With more than 14,000 students, the Laramie County School District 1 (LCSD1) is bigger than the University of Wyoming. It serves countless students with special academic and social needs, and it’s placed a priority on working with parents, staff and the local community to provide each with the tools they’ll need to achieve academically.
For special needs students, this means providing access to assistive technologies—tools, strategies, or software—that address disabilities and help students learn independently.
“Inclusion is important,” says Gordon Knopp, Director of Technology at LCSD1. “We try to help kids of any background perform at their highest level. We have a number of teams that are working to provide easier access to easier-to-use tools.”
For students like PJ, a sixth grader at LCSD1, that commitment to inclusion is the difference between achievement and uncertainty. At two years old, PJ was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delay, a disorder on the autism spectrum. Living in a rural area, his parents have always been concerned with getting him access to the technologies and tools that will encourage his educational success, both now and in the future.
They have been delighted with the tools that LCSD1 is able to provide PJ, including Learning Tools from Microsoft.
New Tools Tailored for the 21st-Century Learner
“I was very excited when I heard about Learning Tools from Microsoft,” says Gordon. “These tools help students without the burden of learning the tool itself because they are so intuitive and easy to use.”
Microsoft Learning Tools are free tools that implement proven techniques to improve reading and writing skills for students of all ages and abilities. Tools like Immersive Reader, Enhanced Dictation, and Syllabification work with software like Microsoft OneNote or Microsoft Word to increase fluency, help build confidence for emerging readers, and provide solutions for students with learning differences like dyslexia. These tools are built on the principle that technology can inspire students, empower educators, and improve learning outcomes so students are ready for their futures.
Microsoft Learning Tools are also solely devoted to improving educational outcomes, not gleaning user data or marketing insights. “We used to be a WordPerfect district, but we moved to Microsoft because we are more confident that student data is safe. Students aren’t held captive to advertising in the classroom, and their actions aren’t tracked or recorded for future use.”
The Joy of Seeing Great Results
LCSD1 educators are excited with the results they’re seeing from Microsoft Learning Tools. “When we see our students be independent, using the tools that we provide, it just brings a smile to your face and tears to your eyes,” says Kathe Dahill, a Speech Pathologist at Carey Junior High School and a member of the Assistive Tech Team at LCSD1. “I have a young lady who wants to be a writer and has struggled with writing for years. We put a few tools in her hands, and now she’s able to do it.”
PJ has been making leaps and bounds in his writing as well. He is now able to produce a story with multiple paragraphs on his own, without needing a teacher to follow him around writing down everything he says. His parents were previously worried about his ability to finish an essay once he reaches high school, but their worries have since given way to hopes. “Whether it’s a traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, autism, or whatever it is, when you have those communication issues, technology is going to be the answer,” says Heather Christoffersen, PJ’s mom.
“We have a desire to see them in their future when they can be as independent as possible as adults,” says Katie Rhoads, another member of LCSD1’s Assistive Tech Team. “And the use of technology is giving that to so many of our students that wouldn’t have had that independence 10 or 15 years ago.”
To learn more about Microsoft Education and our tools and technology that help foster inclusion and support personalizing learning for every student, click here.