Janeen, Reid, Darcy, and Daniel guided us through learning about assistive technologies. They gave the definition from Idea (2004) that assistive technology is, “Any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” I would not agree that it is just for kids that have a ‘disability’. Assistive technology can help boost a student that could be struggling to meet the standards of the curriculum.
Assistive technologies can be a huge success and promote inclusion in our classrooms. In my experience, I have been able to utilize beneficial assistive technology for students. Reflecting on the technology in my classroom, I believe it invites inclusion into our classrooms. Without assistive technology, many students would not be able to be included in ‘mainstream’ education. Schools today have a variety of learning needs. Technology gives students a voice and helps teachers to be able to adapt for all learning needs. Voice-to-text is a great tool for students who struggle to write or read. Janeen discussed the variety of tools used to assist in literacy. Clicker is a tool a few of my students use for their writing time. Google Read&Write has allowed many of my students see themselves as writers. Technology can give confidence to our students that learn in different ways. I have had students with visual impairments in my classroom. Each student has different needs and ways to learn. Some use Braillers to write and read, others use computers with a large, yellow keyboard, and others use a CCTV which is a device that allows students to magnify their books or work under a camera. The technology that we have to adapt for students with visual impairments is remarkable. Years ago, we would not be able to have students with visual impairments in a ‘mainstream classroom’ but today with the technology we have these kids can be successful learners with their peers. As Cranmer (2020) states, “It is essential that disabled children have access to the same opportunities to participate in society as their peers” (p.315). Inclusion is so important in our classrooms and assistive technology allows for this to be possible.
It can cause difficulty if educators are not trained properly how to use the assistive technology. If teachers are handed a new tool they are not familiar with and have no time to explore or learn about it, it is not going to be helpful. Same thing goes with the students. If they are not trained how to use the technology as a ‘tool’ not a ‘toy’, it is not enhancing learning in the classroom. Many of my students that have assistive technology may not be using it effectively. I believe there needs to be further professional development so we can utilize the technology to be as beneficial to students as possible.
In order to receive assistive technology it is quite a process. I think there are many students that could profit from assistive technology that slip through the cracks. Students that ‘stick out’ as needing something to help them in learning and have support of parents pushing may receive assistive technology while a student that also needs it but may not be a busy kid or have behavior issues could easily fall behind. I often look around my classroom and know many students could use more support. There is a budget in education and sadly not all kids will receive what they need to be successful.
My classmates made a list of many important questions to ask when considering assistive technology.
Asking the key questions we have been discussing during the course is always important before implementing assistive technology.
- What is made possible/impossible by this toolset? What are the effects (both positive and negative) on teaching and learning?
- What types of students and teachers are privileged and disadvantaged by these technologies?
- What makes a “good student” according to adopters of this technology?
- What are the perceived, idealized, and actual impacts on education?
As I reflect on what I have used in my classroom and think of what else I could try out, I will keep these questions in my mind.
Thank you for reading!