports are easy to modify to meet the individual needs of learners.  

Visual supports can help students learn new skills, know what to do, and to help them feel included. Visual supports using pictures or drawings to label the classroom can promote independence in children. They know where to find things and where to put items away. They can also be used to support behavior needs. When students know what is expected or know what to do, behavior issues may reduce.

Researchers have determined that visual supports help create independence and are beneficial to children with special needs, specifically autism. These authors indicated that visual supports help by: 

  • Allowing students to focus
  • Making abstract concepts more visually concrete
  • Allowing students to express their thoughts
  • Bringing routine, structure, and sequence
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Serving as a tool to assist with transitions

Types of Visual Aids

Creating a visual support schedule will bring order, quiet, and structure.

Creating a visual support schedule will bring order, quiet, and structure. Photo credit: iLoveABA.com

Schedule: A visual schedule lets the student know what is coming next. It can show the whole day or chunks of time. Again, the format may vary from objects to words. Another type of schedule is a first-then board. This is used to typically show a non-preferred activity is completed first, then a preferred activity can be done. It also lays the foundation to follow multi-step directions.

 

Communication: To increase communication skills, a non-tech or low-tech way to do this is to use a communication board. Students can be taught vocabulary and phrases in order to express their wants and needs. However, students must be taught how to use the picture board. Boardmaker is a well-known program used in making communication boards. While it is quite extensive and versatile, it is also costly.

Resources: 

There are many websites that have ready-made guides and printable boards for visual aids to use in the classroom or home. Here are a few:

  • www.do2learn.com: This site has many ready-made visuals which are easy to print and use.
  • www.edhelper.com: This site has pictures to download and lots of resources.
  • www.mayer-johnson.com Here you can learn about communication apps and other educations tools like Boardmaker.

As educators, we tend to think of visual supports for students with disabilities. However, all students can benefit using visual supports in the classroom.

Author: Tina Gonzalez

 

The 21st Century Classroom Part 2

computer class room with young students and teacherWith increasing numbers of K-12 students in special education programs, the need for new, advanced assistive technology in the special education classroom is vital.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of disabled students in the public school system is between 6 and 7 million. These students can benefit from technology in the classroom. In the past, assistive technology included wheelchairs, visual aids, assisted listening devices, Velcro, etc. In today’s digital age, assistive technology is extremely advanced. With many innovative apps and devices, students have a wider array of assistance than ever before.

New Forms of Technology

iOS devices

iOS devices offer a collection of apps like Live Listen, Guided Access, VoiceOver, Safari Reader and Speak Screen to name a few.

  1. Live Listen assists those with hearing impairments to hear better in crowded, noisy environments by linking hearing aids to a microphone in the phone. The phone can be moved closer to the speaker.
  2. Guided Access helps students with autism and sensory challenges to stay on task by restricting apps and limiting touch input on other parts of the screen. This limits distractions and wandering taps.
  3. VoiceOver offers those with visual disabilities many forms of assistance. It can describe anything that is on the screen from battery life, to what app you are touching, to what you are taking a picture of. It also offers a Braille keyboard.
  4. Safari Reader helps declutter the screen. It eliminates visual overstimulation and creates a single focus.
  5. Speak Screen can help many students by reading websites, messages and books aloud. This can increase comprehension. To watch videos on how some of these apps work, visit https://www.apple.com/accessibility/.

CommunicoTool

According the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children exhibit characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder. ComminicoTool offers non-verbal students a way of communicating. In March of 2017, CommunicoTool had planned to launch a head-tracking tool which will help those with ALS and muscular dystrophy to communicate easier.

Nova Chat

Nova Chat is an assistive option for students with reading disabilities. It allows text to be read aloud and also for speech to be converted to text. The device can be configured to meet the individual needs of a student.

LabQuest2

LabQuest2 gives visually impaired students the ability to perform science labs and collect data independently. It uses a wireless system to collect the data and now offers text-to-speech technology.

Texthelp

Texthelp gives assistance to students in reading and writing at any stage of their educational journey, from Kindergarten through higher education and even into the workplace. Struggling readers in younger grades have the opportunity to record their reading and then receive immediate feedback from a teacher. In higher education, Texthelp assists students with reading and independent study, even improving retention of material. It also helps make the workplace more inclusive by helping those with disabilities to increase their productivity.

