Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is the use of computers in education and offers enormous potential to teachers and pupils. There is a growing number of consistent evidence which shows that ICT can and does improve learning outcomes, particularly in the core subjects of English and Mathematics (Cox et al, 2003). Providing high quality software is matched to the specific needs of the individual, it can act as an effective and powerful tool in learning. While it cannot replace high quality teaching, it can enhance the learning process. The application of ICT to teaching and learning can provide many benefits such as, facilitating communication, increase access to information, improve motivation, increase problem solving capabilities and enable deeper understanding of complex ideas.
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ICT can provide pupils with special educational needs improved access to learning and areas of the curriculum which may have been previously inaccessible. According to Westwood (2003), “The largest single group of students with special needs comprises those with general and specific learning difficulties that are not related to any disability or impairment. Estimates suggest that this may be close to 20 per cent of the school population. These learning difficulties most frequently manifest themselves as problems in acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills’ which impact adversely on a child’s ability to learn in most subjects across the curriculum.” (Westwood, 2003, P5) The Audit Commission reports that one in five children in England and Wales has Special Educational Needs (SEN). This includes students with serious physical or learning difficulties but also many students whose reading, writing and numeracy skills develop slowly. Special needs include conditions such as dyslexia, physical disabilities, speech and language disorders, visual impairment, hearing loss, difficulties in communication, and emotional and behavioural difficulties. In recent years, there has been an increase in evidence that technology can help these children overcome their communication and physical difficulties, so that they can be included in lesson activities and access a wider curriculum, as suggested by the Irish body, the Education of Science Department (ESD) in The Learning-Support Guidelines (2000), “‘Interactive computer-based systems allow the possibility of individualising the educational process to accommodate the needs, interests and learning styles of individual pupils. Individualised planning is fundamental to the successful use of ICT in supplementary teaching as it is to other forms of Learning Support. The planning process would include identifying a pupil’s individual learning needs and considering how ICT might be used to meet those needs.” (ESD, 2000, P86-87) Every learner has an entitlement to all the elements of cognitive, literacy and cultural learning. This belief is generally shared by all working with learners who experience any kind of difficulty, for whatever reason.
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