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Students with special needs using new technology to get ahead

By Staff | Oct 22, 2013

Teachers at Cape Coral High School have new tools to teach students with special needs.

Thanks to the hard work of two teachers with the help of some local companies, the school now has some state-of-the-art equipment to help educate the students.

Life Skills teachers Melissa Dominguez and Robert Snyder were able to start the first ever Nook station in Lee County for the students, and the results have been so startling that the Lee County School System is being pressed to make these stations part of its countywide program.

The station includes 10 Nooks and a smartboard, which allows teachers to conduct lessons, so the students who can read can follow along, while those who can’t read can listen and watch the pictures on the smartboard.

“I have a girl who couldn’t speak English for the two years I had her. Now, she can do readings. She wants to learn to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Good morning,'” Snyder said. “Now, she’s talking with her peers.”

We have kids improving their reading and math skills because they are practicing their academic skills without knowing it because they think they’re playing games,” Dominquez said.

And Snyder said they are only scratching the surface of what they can learn. The Nooks have a Scrabble app so they can put words together, and another app to teach capitals and states.

“They are learning vocabulary, sentences; it’s incredible,” Snyder said. “The Nooks bring color out while many of the books are black and white and they have trouble with black and white.”

The teachers, who had been conducting lessons on ditto sheets, saw an article last year about the benefits of the Nook for students with Down syndrome and autism.

Snyder applied for a grant through the Wal-Mart on Del Prado with the help of store manager Harry Cousins, who said he had a grant for $2,000 if he wanted to apply for it, which he did, and got the grant.

Mercedes Lawler, a representative at Barnes & Noble, started working with the teachers to enhance the Nook experience.

In the one month they have had the station, the students have admitted how much it has helped them.

Dominguez has seen a difference.

“The apps you can buy and the books that allow them to record themselves reading or reads to them makes them learn, but they’re having so much fun with it,” Dominguez said.

Synder said one student likes the Nook so much, that it’s all he wants to do. He doesn’t even watch TV anymore.

When you enter the classroom and see these kids on their Nooks, their attention is directed to the screen. One student was listening to a story, another was playing a word game and another was learning math.

“I play with it, I read books, and I like making words,” said student Navid Preciado.

“I read ‘Flight of the Butterflies,'” Brittney Swicegood added.

Snyder said the students also have friendly competitions with each other, since the Nook also keeps score.

“They’re laughing and having fun, and they don’t even realize they’re learning,” Synder said.

The Nook program is being used in Collier County, and Port Charlotte High School has started using it. In fact, Lawler is meeting with Lee Schools Superintendent Nancy Graham to get her to expand the program to all Lee County schools.

Other life skills students came to Cape Coral High School Wednesday to find out more about the Nook stations, with many asking if they can have these Nooks.

“It’s another tool we can use to help students,” Dominguez said.