Student With Disability in Saudi Arabia: iPad Usage Coursework
Introduction and Overview
In order to improve the quality and accessibility of education, it is necessary to welcome diversity amongst students and create a learning environment that will allow maximum participation of students with special needs. This goal is easier to achieve if assistive technology is used to help special needs students cope with those aspects of the learning process they find most challenging. Technology such as the iPad can be used to enhance the learning process and improve the academic performance of special needs students by providing multisensory experiences.
In my personal experience as an educator, multisensory experience in students with special needs are able to develop more than one sense at a time. Because different students have different impairments when it comes to movements or communication skills, the usage of the iPad and other technologies can specifically target the needs of separate students. For example, students that have difficulties with communication can use the visual language features of the iPad to communicate.
The iPad has already been introduced to classrooms around the globe and has proven its potential as a useful learning tool (Dwight, n.d.). Teachers have used the iPad to help special needs students overcome their learning disabilities (Xin & Leonard, 2015, p. 4154; Finn, Ramasamy, Dukes, & Scott, 2014, p. 1408; O’Malley, Lewis, Donehower, Stone, 2014, p. 90). The application of the iPad in the classroom creates excitement, promotes active learning, and helps combat waning students’ engagement (Mango, 2015, p. 53).
It is general knowledge that education is a basic human right, which means all children, in spite of their learning disabilities, should have equal access to quality education. Special education is a term that describes the practice of educating students with learning disabilities or special needs students (Special Education, n.d., para. 2). In the past 50 years, the education of students with special needs evolved significantly in Saudi Arabia. First special education services in Saudi Arabia were provided in 1958, and the first governmental institution which supervised special education was established four years later (Aldabas, 2015, p. 1160).
The first governmental organization – the Al-Noor Institute of Riyadh, provided special education services focused on students with impaired vision. The Institute offered training for different age groups ranging from elementary to high school. There were no special changes in the curriculum; only some adaptations were made to fit students with vision impairment. The Braille system was used as the main teaching system for subjects like the Arabic sciences, social sciences, and Islamic religion. Furthermore, the school curriculum included some training programs on mobility and orientation (Aldabas, 2015; p. 1160).
In the next several years, special education services expanded beyond limited services for students with specific disabilities, and the first special school was opened in 1971 (Aldabas, 2015, p. 1160). By 2000, there were 54 special education schools across Saudi Arabia, and special education classrooms opened in regular schools (Aldabas, 2015, p. 1161).
One of Saudi Arabia’s special needs schools is DARB Center, a school located in Diriyah. DARB Center strives to create an accessible learning environment and help students with learning disabilities fully realize their potential. Such a learning environment needs to be specially tailored for students with different disabilities in order for them to be equally engaged in the learning process. Educators agree that the implementation of assistive technology, such as the iPad, results in better educational outcomes. A 2013 survey of pre-K to 12th-grade teachers showed that more than two-thirds of teachers found that the use of assistive technology allowed them to “do much more than ever before” (Larson, 2013, para. 4).
A 2015 study showed that students not only enjoyed using the iPad in the classroom, but it also facilitated students’ participation in class and allowed for more creativity (Mango, 2015, p. 55). Another research supports this point of view and argues that assistive technology can be effective in reducing discrepancies between regular students and special needs students, as it promotes “accessibility with considerable ease and efficiency, which otherwise might not have been possible (Ahmad, 2015, p. 64).
An example of such technology is the iPad, a tablet computer with a touchscreen interface and a variety of different apps with accessibility features. The technological advances offered by the iPad are superior to other technologies due to its ability to meet various learning needs through a multisectional approach. Because many young students with special needs try using a range of different learning strategies, the traditional pedagogical strategies do not work effectively with them.
For example, children with intellectual impairments require the same material being repeated to them through a range of different activities. The short attention span can be prolonged with the usage of the iPad that will stimulate students’ attentiveness, responsiveness, and exploration through music, movement, visual content, or color.
