Taking education Mobile to support children with special needs

One of the aspects of my professional career I am most passionate about, is applying technology to make the world a better place.

Another little fact about me is that my second child is the same age as the original iPad!  It launched whilst I was on maternity leave, which I subsequently purchased and complained about the lack of quality applications available to distract my two-year old during baby nap times.  To which my husband promptly responded with: “So stop complaining and go write some apps for kids“.  Challenge accepted.

I taught myself the world of xCode and built the world’s first iPad YouTube application for kids – presenting only approved videos and blocking the unwanted and often inappropriate “recommended videos” so kids couldn’t find themselves watching videos of Thomas the Tank Engine being blown up by an artistic teenager with a webcam.

Not long after it launched, institutions from around the world working with children with disabilities started contacting me asking to sponsor their iPad programs.  The iPad was having a dramatic impact on the way children were able to learn and communicate with teachers and carers, and I was super excited to be able to help!

I was equally excited when I saw the announcement from my colleagues that we are working with Bancroft, a major provider of specialized services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the US, to put mobile applications securely in the hands of classroom teachers, clinical staff and school administrators to better engage with students and improve the learning experience.

iPads are designed with usability at its core, complete with assistive features that have changed the learning landscape for students with special needs.  They are fun and powerful learning tools for students with attention deficits or other cognitive and learning disabilities.  Teachers are able to minimize visual stimulation by limiting access to a single application, and students can use FaceTime and Camera to communicate with more than just words.

Bancroft have initiated an iPad program that enables its special education team to use instructional applications and mobile technology to teach students basic subjects, such as Maths and English, and assistive technology applications to help students with disabilities overcome physical challenges.

As with any organization looking to leverage the power of mobile technology, the ability to securely manage both applications and devices is absolutely critical to success.  To be able to expand its iPad use across multiple users and student scenarios, Bancroft needed a mobile management and security solution that was easy to use for teachers, students, families and IT staff.  IBM MaaS360 best met Bancroft’s needs with benefits including the ability to push applications and monitor policy compliance remotely, and deliver cost savings by reducing the amount of physical IT infrastructure and necessary educational software licenses.

Of course IBM brings more to this partnership than just the technology.  With over 5,000 mobile experts and more than 4,300 patents in mobile, social and security, IBM MobileFirst solutions enable enterprise clients to radically streamline and accelerate mobile adoption, help organizations engage more people and capture new markets.

Michael King, IBM’s Vice President of Global Education Industry, provided insight into the engagement with Bancroft:  “Bancroft’s use of cloud-based mobile technology is enabling growth in individuals who have been challenged to speak or write before, which is truly transformational.  Through flexible, efficient and centralized iPad management, the school’s staff can now focus their efforts on education and improving lives of and outcomes for students – instead of debugging computers, constantly upgrading software and solving other IT problems.”

Through IBM’s partnership with Apple, the two organizations are transforming enterprise mobility with a new class of business applications.  I’m excited to see how this partnership continues to develop over time and support companies like Bancroft leverage mobile technology to revolutionize their impact to society.