Funding

classroom with students using laptops as teacher uses smart boardFinding funding for assistive devices can prove challenging. However, there are options. Some devices are covered by the individual’s insurance plan. School systems have funding set aside to meet needs of individuals. There are government and rehabilitation programs that can provide assistance. Finally, organizations like the ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) provide resource guides for finding funding.

Using assistive technology can benefit students, teachers, school systems and even the workplace, as it prepares students of all ages for an active, successful life.

Read “The 21st Century Classroom Part 1”

Student Comprehension: Creative Ways to Assess What Your Students Really Learn

We all communicate and process information differently. Incorporating only one assessment style is counterintuitive to measuring the accuracy of what a student comprehends. Inspired by the McDonald’s Dollar Menu design, consider incorporating predesigned platforms that allow the student to choose from a menu of assessment options, thereby not overtaxing the educator with hours of extra work and grading.

Ground rulesinstructor assisting female student in class

Students must be trained to use the assessment menu platforms early on in the class. The instructor must model and display instructions both in-class and online for students, parents, and administrators. Developing the assessments should center on Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learning styles (VAK) that utilize technology platforms that will do the “heavy lifting” of grading so that the instructor is not overburdened.

Example Topic – Gravity

Gravity could be used in history classes to discuss the moon landing, in science classes as an experiment, in math classes as the basis for learning formulas, in English classes as the center of writing a nonfiction story, and even in PE to discuss its effects on throwing a baseball. Consider this topic in your subject area and the flexibility of using the following platforms as part of your assessment menu.

Formative/Summative Assessments

Quick response assessments can be as easy as raising of hands but may not accurately reflect the student’s comprehension of the topic. Consider a low tech option, a shower board placed in their hands to demonstrate understanding. Inexpensive and available at your local hardware store, one shower board can be cut into mini dry erase boards that students can use to reply by word, image or both. Digital solutions to gain individual student quick responses can include platforms such as Twitter, Verso and PollEverywhere.

The Formative/Summative Assessment Platform Menu

Traditional Auditory Visual Kinesthetic The Wildcard
Multiple choice, true or false, essay, all can be given on paper or online for students that are comfortable with the traditional method of assessment. Quia is an online platform that grades your exams, provides multiple student accommodations and has a simple and easy to use interface. Assessment through words can be a lifesaver for many students that are willing to use a cellphone or Google Docs Dictation. Provide audio prompts in which the student can express their responses either in audio format or through dictation software. Android (Google), Apple, and MS Word all provide free dictation applications. Visual assessment helps students to display what they know through images such as graphic novels, comic books, animations, and slideshows.

YouTube, Animoto,  
Snapchat, PPT

Assessment through action can provide students the opportunity to express mundane topics into creative masterpieces.

From posters to pottery, even music can be mastered and recorded free online with platforms like Audiotools and Jamstudio.  

Student Choice

This menu section is purposely left blank as an option for future student, parent, and administrative suggestions.

 

Assessment Design and Student Choice

Designing each menu item for every unit may seem like a daunting task but it really does not have to be. Consider writing a standard test of multiple choice, true and false, essay, short answer, and fill in the blank. The same methodology of thought used for those five separate and distinct assessment options can be translated into the Formative/Summative Assessment Menu items.

Designing each unit may have a different number of questions and levels of rigor per menu item. Consequently, students should be prepared to choose 2, 3, or possibly 4 menu items to show complete mastery. Students are more apt to be engaged, motivated, and try their best when they are given choices based on their learning strengths and preferred styles.

Creating a Positive Experience for Volunteers

Enlisting volunteers in the classroom comes with multifaceted benefits. Research shows volunteers increase the connection between home and school, ease the teacher’s load, help children achieve more, and improve community-school relations. 

Here are basic guidelines that elevate the experience for volunteers, teacher, and students: 

Finding Help

First and foremost, evaluate whom to seek help from to volunteer, given that every student has different needs:

  • Parents, grandparents and care givers. Start with the student’s family. Parents have a variety of skill sets, experiences and careers that can benefit students. Encourage parents to be a part in whatever capacity their life allows.
  • College students. Contact a local college. If the college or university offers an education major, begin there. Speak with the department chair and ask if they would be willing to tell students of the opportunity to volunteer in your classroom.
  • Other options. Get involved in PTA meetings and other events at the school in order to meet others who may be willing to volunteer. Local businesses and seniors are other avenues for finding help.