In special education, the recent focus has been on an evidence-based approach or using scientific evidence to identify practices that are most beneficial to special needs students (Cook, Tankersley, & Harjusola-Webb, 2008, p. 105). One study showed the use of the iPad has proven effective in improving the functional speech of students with autism (Xin & Leonard, 2015; p. 4154). Another study showed that the iPad, along with WatchMinder vibrating watch, immediately improved “the on-task behavior of students with autism spectrum disorder” (Finn et al., 2014, p. 1408). These facts prompt educators to turn to the iPad as an assistive technology that can be used to improve students’ academic performance and increase engagement.
The constant evolution of technology and pedagogy results in new forms of learning, more engaging learning environments both for students and teachers, which lead to the development of skills aligned with 21st-century requirements (Fullan, 2016, p. 15). In other words, change in the field of education is natural and is driven in part by technological innovations that provide new opportunities for learning.
The main factor for change is that with time, students get less engaged in the learning process (Fullan, 2016, p. 16). Another factor is the need to build upon the strengths of students with learning disabilities in order to improve their academic performance. The solution is to increase the independence of students and providing them with multisensory educational tools, which can be achieved through the use of assistive technology such as the iPad.
The team of DARB Center consists of two therapists who develop a case study and individualized education program (IEP) for each of their students and conduct therapy sessions 2 to 3 times a week. DARB Center mainly works with children with autism but also includes students with other learning disabilities. Due to the fact that the team is small and the time students spend in school is fairly limited, the iPad can be introduced as a learning tool students can use to practice at home.
This has several potential benefits for the teachers; for example, the mobility of the iPad will allow the therapists to expand the program beyond the classroom, allowing children to practice in the comfort of their homes, in the car, in a restaurant, etc., and therefore, increasing practice time. IPad usage will increase parents’ involvement in the learning process, who will assist and oversee their children’s learning. Furthermore, it will increase student engagement, as the use of the iPad as a learning tool creates excitement (Mango, 2015, p. 53). Lastly, it will bring all the improvements typically associated with iPad use, such as improved academic performance, increased independence, and decreased non-compliant behavior (O’Malley, Lewis, Donehower, Stone, 2014, p. 90).
Research suggests that the iPad is a tool, which enhances learning and reduces the need for teacher prompting in the classroom (O’Malley et al., 2014, p. 90). As such, it will benefit students since it can also be used in the classroom in order to increase students’ engagement and reduce the time spent on promoting and allow the teachers to use the available time more efficiently. The iPad is a tool that can provide written or pictorial explanations for the instructions, show videos or interactive presentations, provide text-to-speech for students with visual impairments, provide speech-to-text for students with physical disabilities, and practice math, letter formations, etc.
In the classroom, the usage scenarios are virtually limitless and depend on what app is chosen by the educator.
Obstacles, Impediments, and Supports for Change
The current evaluation of the models of assistive technology implementation indicates the prevalence of obstacles that limit the widespread implementation of technology (Aldabas, 2015; p. 1163). This fact applies both to regular schools and special education schools. The main impediments to the iPad adoption are costs, insufficient teachers’ knowledge of technology, monitoring the iPad use, and the disadvantages associated with the fact that the iPad is an electronic device. Intergenerational issues would not impede the implementation of change because the team of educators consists of two therapists of the same ethnicity and background.
The iPad is a costly device priced between $269 and $1229, depending on the amount of onboard memory and the exact modification (Compare iPad models, n.d., para. 1). However, in addition to the device cost, there are other associated costs. For example, accessories such as keyboard cases start at $99.95; wired switches start at $59.95, etc. Accessories for users with disabilities are more expensive; for example, braille displays start at $2594.95 (Keyboards, n.d., para. 1). There are also costs associated with maintenance and repairs. For example, the most common repair, broken screen, costs $150 (True Cost of iPad Program, n.d., para. 11).
Additional costs come in the form of the paid content. The iPad relies on apps developed for specific activities. There are a variety of educational apps available; however, not all of them are free. Paid apps cost twice as much as their iPhone equivalence and are typically priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Most of the e-books are not available for free and have to be purchased. In addition, teacher training may be required for the implementation of the iPad in the classroom. Additional costs may come in the form of tuitions for professional development workshops for teachers. A course in Apple certified center typically costs between $65-220 for an individual (Exam and Certification Questions, n.d., para. 4).
