New Flipped Tools for Students with Disabilities and Limited Access to Technology

“Tools we would have historically called ‘assistive technology’ are now available on iTunes.” ~ Patricia Wright

When considering flipped classrooms, there are a few functions or items not clarified.  How can flipped classrooms offer differentiated instruction for students with disabilities such as a speech impairment? What can flipped classroom teachers do with students who lack technological resources at home? Whether considering students with disabilities or students with limited or not access to technology at home, Bridget McCrea shows great apps on the iPad and how a teacher uses flipped classroom instruction for students with limited access to technology in her article “Flipping the Classroom for Students with Special Needs”.

  • Students with Speech Impairments

    In what ways can students with a speech impairment, some of whom are unable to speak, respond to a teacher’s flipped classroom lesson? These students may take an online course or hybrid course. In the Cornwall-Lebanon School District, students with speech impairments use a DynaVox at school, but not when collaborating listening or responding to a teacher’s flipped classroom lesson.

Courtesy of Turning Point Technology. DynaVox has been an assistive technology tool used by some schools for students with speech disorders. One is available in Withers’ ITC.

Unlike DynaVox, which students do not take home, Proloquo2 is an app on the iPad, which allows students to respond to teachers and classmates in an online environment. McCrea writes if a flipped classroom has an interactive part, the student can respond using his or her iPad. The lesson and the app work on the same device.

This is another form of writing. Since the student’s vocal communication is limited, he or she can textually express him or herself using Proloquo2 or a similar app. The app works better than the DynaVox I’ve seen in the ITC because it will change verb tense according to a noun or sentence. Students have more control over what they want to say.

The downside

While not as expensive as a DynaVox, the Proloquo2 is not your average 99 cents app. According to McCrea, the app costs $219.99 (para. 2). Cost is always something online and f2f teachers must consider before jumping on board.

The other disadvantage of an app like Proloquo2 is that not every student has an iPad assigned to him or her by the school district. Not every student has Internet access at home, which limits the involvement of a student with speech impairment.

  • Solutions for Students with Limited or No Access

One of the most significant reasons for reading McCrea’s article is because she helps teachers considering flipped classrooms to think about non-traditional students. Non-traditional student incorporates kids with disabilities, exceptional, or from low economic backgrounds. How can flipped classroom lessons benefit all students? She uses the example of National Teacher’s Academy. According to McCrea, 90 percent of the school’s students are “eligible for free or reduced lunch – and as such, [do not] always have access to technology outside of school …” (para. 7). Teacher, Melissa Hausser, uses flipped classroom lessons, but she adapts them for her students.

In order to facilitate students’ working, she uses a center method. Since there are not iPads for every student, a larger group of students watch a lesson in class on the iPad while Hausser works with a group of five (McCrea para. 8). I had not thought of ways of using flipped classroom lessons in class, but Hausser’s example provides a hybrid example which may work for students with limited access to computers at home. I think using flipped lessons in class may also help students with disabilities because the teacher will work with them in a small group. By using a center method, the flipped lesson in class may also help students feel like they’re receiving one-on-one attention. That is reinforced when students move into a small group to work with the teacher. The students receive one-on-one attention from the teacher in an online forum, and then during small group instruction. This may help students feel more comfortable with the teacher’s role in technology.

  • Assistive Technology to Apps: Closing Thoughts

Assistive technology has been used in the classroom for everything from remedial reading to DynaVox. While helpful, assistive technology is also expensive. For example, McCrea writes that a DynaVox costs $6,000 (para. 2). Gasp, what? While low tech assistive technology is inexpensive, other items like DynaVox will leave moths in a school’s purse. As McCrea also discusses, other assistive technology migrates to apps and online program.

For example, my bosses  wanted my student to use a math computer program from a ten year old CD. None of the newer laptops would accept this CD. Educational programs, like the program provided on the CD, are now apps or they are provided through online sites like IXL.

What educators, like Hausser, will find out involves including flipped classroom lessons for students without technology at home.


McCrea, Bridget. “Flipping the Classroom for Special Needs Students.” The Journal. The Journal, 30 June 2014. Web. 07 July 2014.


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