Digital Choiceboards



Background


The use of choiceboards in special education seems to be fairly common practice. They are used to provide students who are non-verbal or who have limited verbal skills with choices (as the name would imply) and encourage communication by way of a picture exchange communication system. I have been using hardcopy choiceboards in the classroom for both individual students and whole class activities and have found them to be both empowering for students who may have otherwise limited choices, and a highly motivating tool for developing picture exchange communication skills.

Having come from a mainstream teaching background, I can also see how these boards could be used in a mainstream setting. Of course they could similarly act as visual support structures for students with learning or language difficulties. However they could also be applied in a way that allows teachers to successfully incorporate a number of elements of the Quality Teaching Framework into their teaching. In particular, choiceboards have the potential to create high levels of student direction, student self-regulation and inclusivity.

Rationale - The Switch to Digital


Hardcopy choiceboards are an excellent teaching tool, and will always remain so, largely due to their low-tech and high-portability advantage. However, there were a number of reasons that made me decide to explore the use of digital choiceboards:

1) Making visuals is incredibly time consuming. Borrowing Boardmaker from the school office or taking photos of objects and editing the images, getting supervisor permission to print visuals in colour, laminating, cutting, rounding the edges of the visuals and adding velcro is a really long and arduous process. Particularly when you have lots of choices for students. And when you teach students who enjoy chewing on and/or hiding the visuals, requiring you to replenish your visual stocks frequently.
2) Making visuals is very resource-hungry. Printer ink, paper, laminating pouches and velcro all add up.
3) The use of digital choiceboards provides a good preliminary set of skills to students who are able to move on to other high tech AAC devices (iPads, etc.).
4) It provides an opportunity to develop mouse skills and general computer skills for high support students.
5) Displaying choiceboards in a larger format on an IWB provides greater support for students with vision impairments or who are visually undersensitive (particularly when displayed in a darkened classroom), helping them to cue in to the pictures more easily.
6) It can serve as an independent activity that allows for student direction and self-regulation.
7) It develops an understanding of cause-and-effect for students with high support needs.

(to be continued)