Email for Developmentally Delayed Students

As part of my job as an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive Technology, I have had the chance to visit a a number of different schools with a wide-range of different programs. This has allowed me to see a variety of approaches to a wide cross-section of students.

One of the more interesting things I have seen is the teaching of 21st century life skills to students who are developmentally delayed. A teacher at Carleton Heights Public School, Maureen Hogan, asked me to come in and work with her students. She was hoping they would be able to learn how to log in to a Chromebook and send an email to their parents. Maureen wanted her students to begin to develop some of the skills they would need for a world where services are increasingly accessed on-line.

She had already started the process by changing the students’ password to their name and a series of numbers. In addition to making it easier for these students to login in, the new password allowed students to practice typing their name. This also helped in some cases with students’ literacy goals.

Luckily for me, Chrome had recently implemented the ability to do dictation over top of GMail. With that, I simply had to set up an contact card for each student’s parents. Students were then be trained to click in the “To:” field, say their preferred diminutive for the parent in question. They could then move to the main body of the email and, using Chrome dictation feature, dictate their email.

Student dictating choosing to send an email to mom.

Maureen has now made sending an email a regular activity during literacy centers. It allows the students to practice some very real life skills, while allowing her to assess their understanding of how to communicate in an email.  As an added bonus, she also is able to reinforce lessons on pronunciation as Google will only write down what it hears, creating a very real consequence for students working on improving their diction.

A message to mom

Overall, the activity has been a success. Students have been excited to send their parents a message during the day. Parents have loved getting a message from their child. For Maureen, she has a real world activity that both engages her students, develops their literacy and helps them practice real world skills. And I have several other teachers in my district interested in having me in to help them set up a similar systems for them.