Technology has transformed a host of industries since its creation, specifically education. Yahoo reports that the global EdTech market projects to reach $181.3 billion by 2025, with a 16.1% average growth year-over-year. The numbers used to be much smaller, but the pandemic has called for the rapid adoption of smart classrooms and eLearning solutions, fueling the need for new online teaching-learning models.
Enabling distance learning
The 2020’s pandemic has led to a global need for distance learning technologies. And luckily, many educational tech tools were already in place—their capacity just needed extra adjusting to accommodate the volume of users. Software like Google Classroom and Adobe Connect aims to emulate the traditional classroom experience, with screen sharing features, virtual whiteboards, and even a chat room for students to interact with other students.
The activity has begun to be more inclusive for students with disabilities. Laura Nota, a professor at the Department of Applied Psychology at the University of Padova, shares how her school has ensured that teachers have the necessary assistive technology tools to even the playing field for their students with special needs. For instance, those with trouble hearing had the online stenotype service. It contained the transcriptions of all their classes.
Bridging the communication gap
Not every student is the same kind of learner, and those with special needs often require extra help keeping up with the lessons. Fortunately, technology is here to help with this aspect as well. Since 2012, the Lawrence school district in New York has been providing their students with free iPads and internet access to enrich their classroom experience. As a pathologist for the district and director of Maryville University’s speech therapy program, Meaghan Goodman has been taking advantage of this opportunity to help her young students communicate. Her department uses tablets that have been installed with videos, text-to-speech tools, and voice recognition apps, to help students understand and express their words better (see below video). In addition, AAC Apps( Augmented, Alternative, Communication) like Touch Chat and JABtalk can also facilitate communication for children with limited expressive language ability.https://web.archive.org/web/20210304065608if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/xVJSUfdK1nM?feature=oembed
Immersing Students Through VR Technology
Virtual reality (VR) has many applications from gaming to workplace training and education. VR technology is utilized in classrooms to increase student engage in learning and communication. A great example of this is Microsoft’s Immersive Reader—a collection of tools that help readers learn a new language. While it’s used in many English and other language classes, education reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard and columnist for EdTech Magazine’s classroom beat, Micah Castelo, notes how this VR tool is also designed to support students with dyslexia and dysgraphia. In a space-like environment, the user can focus on pronouncing texts by the syllable.
Teachers have also used VR to conduct virtual field trips. An article on Good Housekeeping has listed over 40 trips you can consider taking your students on, such as the American Museum of Natural History, Bright Farms, and the Atlanta Zoo. Incidentally, VR is also a great way to add a change of scenery to your lessons.
Assisting With Reading:
Reading comprehension isn’t the easiest skill to teach, especially to excitable young kids. However, if the activity was made more interactive and enjoyable, they might be more willing to sit down and learn. Reading apps like Blake’s Reading Egg, FarFaria, and Epic are good assistants to start introducing to young children. They’re equipped with colorful pictures, audio feedback, and other features that can make reading more immersive. Bluebee Pals interactive learning tools connect to any smart device and assist with lessons by speaking the prompts or providing words of encouragement. A huggable plush companion that creates a reassuring and nurturing learning setting at home or school. Bluebee Pals pair with all apps offering unlimited access to special needs, reading, and educational apps promoting literacy and communication. Students watching sing-along or nursery rhymes apps or vidoes can enhance memory and recall at a faster pace. If you can find those accompanied by subtitles that can be ideal.http://bluebeepals.com
Helping Parents Stay Connected
Technology isn’t just used to help kids with their classroom activities—parents and guardians can use it to track their children’s progress too. Several types of software can help with this. One is ParentSquare—an app that streamlines the communication between parents, teachers, and administrators. Whether it’s school-wide announcements or personal remarks on students, ParentSquare ensures that parents and guardians are always in the loop. On the other hand, classroom management tools like Edmodo for Parents are there for easy access to student’s academic performance, from the scores of their tests to which subjects they need help with. For parents and guardians interested in providing supplementary help to their kids, especially if they have special needs, these tools can allow for collaborations with teachers to provide the best education possible. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/parentsquare/id908126679
Technology has created a diverse variety of educational tools, from helping students form sentences to allowing parents to be an active participants in their children’s academics.
