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Technology evens the playing field for students

ACLD Tillotson School

Tillotson employs Tiger Zone, unique educational technology tactics to create a robust program that champions individualized learning

All educational institutions share a version of the same goal – to reach every student in a way that allows them to learn to the best of their abilities so that they will go on to achieve their full potential. For this reason, finding educational tools that help reach every single student is of the utmost importance in our society today.

The ACLD Tillotson School, which consists of 75 students with learning disabilities from various school districts in the Greater Pittsburgh area, have become champions of the individualized learning concept. Their creative use of educational technology, which has been perfected over its two-year-long partnership with Questeq, has created a pathway that facilitates learning for all of their students and meets each and every individual need.

“Especially with our students, every minute maters,” says Brad Klingelhoefer, Technology Coordinator and Questeq liaison at the ACLD Tillotson School. “So if there is something I can do to get info out there, build up resources, so its quicker for students to come in the classroom and learn, I’m all about that.

Watch ”The story of technology and implementation at ACLD Tillotson”

“We try to look at each student individually and see what their goals are and what they need assistance with,” says Klingelhoefer. “If there is a technology program out there that can help them with a certain need – for example text-to-speech, touch-screen typing and monitoring – we do everything we can to get it for them.”

Some of Tillotson’s more recent technology acquisitions include 1:1 Chromebooks and Nearpod, which is a tool to help teachers with lesson planning, assessments and increase student engagement. They also implemented a new student information system to help track progress and ILPs. One of the most noticeable changes as you walk through the building, however, is the Tiger Zone – a colorful, inviting collaborative space filled with tech tools such as a green screen, 3D printers and smart TVs – to encourage creativity and participation.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a STEAM space. It does revolve around those topics, but we’ve given it our own flavor,” says Klingelhoefer. “We initially called it the ‘Digital Engagement Center,’ but we asked the students to rename it and they chose ‘The Tiger Zone.’”

The new technology has also expanded how teachers and students interact. For example, students can now ask questions digitally either during class or at home while they are studying. Teachers can also monitor each of their students’ work during class to make sure they are on task and to note if anyone needs some special attention.

Watch “Students using technology in meaningful ways”

“We’re implementing change here at a really rapid rate, and there really isn’t any push-back,” says Klingelhoefer. Tillotson’s size and specialty certainly contributes to the culture of technology innovation, but Klingelhoefer has also used “tech time trainings,” professional development programs and an open-door policy to help keep everyone up-to-speed. “It’s hard to envision a three-to-five-year strategic plan because of our size,” says Klingelhoefer. “Typically, for something that would take that long, we can get it done in a matter of months.”

Under the leadership of executive director Donna Westbrooks-Martin, who initiated the Questeq partnership and whose vision it was to build an exemplary technology program for her students, the technology leaders and educators at Tillotson have created a recipe for success that will continue to benefit students even after they graduate.

“Parents are in awe of how much technology we have,” says Klingelhoefer. “At our parent/teacher conference this year, one of the parents was crying out of excitement that her kid gets to go here … it’s all about teaching our students that technology is always going to be a tool for them to use when they transition out of here. Whatever they do, wherever they go, they will be familiar with these programs and know how it can improve their lives.”

Watch “Kudos for Questeq”

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