Using Digital Technology With Learners With Special Needs: How Can We Decide What Works?
Karen L. Mahon, Ed.D. (Balefire Labs)
Karen Mahon is a learning scientist and educational psychologist whose expertise is in instructional design and behavior change programs. She is also an adviser to the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. Dr. Mahon holds a BA from the University of California, San Diego, an MA and Ed.D. in educational psychology, with a graduate minor in the experimental analysis of behavior, from West Virginia University, and a Certificate in Product Management from the University of California at Berkeley. She has spent the past 15-plus years in education technology and instructional software. After graduate school, she was a research faculty member at the University of Kansas Parsons Research Center before moving to the private sector. For almost 10 years she wrote grants, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to support the design and development of educational software for the most difficult-to-teach kids, those with severe developmental disabilities. Following that, she spearheaded the global digital content strategy for a manufacturer of classroom technology hardware products, Mimio Interactive Teaching Technologies. Dr. Mahon is now the president and founder of Balefire Labs (www.balefirelabs.com), an online educational app review service that helps parents and teachers identify apps that provide the best instruction. Balefire Labs utilizes rigorous, research-based, instructional, and usability design criteria to review mobile apps for grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
Abstract: The explosion of education technology products holds great promise for learners with special needs. Modern technologies can teach learners with the greatest needs new skills, provide opportunities for practice, application, and problem solving, and allow collaboration with others in the classroom or across the globe. Teachers can see, in real time, what students have learned or still need to know. But with hundreds of thousands of possible solutions (there are more than 115,000 educational apps in iTunes alone), how do teachers and parents know what products are worth buying for their learners? This session will focus on one of the most popular education technology categories today—mobile educational apps. The most important features of apps for special needs learners will be discussed, along with how to identify the presence or absence of those features.
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