The teacher I interviewed for my reflection is named Mr. David Antonelli. Along with being my neighbor, Mr. Antonelli is a Special Education teacher at Nipmuc Regional High School. I asked him some questions about his use of technology in his classroom and then reflected on his responses. Questions are indicated by Q, answers by A, and my reflective thoughts by R:
Q: What kind of technology is available to you and your students every day? Is the technology use 1 to 1 and does every student have access to a technological tool?
A: Each of our students have iPads with many of the same apps that all high school students use, like Notability so we can email them documents that they can respond to right on their devices. We use Google docs and IXL like other students in the class. We use apps like iDress for Weather, GroceryIQ, Interview app, and have a Weebly classroom website where everything is posted for them. Academically we use IXL for instruction in all areas of functional math and reading, iDiary to answer what they would do in certain
real life situations, and news2 you app for current events weekly, and specific reading apps for leveled reading comprehension. We use a Tobii language system with retinal scan for one of our students to communicate with us as well. We consult with a woman working for East Seals that sets up meaningful apps and program for our students to access in and out of school.
We use iPads donated thru Flutie Foundation at our vocational worksites for apps like a timecard program to punch in and out of as well as a social studies app that allows the kids to see short videos that outline tasks step by step (to sort clothes and hang them, to set up cafe making coffee,..)
We use secure computers linked to the Natick Army Labs to look up contracts written by companies working with the army to provide supplies and goods to the troops overseas.
R: I think it is great that Mr. Antonelli is integrating so much technology in his classroom. I really like how his students use a lot of the same apps and tools that regular education students use as well. It seems like they use organizational tools such as Notability and Weebly so the students can easily access their work inside and outside of class. He not only uses technology tools for academic purposes, but he also uses them for real world scenarios as well, which I am sure greatly benefits his students who have a wide range of disabilities; these tools can help them in the real world as they become adults. It is great that all students have iPads and that Mr. Antonelli seems very knowledgeable about which tools are most beneficial to meet the needs of his students.
Q: How does technology use in your classroom differentiate instruction for students with special needs? Is it beneficial to their learning or not?
A: Very beneficial… we are able to use the technology to have the kids use things like Apple TV to show their responses as well as their peers on the wide screen so they learn how they can answer things in many different ways and can see how other high school students answer as well. Lessons can then be modified to their instructional level. Kids show their parents the class website for upcoming events, class outings and monthly get together as well as pictures of things we do during our day.
R: It seems as though technology integration works extremely well for Mr. A’s students to differentiate instruction, make real world connections and applications, and see how other high school students respond to the same questions they are being asked. Their use of technology also keeps the student’s parents informed about what the students are learning and doing in their classes day to day, which is a great form of communication.
Here is a video explaining some of the pros and cons of using iPads in special education classrooms:
Q: What technologies have you found that work really well in your classroom for your students?
A: Websites and apps geared to daily living skills (for recipes and cooking directions, doing laundry, making a bed…) and websites and apps geared to transitional skills (how to fill out apps and government forms, personal data forms).
R: As helpful as academic technologies can be to his students, Mr. A will not be their teacher forever, so he thinks it is very important to teach them basic life skills that they will carry with them after high school. It seems like these kinds of apps could not only be helpful to students with disabilities or special needs, but also to general education students as well! I would be much more informed about how to fill out government forms or personal data forms if I had practice through technology. Tools that he uses such as Grocery IQ and more are technologies that can really help his students develop life skills, and it is really neat how he integrates that into his curriculum.
Q: Are there any technologies you have found that do not work well in your classroom?
A: No, when it’s something that doesn’t apply to us we look for something alternate that can help us in other ways at our level of understanding.
R: Mr. A seems very confident and comfortable with the technology his students use in his classroom. He knows how to find the best technologies for his students and I think that is a quality that is difficult and takes time to acquire, but every 21st century teacher should have. When something does not fit well, he simply tosses it aside and moves on instead of confusing or frustrating his students (or himself!).
Q: Do you have easy access to an IT person if the technology fails or if you need assistance?
A: Yes, on site building IT workers as well as a very good relationship with IT staff in Milford at Avatar Computers which service our program (as well as computers we work with at Natick Army Labs and their east coast IT dept.)
R: I think it is great that Mr. A has a good relationship with Nipmuc’s IT staff and also the staff that service his program. These relationships are something that will only benefit him and his students, because if he is having trouble or needs an explanation, he can easily contact these people who are trained to help solve any technology problems he may face.
Q: Are your students required to use technology in your classroom? If so, how often do you use technology in your class?
A: Yes just like typical high school students. We use technology daily in each period.
R: It’s great that Mr. A’s students get to have the same experience as the rest of the high school students at Nipmuc. This makes them feel included and they also get to develop their technological skills through all the different apps and tools they use on a day-to-day basis for all different subjects. Before this interview, I knew that all the general education students were using iPads, but I was unsure if the students with special needs used them, too. I am glad that they are using so much technology, because from Mr. A’s feedback, it seems to be working well and is a great benefit for them. The ample amount of technological tools they have access to through their iPads, computers, and more help them organize, write, practice, and overall learn more effectively in each class they take.
Click here to read an interesting article about a very special job that Mr. Antonelli’s students get to partake in that helps the government! Quotes from Mr. A are found in the article.