Exclusively Written for bluebeepals.com By Jessie Bugg
I am an occupational therapist in New Jersey who, through my colleagues and research, discovered the Bluebee Pals Project. I currently work for Parsippany Troy-Hills School District in New Jersey, which includes ten elementary schools with various special education classrooms, ABA programs, preschool disabled programs, and many more.
Our school district is currently enrolling students for in-person as well as virtual schooling. The Parsippany Troy-Hills School District is a K-12 district with fourteen schools serving approximately 7200 students in ten elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and an adult education center. The community served by the district is ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse. https://www.pthsd.k12.nj.us
As a therapist, my responsibilities include treating my students both in-person and via teletherapy. I have been struggling to create new and engaging sessions for my students. After researching Bluebee Pals as an assistive technology tool to utilize in my sessions, I focused my efforts on an opportunity to receive a donation from the Bluebee Pal Project for our special needs classrooms containing a large population of children with autism. Thinking outside the box versus conventional educational channels is essential when working with special needs children at an early age. Bluebee Pals ability to connect with children is an effective and affordable educational tool that perpetuates positive results in communication and literacy
The Bluebee Pal Project donated 8 Bluebee Pals to our occupational and speech therapists for ten districts to implement in school and remote therapy. The Bluebee Pals website provides a host of practical resources for educators and therapists on their tutorial page and free educational materials to promote user-friendly applications. The Bluebee Pal Project collaborates with schools and organizations by requesting feedback through testimonials, blogs, videos, and photos to share with educators, therapists, and parents.https://www.bluebeepals.com/tutorials/
Specifically, I have started using Leo the Lion with my preschoolers with disabilities and see the incredible results with engagement in our programs. Our therapists will contribute feedback through testimonials and share it on our social media platforms in the coming months. We are honored to be a participant in the Bluebee Pal Project and grateful for this special gift to our students!
Remote schooling using the virtual model is hard! My son is a first-grader and lost part of the last school year when schools closed due to COVID-19. He struggles with telling time, staying on task
We have tried using Alexa to set timers. I also like the visual timer in Time Timer (iPhone, iPad, Android) because it provides both a visual and timer you can use out loud. Time Timer app is currently free as of the time of this post. It’s great because you can set it up in advance with timers, to make your child more independent. It also provides a visual cue with the red shrinking as time counts down to completion. I find this app especially helpful when it’s break time, lunch/recess time during remote learning to provide a visual for my son as he tries to figure out how much time he has left. In addition to the visual, it also displays the time. We also use this during independent reading (10 minutes) to make sure when my son takes his eyes off the screen, that he comes back to his virtual learning on time.
Bluebee to help during school He especially enjoys using Hudson the Puppy and Sammy the Bear. He can use it as a sensory item or we can Bluetooth it to his Chromebook or iPad to speak the words in the classroom. Other families have used a cardboard poster board or a box to help them set up a school “environment” for their children.
Remote Learning setup at home One of the ways that we help to prepare for the day of remote learning is to create a schedule, provide reinforcers for completing tasks, and making sure we have everything all set for the day. We also organize items by subject to make it easier to find them when the class transitions to the next material. We try to use bookmarks in order to make it easier to open up in packets and workbooks the next day. Whenever possible and especially with my older son, we use Google Drive or scan items to keep electronic items rather than paper items. https://www.bluebeepals.com
Independent Reading Tech Style At independent reading time during remote schooling, my son will often use Bluebee Pal Leo the Lion to help us read aloud. This way, he can snuggle with Sammy and we can read aloud on the pages while tapping out words as needed. Our school uses Fundations which encourage kids to tap out words to determine if the book is hard or easy. Our library has curbside pickup during COVID-19, we can work with the librarian to get books that are “just right” and that interest my son. I also love trying audiobooks with my son so he can independently listen and then look at the words on the pages while finding sight words and items he recognizes. We also love bringing Hudson with us and listening to audiobooks in the car which I check out from our local library and then play via my phone and with our Bluebee Pal. Hudson provides a huggable stuffed animal who speaks the voice of the audiobook reader, support during reading, even someone for kids to talk to.
“I am a special education teacher at The Princeton House Charter School in Orlando, Florida, working in the education field, specifically students with Autism Spectrum Disorder for over seven years. The special education field has provided opportunities to utilize a variety of educational resources and assistive technology. One of these technologies is the Bluebee Pal Tech Companions, compatible with all IOS and Apple devices via Bluetooth.