First Steps

One you find help, it is important to:

  • Get to know your volunteers. Find out their background and experience, what they enjoy and how much time they can commit.
  • Get organized. Being organized is key. Volunteers tend to lose interest when there is down time and their skills are not being appropriately utilized. Remember, their time is valuable and they are offering it as a gift to the classroom. Be respectful of that by having tasks prepared and ready for them when they get there.
  • Think outside of the classroom box. Just because a parent cannot help in the classroom during school hours does not mean that parent cannot volunteer. Create a task list of things parents can do at home. For example, cutting out laminations, cleaning and filling glue bottles, or maintaining a class website or newsletter.

Tips for Creating a Positive Experience

  • Take time for training. Training takes away guesswork and makes a volunteer’s time more effective. Although many districts offer volunteer training, it is important to set up a time to train a volunteer specifically for their role. Training helps nip potential problems from the beginning and helps things run more smoothly.
  • Match up volunteers with activities that fit their skill set. male instructor encouraging young students as they drawA volunteer will be more apt to stay if they are 
    engaged and passionate about what they are doing. If cleaning is their gift, then use them to tidy the room, disinfect areas, sort and straighten books, etc. For those volunteers who like more individualized hands on with the students, offer activities like tutoring individuals, helping students with projects, or providing editing help on writing assignments. Taking the extra time in the beginning to match volunteers with tasks that fit their personality will be a greater benefit in the long run. Using tools like Survey Monkey or volunteer skill inventory lists can help in assembling this information.
  • Keep communication lines open and strong. Touch base with the volunteers regularly to see what is working and what is not. Be sure to communicate clearly and concisely. Also discuss timelines, classroom rules and routines, and school policies.
  • Be encouraging and thankful. Remind the volunteer of the difference they are making. No task is menial. In whatever way they choose to help, makes for a more positive environment. Even something simple like easing transition times can increase teaching time. Thank the volunteers for their time and effort each time they help. Showing a volunteer value enriches their lives. Studies show that volunteering reduces depression and stress by making a person feel involved because they are given a sense of purpose.

By engaging volunteers in the classroom, a team system is created that benefits the students, volunteers, teachers, school and community.

The 21st Century Classroom

Children working with technology in the classroomTechnology in the Classroom

With technology becoming an integral part of our world, it can be valuable to teachers and students alike. The ultimate goal of schools, from elementary to higher education, is to produce lifelong learners and successful students who are prepared for the workplace. Technology can help educators meet that goal in a creative and motivating way.

There are 7 key advantages of using technology to improve a student’s classroom experience.

  1. Teachers are facilitators

    Teachers can use technology to facilitate learning instead of lecturing. As a facilitator, a teacher’s focus is to guide the students in their learning. When teachers facilitate learning, students become active participants leading to increased comprehension and application of the material. Students learn at a higher level as they make connections to real life experiences and discover how to become more of an independent learner.

  2. Learning is student focused

    Student focused learning allows students to make decisions about their learning. It gives them a say in planning, goal setting, and assessment. As they become engaged in these processes, it helps the students take ownership of their learning. This type of classroom learning best simulates real world situations as students track their own progress and become more self-reliant.

  3. Learning is active and engaging

    When students are encouraged to take an active role in learning, they are more likely to retain the knowledge they’ve accumulated and build essential skills that will accelerate their learning toward college preparations and career readiness.

  4. Lessons can be enhanced

    Teachers can use technology to supplement the work with activities that can be customized and focused on a student’s problem areas. Technology can also allow a teacher to personalize the work so it more closely matches the student’s learning style. If students want to go further in depth on a subject than the textbook allows, a quick connection to the internet offers a wide variety of information accessible at the click of a button.

  5. Learning is adaptive

    All students are unique. They learn at various paces and also process things differently. Technology encourages learning to be more adaptive in order to help students maximize their unique styles of learning. Technology in the classroom also lets students learn at their own pace. By allowing students to be self-paced, more learning can occur since it is tailored to the student’s level. Adaptive learning is also valuable because it assesses students, gives immediate results and personalizes learning based on the assessment. There are various adaptive learning programs teachers can use in the classroom, like Dreambox, I Ready, and Knewton.

