If you peered inside my classroom you would hopefully see a busy, talkative and engaging environment; a small group of pupils working together on the computers, while another is gathered by the interactive whiteboard. I might be talking to some children at my table, while others work independently on assignments.
What you might not guess is that this is an inclusive group of pupils, made up of children with disabilities working alongside those with none. Each is given an outlet to express themselves at their level of learning ability and they choose various forms of technology as a bridge to communicate in unique ways.
However, my classroom wasn't always such a well-oiled machine. When I embraced the concept of an inclusive environment in the first year of my teaching career, there were some early disasters, such as dealing with the pupil who went into meltdown each time we had to rip pages out of a workbook.
But I persevered and searched for innovative ideas to discourage these types of behaviour. To engage my highly visual pupils, I began to use digital cameras. Instead of reading from our word wall in the classroom, for example, I took pupils on "digital scavenger hunts" through the school. We walked the halls, looking for examples of common words on, say, posters or bulletin boards, and snapped pictures of them. We loaded the words on to the classroom computers and used programs such as SMART Notebook and Paint to make our own digital word wall and create sentences with the snapshots. The pupils then illustrated their sentences, added pictures and made e-books.
I then expanded the concept of "digital scavenger hunts" to other areas of the curriculum, as we began to search for simple machines, 3D objects and map-making. We used programs such as Flixtime (flixtime.com) and Animoto (animoto.comeducation) to narrate and add text.
The pupils shared their finished projects in an interactive display. This also built their social and presentation skills, but most importantly they had fun and were proud of their work.
Now, as I enter my 10th year in education, I feel fortunate to have seen the correlation between technology, integration and pupil success increasingly acknowledged. Innovative resources changed my classroom - and they can change yours.
Colleen Lennon is an instructional technologist for SmartEd Services and a former educator, specialising in inclusive environments.
Make your whole school an inclusive environment with a guide from Mayer-Johnson.
For a creative digital camera activity, get pupils snapping shots of their local community with Mission:Explore's adventure lesson.
In the forums
Is there less support for children with numeracy difficulties than those with literacy problems? That's the topic being debated on the TES SEN forum.
Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources038.