Assistive Technologies and Learning and Independence for All

A crucial part of being teacher is creating lessons in which all students have the chance to learn and understand the material being taught. This is often referred to as “differentiation” in the educational world. An important theory behind creating lessons where ALL students can understand and be successful is called the “Universal Design for Learning” or UDL. The UDL guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.” To ensure that that all learners can “access and participate” in different learning opportunities, teachers rely on a wide array of assistive technologies. During the latest ECI 833 class Kalyn, Megan, Leigh, and Jenny presented on a number of different assistive technologies that can help students of all different abilities learn in the classroom. These devices fit into one of the following three categories:

Prior to Kalyn’s, Megan’s, Leigh’s and Jenny’s presentation, I had never thought of something such as a pencil grip, as being a device that was categorized as “assistive technology”. I had always thought of assistive technology as something that had to use, well computer or electrical technology. After this most recent presentation I started to make a list of all the non-tech assistive technology I have had used recently with my students:

-graph paper to help students keep their numbers lined up when completing math equations.

-a q-card with visual reminders for writing cues

-a visual schedule on desk

-manipulatives in math

-writing on colored paper

-weighted vest

-various fidgets

I find that it is often easy to find low tech devices to assist students in the classroom, because these types of devices are often low cost. I can either purchase them through my classroom budget or the Learning Resource Team will often easily approve expenditures for these types of devices.

Some mid-tech devices I have recently used include:

-FM system

-C-Pen Reader

-ball chair

-audio books

Similar to Low-tech devices it is relatively easy to gain access to mid-tech devices, as these devices are still relatively affordable for schools to purchase.

Some High-tech devices I have used include:

-personal Chromebooks or iPads

-Smartboard

-Speech to Text

As an educator, when using high-tech devices I find that I often rely on apps that can be downloaded onto devices such as iPAds. Common sense media shared some valuable apps for students with special needs of learning differences which can be found here.

According to the article Assistive technology: Impact on Education, Employment and Independence of Individuals with Physical Disabilities, one in seven Americans are affected or will be affected by a disability in their lifetime. I found this to be a profound statistic considering that many schools have limited access to high-tech assistive devices due to the high cost that is associated with purchasing these devices. Some further statistics the article shared included:

-About 76% of children who received AT were able
to remain in a regular classroom, and about 45%
were able to reduce school-related services.
– About 62% of working-age persons were able to
reduce dependency on their family members, and
58% were able to reduce dependence on paid assistance.
– About 80% of older persons were able to reduce
their dependence on others, and about half were
able to avoid entering a nursing home.
– About 92% of employed persons reported that AT
helped them to work faster or better.

Personally, these statistics demonstrate the effectiveness of assistive technologies not just for meeting the needs of students in the classroom, but that can help people to be successful and have independence in their everyday lives. Whether assistive technology is needed in the classroom, or to meet the needs of people in society, there can be a high cost associated with purchasing these devices. During the class presentation, we learned that the Canadian government currently has a grant that research companies can apply for to help fund in the area of research and development of Assistive Technology. What has not been made available through this grant is money for those in need of the assistive technology today, to purchase expensive technology that is already available.

I feel another challenge for those in need of assistive technology, especially when it comes to use in the classroom, is user knowledge. At times, high-tech assistive technology is available, but if the teacher does not know how to use the technology, it may remain unused. I think, there needs to be a greater push in the area of professional development for teachers on how to use different assistive technologies as well as more funding for devices that are needed for students with special needs in order to ensure that all students and people have the opportunity to be successful in not only in school, but in life as well.

4 thoughts on “Assistive Technologies and Learning and Independence for All”

  1. Great post Alyssa! I had also never thought of the “low” tech devices I use in my classroom as assistive technology. My mind goes more towards the “high” tech devices used for assistive tech. I also agree with you regarding the training on these devices or apps. Assistive technology changes quickly (as does all technology) and I find as soon as I become comfortable using something…it is replaced with something newer and better-but I have to learn how to use it. There does need to be a bigger push for PD.

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  2. Great thoughts here. As the same with you and Tarina, I too had not spent much time thinking that the low-tech resources that we use with students are still considered technology! I completely agree that there needs to be more PD for this available for teachers, but we also need to find the time to do PD as teachers are so busy. It becomes that balance of what should teachers be focusing on, and what can be given up for the focus on Assistive Tech.

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  3. Some really good thoughts Alyssa! I see a lot of similarities between our posts on assistive tech as I also agree that there needs to be more professional development for teachers when it comes to AT. If we can’t use it effectively, there really isn’t a point in introducing it at all. I also could not think of any low-tech devices in my classroom until after the presentation last week; I guess I never thought of them as assistive tech and simply as tools students liked to use that helped them focus or organize. The stats are encouraging when people use these technologies and that’s also why it’s so important that AT becomes cheaper and more accessible. It can’t help people if they can’t afford it. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alyssa!

    The following quote resonated with me, “One in seven Americans are affected or will be affected by a disability in their lifetime.”

    When I think of disabilities, I often think of individuals who are born born with differences and eventually grow accustomed to what their needs are. However, I think we often over look individuals who acquire disabilities later in life either from an accident or an illness. With that being said, I think you make an excellent point by highlighting the need for more training on assistive technology, as this could be valuable information for anyone.

    Like

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