It’s essential to be flexible in the special education field, but this school year, the pandemic brought on unprecedented challenges in teaching our students. I am teaching students in the classroom and others through virtual instruction. During these difficult and unknown times, many students can become uncomfortable with all the unfamiliarity and sudden changes. Bluebee Pals educational tools maintain a sense of comfort and familiarity with my students. Bluebee performs as a teaching assistant and allows our students to interact with a plush animal who can read, sing, ask questions, and even answer phone calls.”
Bluebee Pals Beneficial to Teaching in the Classroom.
“When I was introduced to Bluebee Pals, I was impressed by the warming and comfortable presence in our classroom. Bluebee Pal has succeeded in its job by engaging and comforting the students this year. Every educator must discover new and inventive educational resources that entertain and motivate them during virtual learning. When working on the other side of the computer screen, it becomes difficult to engage your students with the educational resources you would ordinarily use in a face to face classroom setting. This year, my school team has found many beneficial resources for virtual learning and compatible with Bluebee Pal.” http://bluebeepals.com
Applying Digital Tools in Education
Boom Cards are interactive, self-checking, and digital tools that can be used in the classroom or for the whole group and individual learning. When working with boom cards, they display only one question at a time, with multiple ways to answer. The student or teacher can select an answer choice, type, or drag the answers depending on the activity. Also, many of the cards will read the questions aloud to the students. Boom cards is an interactive digital tool that can be paired with Bluebee Pals by asking the questions aloud to the students.
GetEpic.com is another great tool to use with and without virtual teaching. I have used GetEpic.com for three years now. The website consists of many published books that are well known. Many of the books have the read to me option. There are educational videos, and quizzes that go along with some of the books.Bluebee Pals is a great educational tool that can be used with GetEpic online, especially for the read to me books. You can hit the play button on the read to me books, Bluebee Pal will read the book aloud to the students while the GetEpic book turns by itself on the digital screen.The students enjoy the books being read aloud by Bluebee Pal instead of the teacher.
Twinkl is a digital educational tool that our school recently discovered for the virtual and face to face learning. Twinkl has resources for all ages and grade levels consisting of lesson bundles, assessments, interactive PowerPoints, and stories. It provides educational resources that can be used as supplemental work for the classroom as well. Bluebee Pals, paired with Twinkl, increases students’ motivation to complete the activities. Bluebee Pal can read the stories to the students, parts of the text or activities that can be read aloud.
Lastly, Starfall is a fun and interactive digital website for elementary-aged students. It consists of fun videos, stories, calendar activities, mathematics, and letters, and reading activities. The students really enjoy Bluebee Pal paired with Starfall. Bluebee Pal will sing the songs, read the stories, and ask questions aloud to the students.
Bluebee Pal has been extremely beneficial in the classroom before virtual learning, especially now when schools teach remotely. It is imperative to find educational and digital tools to capture, engage, and motivate the students. By connecting to a diverse selection of digital teaching tools, they provide educators with a teacher assistant who inspires learning, encourages communication, and add comfort and familiarity during virtual learning.
RECOMMENDED RESOURCES WITH BLUEBEE PALS
**Carissa Savoy, Special Education Teacher Princeton Houe Charter School Orlando, FL
Bluebee Pals app is an interactive app which brings your Bluebee Pal to life! No Bluebee Pal is needed to use the app or you can use your own Bluebee Pal. The app features activities of daily living like bathing, brushing teeth and washing hands this app can also be used to help your children understand the steps necessary to complete tasks.
The app features four rooms each with specific tasks: living room where you can tap on objects to hear their names; kitchen where you can eat a meal or have a snack; bedroom where your Bluebee takes off their shoes and goes to sleep; bathroom where your Bluebee Pal takes a shower, dries off, brushes their teeth and more!
The playroom has fun educational games including ABC’s, puzzles, building a robot, racing cars, find your Bluebee, matching colors and more! In a parental gated area there are access to suggested apps to use with your Bluebee Pal, resources on ways to use your Bluebee Pal with your children, app reviews and more. App encourages role play, use of imagination and allows kids to explore with no time limits!
I created a document with a list of speech and language goals and how to incorporate this app during speech and language sessions. To learn more, look at this document below!
