Their instruments were unconventional, to say the least. Instead of a clarinet or a trumpet, the students in P.S. 177’s band made music on their tablets.
For the students in the Queens, N.Y. classroom — all of whom have severe learning disabilities and some of whom are
on the autism spectrum — an iPad allows self-expression in a way that a real instrument couldn’t. With their music stands in a semi-circle, the P. S. 177 Technology Band serenades fellow classmates and teachers with carols, such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker and “Carol of the Bells,” as well as an original song, “4-2-4 Jam,” which you can preview here.
Students who had trouble interacting with their peers, some even who were nonverbal, opened up dramatically after “playing” their iPad. One student who would only say the word “batwooie” — bathroom — on repeat became considerably more engaged after experimenting with an iPad. An invitation from his teacher, Adam Goldberg, prompted him to go up to the front of his class and sing Bob Marley’s “One Love,” which the class had been practicing. He knew every word, and afterwards, he said to Goldberg, “iPad, please.”
After seeing how students in special education settings responded to the tablets, P.S. 177’s principal, Kathy Posa, said she gathered as much money as she could from the school’s budget to buy 90 iPads for the school. There are about 5,000 iPads in circulation
in the special education district in New York already.
Teachers are unsure of what it is about the tablets that appeals to students with learning disabilities and other conditions, but the way that the device immediately responds to their touch is thought to have something to do with it.