I joined the Special School District of St Louis County as a Special Education teacher in 1998, and I currently work as an Assistive Technology (AT) Specialist. Our organization is very unusual in that it supports all students with IEPs across 22 districts in St Louis County, MO. That’s a total of around 23,000 students. As well as supporting students in mainstream settings, we have five dedicated Special Education schools and two Technical Education schools.
In my immediate team, we have eight AT Specialists (coming from a mix of OT and Special Education teaching backgrounds) and five Augmentative Communication Specialists (SLPs), so although we all have incredibly varied caseloads, the size of the team means that we can focus in on our specialist areas, mine being literacy.
I started out using Clicker 4 (when I was a Special Ed teacher) and so I have been able to track the evolution across subsequent versions, all the way to Clicker 7. Because I have a caseload of around 250 students with a very wide range of special needs, I have many opportunities to provide Clicker 7 as a support for students who benefit from alternative access to the curriculum, customized curriculum activities, and being able to demonstrate their knowledge independently and to their maximum potential.
I have hundreds of examples of the ways in which Clicker 7 has made tangible and quantifiable improvements to all aspects of literacy, but two that really stand out are:
1. I work with a student in one of our Special Education schools who has a complex body – she is able to move her head and one of her hands (which takes huge effort, and nowadays with pretty good control), so she uses a two switch setup (one at each of these locations) to access Clicker 7. She has become very independent with two switch step scanning. Using the customizations that Clicker 7’s built-in switch access has to offer, she is able to:
- Read a book by herself and turn the pages
- Write a daily note home to her parents telling them about her school activities, using a customized Clicker Set, completely independently. This is her favorite activity of the day!
In terms of quantitative measure, she is producing articulate written work where otherwise there would be none or very little, and she is reading books independently, where otherwise she would need outside assistance.
2. My second example would be in a district that I work with where they have a 1:1 program, meaning that every student has access to a device of their own. In one of the Middle Schools, I support all 7 students in a self-contained classroom. The students are in Grades 6-8 and they have a wide variety of special needs, but the one thing they all have in common is finding it difficult to get their knowledge down in writing. The teacher is able to create whole class activities in Clicker 7 that the students access together on the interactive whiteboard, but the really great part is that she is then able to take the theme of the group activity and create customized activities in Clicker 7 to accurately support each student with their specific literacy challenge. In addition to this, because it is so fast and easy to create customized resources in Clicker 7, she is able to collaborate with the general education teachers on the content of their classes, and then design cognitively appropriate Clicker Sets for them to have on their laptops as additional supports; for example, pulling out key vocabulary from upcoming science topics to create Sentence Sets, Connect Sets and Clicker Books.
Having had experience training many teachers over the years, I would say that the overriding benefit to Clicker 7 is the speed and ease with which new users are able to start creating and adapting their own resources. I also encourage them to make use of the extensive resources available on LearningGrids, customizing where needed. It’s a great go-to resource for teachers new to Clicker 7, and a great time-saver for resource creation. And as we all know, time is one of the most precious resources in education!
So what would be my favorite features of Clicker 7? There are so many to choose from, but if I was only allowed to choose three, they would probably be:
- Clicker Board – teachers are using this feature to create everything from graphic organizers to visual schedules
- Matching Sets – instant resource creation to support early stage students in both learning and demonstration of understanding.
- Cross-platform resource sharing – Clicker 7 (Windows/Mac) is fully file compatible with the Clicker Apps that Crick has created for iPad and Chromebook users. Being able to create an activity in Clicker 7, save to Google Drive and give instant access to any student, regardless of their device, is a huge benefit to everyone.
If you are working in Assistive Technology, you will already have a wide range of software and apps to choose from, and the needs of the student should always drive the choice of AT support. If you don’t already have it, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend adding Clicker 7 to your AT toolbox – it is such a comprehensive tool for literacy, with features and customizations to suit all students, regardless of cognitive level or physical ability. As well as making the curriculum accessible for students, it helps them to actively participate in class and demonstrate their knowledge. Ultimately, Clicker 7 gives increased independence, which is always our end goal.