10 Speech and Language Goals when using the Bluebee App
Teletherapy & the Bluebee Pals App
Many people ask me how to connect their iPad to their computer. There are several ways to do this!
I found the easiest way via an app called Smart Mirror. With this paid app, I can mirror my iPad in any virtual platform.
The Bluebee App is fun and interactive and wonderful, which is ideal for teletherapy. Here are some tips:
Have your mirroring up and ready for screen share.
Begin by choosing a Bluebee Pal. This is a perfect opportunity for your child/student to either use their speech and/or AAC communication device.
Enter your name! Ask your child/student either spell their name (great literacy opportunity) via verbalization or their AAC communication system.
Choose your favorite color. Worked on creating sentences by modeling, “My favorite color is _____.” This is also an opportunity for choice making and commenting.
What activity will you begin with? I use annotation via zoom to circle choices. If you are using google meet, you can go through the choices verbally. I use custom cursor (free as add-on) which can also be very helpful!
Then choose a room for your daily activity. Since you are mirroring the screen, your child/student will have either verbalize the room they want or use their talker to tell you. When in the room, encourage your child/student to communicate different actions such as “open”, “get up”, “close”, “eat”, “drink”, etc.
Play the games on Bluebee app! There are so many ways to play this via teletherapy. For example, in one game you need to “find the bluebee pal”. This can be a great way to work on language that describes where Bluebee is such as “next to”, “up”, “down”, etc.
White Plains Elementary School(Anniston, AL) is honored to receive the Bluebee Pals Project donation of Bluebee Pals educational tools. As a participant, we provide feedback and testimonials on the impact of technology in our speech therapy programs. This donation is an exciting opportunity to introduce Bluebee Pals, a creative form of assistive technology, into our classrooms and home settings. Katrina Ginn: SLP, White Plains Elementary School, Anniston, AL –https://www.bluebeepals.com/about-us/
WORKING IN SCHOOLS AND PROVIDING SPEECH SERVICES
For the past 25 years, I have been a school-based speech-language pathologist in public schools. My journey has been rewarding working in school-based services that provide therapy to various student populations. I work with children as soon as they turn three years old, and students can stay in school with speech services until they are 21 years old. I currently have students from 3 years old to 19 years old in my programs. In addition to the students who attend my school, I work with preschool children before they come to school, as well as students in our preschool classrooms at my elementary school.
Just as the ages range greatly, so do the disabilities of the children. My students are working on producing speech sounds correctly to make their speech more understandable. Many of my students have autism or language delays in skills that we take for granted. These students focus on learning conversational turn taking, new vocabulary/concepts, providing appropriate answers and learning to ask their own questions.
MOTIVATING SPEECH WITH BLUEBEE PALS
Some of my students are learning about fluency control techniques to make their speech more smooth. The variety of age and disability varies when providing services as a school-based speech pathologist. So many of my younger students are motivated to practice new skills with the Bluebee Pals assistive technology tools. Young children learn faster when learning is fun and play-oriented. Play is the natural state for preschool and young children, so the Bluebee Pals fit right in with this therapy setting.
We are utilizing Bluebee Pals in the speech room, in two preschool classrooms, and a self-contained classroom for children with significant disabilities, including autism. In the speech sessions, our objectives are on comprehension skills using story apps. In articulation therapy, we use them for modeling the target word and also recording the child’s attempt for playback in speech apps like Articulation Station. http://bluebeepals.com
CONVERSATIONS AND INTERACTIVE PLAY
The students practice their words with the Bluebee–the Bluebee listens in this activity, but the children love to practice saying their words to Bluebee and give better effort knowing the Bluebee is listening. I am working toward using text-to-speech to reward/encourage them during this activity. We are also using it for conversational and social skills with students who have a social language delay.
They learn to take conversational turns and participate in interactive play, which is essential for language development. The students love the Bluebee Pals! In the classrooms, we are still in the introductory stage and using them primarily with storybook applications and songs. I have sent the teachers your information with ideas to use across the curriculum and we will continue to use them in different ways in the classroom. https://www.bluebeepals.com/bluebee-pals-project-participants/
Thank you again for this wonderful donation to our school and students! Katrina Ginn: Speech-Language Pathologist, White Plains Elementary School, Anniston, AL