In the What Works? article there were a number of different ways to implement assistive technology in a learning environment, one option that stood out to me was, “Use assistive technology as part of the regular rhythm of the class. When assistive technology becomes part of the classroom’s “DNA,” students and teachers will use it naturally and organically.” This really struck a chord with me, as a grade seven and eight teacher. I have had a number of students that have been in my class that have had “board-certified” computers as assistive technology. While most of the students who have had these devices embraced them, there have been some that have viewed it in a different light, they see themselves as different and using them makes them seem less “cool” to the rest of the student population. To counter this negative connotation to a positive tool I found it really helped those students when everyone was on a device. I started to incorporate more lessons that were tech-based and giving students the opportunity to utilize technology, as an assistive tool, for most assignments. It was through a couple of these assignments where the student who needed to use the assistive technology became comfortable using it and realized how lucky they were to have this tool at their disposal all of the time, this really helped to break the stigma that they had about using their board-certified computers.
Once a comfort level was reached they began to utilize the programs that were available to them more efficiently. Google Read and Write was one such tool that has had an impact in my classroom. There are students who do not need to use this program, but still do because it is such a great tool and lets them try to do tasks a bit differently than they would normally approach it. It’s in these moments you kind of wish that every student had a board-certified device because it is such a valuable tool that will assist any student gain greater technological literacy. The great thing about Google Read and Write is the fact that it is free for teachers
In an article by Keetam D. F. Alkahtani on assistive technology they state, “The effective use of assistive technologies is the difference between experiencing success or failure in the educational setting for students with disabilities.” This is the most important part of utilizing these technologies in education. If assistive programs and technologies are not taught and used properly you are failing the student and their educational needs. It’s in these circumstances that educators are given the proper PD in order to meet the needs of these students and students utilizing these great technologies need to be taught how to properly utilize them otherwise we are failing them in their educational potential.
It was quite clear in the presentation when we were able to see a number of different tools that were used by Brittany Thies in her developmental classroom. It was neat to see the different tools that she uses with her students. The assistive tech that I liked, and forgive me because the name escapes me, had a large yellow ball that students could nudge to perform a function, her example was when they hooked it up to a blender. In another article about assistive technology in the classroom the author echo’s the sentiment the group had stating, “These devices promote independence for people with disabilities as they adapt and interact in their environment.” Reflecting back on the presentation I was quite amazed at the different technological advancements that have been made and are utilized within our classrooms for students of all ages and needs.
The last point I want to cover is the fact that, as Michael states in his blog “…and the students spent time showing me how they used Dragon Dictate and Kurzweil.” students are a valuable tool in learning about assistive technology as well. There have been many times throughout my career where I have had student help to solve issues with assistive technology in the class and its in these moments that they get to be the expert and it’s a great feeling watching them get the satisfaction of problem-solving, and being a big help.