This summer, I completed EPSE 410, a super-amazingly fantastic course on the use of technology in special education. In this course, I discovered all sorts of tools developed specifically for students who had different types of sight, hearing, communication or developmental disabilities. I learned about the importance of creating a thorough and robust implementation plan. This involves determining the needs of the student in question, selecting the best technology to help them, planning training sessions for parents, teachers and the student, among other things. I also learned that technology developed for special education is often extremely expensive because of all of the research and deveopment that goes into making these tools as useful as possible for the student, and most effective in the long run.
Unfortunately, apps are being developed by people who are not necessarily trained in education, psychology or treatment of various disabilities. These apps are competing against the much more expensive and more effective technologies that are available. It is scary, then, to see images like this: https://twitter.com/sjunkins/status/246784029519667201/photo/1/large
The image in the link above offers the promise of apps for special education at a lower cost, and there is only one feeeble statement about their effectiveness. There is no mention of technology being part of a comprehensive education program.
Some of these apps may be amazingly effective. However, a lot may not be, and parents and teachers may underestimate the importance of planning when integrating new technology into a child’s education program. If the plan fails, the student may get frustrated with the technology or education and time will be wasted. We all know that educational resources are limited, so we can’t afford to use what appear to be simple solutions without thinking through our options.
My point, to generalize to all forms of technology, is that any tool is only useful if we know how to use it properly (which sometimes involves R&D) and for appropriate purposes. Technology alone is never the answer.