Insufficient Teachers’ Knowledge of Technology
The introduction of such technology as the iPad in the classroom aims to improve the academic performance of students and the competency levels of teachers. Teachers have to understand how to use this technology in order to benefit the students. Teachers also must have some level of knowledge of iPad use in order not to rely on technology managers. Educators have to know how to search for and download apps and books, how to sync the device with PCs, how to connect it to a wireless network etc. In-service teachers are to be educated on the use of assistive technology through “professional development programs and as courses for student teachers and pre-service teachers” (Aldabas, 2015, p. 1163).
Another concern of the educators is the need to monitor students’ activity on a tablet. It is rather difficult to keep students on target and control what exactly students do on their tablets when they are at home. In the class, however, the Screen View feature can be used to mirror the iPad screen, making monitoring much easier. In addition, Remote Control allows the teacher to lock the iPad into a single app.
Disadvantages of the iPad as an Electronic Device
Apple iPad is an electronic device, and it needs to be changed every 8 to 10 hours. It brings up the issue of cable safety and higher energy bills. As an electronic device, the iPad requires special care: it cannot be thrown, stepped on; it is not water or splash resistant. Children with the iPad require constant supervision.
In spite of the aforementioned obstacles, there are supports for change. The support comes from Apple itself, which advocates for iPad use as a more powerful learning tool in the classroom. Although Apple does not provide special pricing for academic institutions in Saudi Arabia, the existence of such a service abroad suggests it can be extended worldwide if there is sufficient demand from the educations. In addition, Apple provides professional learning services and resources for teachers (Training and Certification, n.d., para. 6). Resources are available online and offline in authorized learning centers. Such a center in Saudi Arabia is Prince Ahmed Bin Salman Applied Institute, located in Riyadh.
Change of Topic Analysis
Bolman & Deal define frame as “a coherent set of ideas that enable you to see and understand more clearly what goes on day to day” (Bolman & Deal, 2003, p. 41). The authors outlined four different frames, which affect people’s view of the world: structural, human resources, political, and symbolic (Bolman & Deal, 2003, p. 41). Each of these frames comprises a range of concepts that act as a framework for shaping the experience of the world.
In the context of special needs education change in Saudi Arabia, the human resources frame is the most important to consider. Teachers are on the frontline of education, and their views, values, skills, and commitment shape the future of education. Implementing change in the field of special needs education needs to be based on the idea that the current system exists to support the needs of special needs students and teachers.
For example, children with autism exhibit a lack of interest in sharing an activity with other children, avoid eye contact, and exhibit inappropriate social interaction. As such, the special education of students with autism is focused on improving their ability to communicate and develop an interest in the world. The iPad is an inanimate object which does not evoke the same reaction a teacher or another student evokes. Studies show that students with autism significantly improved their spoken language skills when the iPad was used in the learning process as a speech-generating device (Kasari, Kaiser, Mucchetti, Shre & Wright, 2013, para. 1).
There are dozens of apps developed specifically to improve the social and functional skills of children with autism, the effectiveness of which is supported by scientific evidence. The needs of children with autism dictate the use of the iPad as a learning tool, and this means that the implementation of the iPad in DARB Center requires the consideration of students’ needs or human resource frame.
According to Bolman and Deal (2003), there are two specific intellectual roots of the structural frame that include the maximum efficiency work and the bureaucracies work (p. 48). Within the structural frame, educational organizations operate to reach specific objectives and goals that they set. By means of clearly diving labor, organizations can effectively improve their performance. Furthermore, various control and coordination forms unite different efforts of units and specific individuals.
The structural frame implies the prevalence of rationality over any other extraneous pressures or personal opinions of different individuals. Lastly, the structure should be developed in such a way that coincides with the type and circumstances of an organization, including aspects like goals and workforce.
Political frame implies leaders were facilitating change by means of focusing on the political events that exist both inside and outside of the organization. The political framework is effective for dealing with various groups of interests that have different goals and agendas, establishing solid bases of power, creating coalitions, and compromising to reach a mutually set objective. Furthermore, the political frame can be efficient when there is a lack of appropriate resources or when the values or goals of different groups are contrary to each other.
The symbolic frame is used by organizations to focus on a specific vision or to find inspiration for reaching a set goal. Organization leaders that implement the symbolic frame have an opinion that the participants should believe in their personal achievement as well as in the achievement of the organization as a whole. Within the symbolic framework, actions such as ceremonies and traditions bear an important meaning because they are usually implemented in cases when it is not clear how some of the set goals can be achieved.