  6. Captures student’s attention

    Students today live in a technology driven generation. Students are intrigued with technology outside of the classroom, so bringing it into the classroom brings with it a sense of familiarity and interest. It helps pique student’s interest and makes learning more fun for them.

  7. Teaches skills for the future

    With technology all around us, many jobs have a digital aspect to them that they didn’t have 30 years ago. Using technology in the classroom in collaborative ways helps build teamwork practices that will aid students in the workplace. It prepares students to manage projects, think critically and problem solve, all of which will help in real life scenarios.

For more ideas of ways to incorporate technology check out https://www.edsurge.com/e/summits for a list of companies.  

Technology is changing the way we live and work. Technology has the ability to enhance a child’s tomorrow. Therefore, as we prepare students for their future, it is important to integrate technology into the learning process.

Learn more about technology in the classroom in “The 21st Century Classroom Part 2” 

Gaming in the Classroom

five happy students looking at ipad together in a classroomAs technology becomes a more integral part of the classroom, teachers are finding gaming to be a fun way of improving student achievement.

According to Forbes, gaming has been shown to increase metacognitive skills. Metacognition is basically being aware of your thinking. Many games created for the classroom have metacognitive skills built into them. As student’s metacognitive skills improve so does their academic skills. Research has shown that students who played educational games as part of their average school day had a deeper knowledge of the curriculum. Students also become more productive and self-reliant.

Gaming encourages repetition using sight, sound, and touch, which improves memory of a skill as the brain makes connections during the process.

Gaming also motivates students to want to learn. It makes learning more fun and engaging and improves collaboration skills. It is not just for younger students, gaming is revolutionizing the higher education classroom as well.

Elementary Gaming

  • Diffission. Diffission is a math game aligned with Common Core. Students earn the title of ‘Diffusionist’ by dissolving and slicing through blocks as they learn about fractions. It records student’s progression so teachers can note student’s problem areas. Teachers can assess students as they progress through the game. The company, Filament Learning, who created this game, will also design games customized specifically to the needs of your school or district.
  • Timez Attack. Timez Attack is an engaging game that teaches students to master multiplication. It has built-in assessment and fluency skills to make sure students quickly recognize the answer to problems. Imagine Learning, owner of Timez Attack, offers many other viable gaming options for the classroom.

Middle School Gaming

  • Classcraft. Classcraft is a fantasy themed classroom management tool. Its main goal is to encourage teamwork and collaboration through role playing. Classcraft is set up by the teacher and is meant to be used the entire year. All characters have different strengths and weaknesses so that the only way students can be successful at this game is to work together. Teachers can set up the game to fit their classroom style and needs. Students can earn or lose points based on behavior in the classroom. For example, a teacher may make coming late to class worth a 10 point deduction or answering a question in class worth a 30 point addition. Teachers can also build quizzes and review for tests as part of the game in the form of Boss Battles. Classcraft is designed for students from grades 4-12.
  • Citizen Science. Citizen Science is a free, online game that encourages problem solving and critical thinking in science. Students have to figure out how to save a lake that is being polluted, encouraging the growth of algae. Students have to apply their knowledge of ecology to solve real world issues. The game is based off of a lake in Wisconsin.

High School Gaming

  • iCivics. iCivics offers free, online games to teach students to be civic minded. Former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to create students who were better informed civically. The goal is for students to become active citizens who participate in the democratic process. Besides the online gaming, iCivics provides teachers with creative and free resources to use as curriculum along with the games.

Higher Ed Gaming

  • Foldit. Foldit was created by the University of Washington so anyone could have input in their research on protein folding. With over 200,000 players online, gamers are not just about having fun, but are actually making advances in biochemistry. People can compete individually or on teams. Players get the opportunity to create new proteins which could prevent or treat diseases.
  • Toolwire. Toolwire has writing games which prepare students for career success. Colleges like Broward College in Miami have been successful using this simulation in their English Composition classes. The programs have the students take on the role of a junior staff writer. As people work to develop content for the virtual broadcast, they learn paragraph construction, grammar, revision, and citation skills. The success of the virtual newscast is dependent on the person’s performance, which is assessed by the game.

Games can be a fun way to learn simple or complex skills. They can provide students with problems to solve and goals to achieve. They can be created to assess students using specific and measureable objectives. Gaming brings technology to a new level in the classroom and makes learning more active and engaging.