The following action plan that involves teacher, student, family, and school training and preparation is proposed for the implementation of the iPad in DARB Center:
The human resources framework will provide a basis for teachers’ training regarding the usage of iPad applications when teaching children with special needs. Because the human resource framework is grounded on offering support and empowerment to people through the mutual process of decision-making, it will be beneficial for training teachers on how they can integrate iPad technologies into their practice. Teachers will be motivated and empowered by explaining to them that the more dedicated to the iPad usage in their practice they are, the more effective outcomes can be reached. When teachers are positive about the implementation of technology when teaching students with special needs, it is much more likely that students will exhibit better management and compliance, contributing to the success of the action plan.
The preparation of schools for the usage of iPad technologies will be conducted through the implementation of the structural frame, which will provide practical and financially attainable data on the costs of the program. The structural frame will become highly useful for negotiating with the DARB Center management and convincing them that the implementation of iPad technologies to teach children with special needs will bring a range of benefits for their development and academic achievement.
The political framework will be implemented with regards to involving parents in the process of promoting the usage of iPads in students with special needs. Because the political frame is effective for finding a middle ground between parties that have different views, goals, and opinions, the political framework will become the main tool for engaging parents in a conversation about the usage of iPad technologies when teaching students.
Parents should understand that the technologies will not act as toys for distracting children from learning; rather, the iPad will be a tool that will extend their children’s possibilities and positively influence the teaching and learning processes. Furthermore, parents can create groups that will be responsible for student education outside the school environment as well as providing support to those not yet accommodated to the use of iPads in their learning.
The last step in the action plan implementation calls for students’ training and involvement of the iPad usage in learning activities with the help of the symbolic framework proposed by Bolman and Deal. Once the political and structural challenges are reduced, it is crucial to incorporate the techniques of positivity, inspiration, and empowerment among students with special needs. It is important to convince children that iPad technologies will not only be interesting to play will but also that they will serve as useful guides for encouraging their engagement and positivity. Children should be aware of the set goals, such as acquiring new knowledge and practicing mechanical and communicational skills.
To conclude, the action plan for integrating iPad technologies into the teaching process of children with special needs will be based on the four-tier framework proposed by Bolman and Deal. Each step in the plan implementation will cater to the specific audience to which the framework can be applied, creating a structural approach towards achieving a set goal of iPad integration. The political and structural challenges will be eliminated through negotiations with the executive bodies that have the power to make decisions regarding children’s education. Students and parents will also be engaged in the process to achieve success on every step of the plan implementation.
There are certain well-recognized attributes of leadership that, if applied effectively, will help me be a better leader. Leaders are often described as authoritative, passionate, charismatic, and have a certain vision of how things should be done. These qualities are connected with their role, which is to manage people and inspire them. For me, as the agent of change, the role of a leader is focused on raising awareness and delegating tasks appropriately.
This role means that I should be seen as an authoritative figure, in tune with the members of my team, using their input to resolve conflict or find a solution to the problem. When it comes to my strengths and weaknesses as a leader, I think the biggest strength is my ability to hear and be heard. I believe in the value of communication and feedback, and I am a very supportive and respectful person.
I have communication skills, and I can make people see things in a different light. Nonetheless, I feel that I need to develop some attributes to be an effective agent of change. These attributes include being more confident and developing my authoritative voice. Depending on the situation, it might be beneficial to take control of the group and dictate what is to be done. I should develop my self-belief and be prepared to stand up for the decisions I make.
In spite of the challenges posed by the implementation of the iPad as a learning tool, it is necessary in order to improve the quality and accessibility of special education. In special education, the iPad can be used as an assistive technology that allows students with learning disabilities to better develop the necessary knowledge and skills. This fact helps better integrate special needs students into society and improves the quality of education.
The use of the iPad in the classroom is sometimes argued to be too costly to implement. However, the costs can be elevated by the re-use of technology and content, which only have to be purchased once. The higher price of the device and the costs associated with repairs and maintenance are related to the fact that the iPad provides a more interactive, multi-sensory digital educational experience.
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