A Goal and an Assist

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Assistive Technology is changing the learning environment for children with physical and mental challenges. My question is, shouldn’t technology be assistive for all learners? I have a dream that soon every student will have access to the assistive technology they need to reach their potential.

In the meantime, some of the lessons learned from using assistive technology with students with disabilities, can and should be applied to the use of technology with all children. Coleman presents possible solutions for the successful implementation of assistive technology.

“It is imperative that teachers of students with physical disabilities are knowledgeable about AT and how to implement AT in a way that best meets the needs of their students.” Again, I see this as important for all students and all technologies. Coleman goes on to say, “Research shows that there is a high rate of abandonment and under use of assistive technology devices,” especially when teacher knowledge is limited. This has been a traditional problem with implementation of any technology.

As well, matching the technology to student need is critical. “Approximately one third of AT devices are abandoned within the first year because the assessment process was not thorough enough to ensure that the device purchased would match the needs of the user” (Coleman). Coleman cites other researchers, stating “environmental factors, such as lack of accessibility and teachers’ attitudes factored in to whether students did or did not use their AT devices. “ Involving teachers in selection of technology and giving them time for training is a key factor. The good thing is, with technology to assist them, teachers have many options for their own learning.

Coleman, M.  (2011).  Successful implementation of assistive technology to promote access to curriculum and instruction for students with physical disabilities.  Physical Disabilities:  Education And Related Services, 30(2), 2-22.  Retrieved from:  http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ955444.pdf

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About sandralbecker

An educator who is passionate about the creation of a school Learning Commons, which supports inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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2 Responses to A Goal and an Assist

  1. kamal punit says:

    Sandra,
    I think you make some remarkable points about the use of assistive technology. Your question, “shouldn’t technology be assistive for all learners?” resonates with my understanding of the larger picture of assistive technology. It underlines the fact that technology is a tool and must be used for every student. Perhaps lesson must be taken from the successful implementation of assistive technology implementations for students with cognitive or physical disabilities. According to Coleman (2011, p. 4), “AT can be anything that helps a student … or to increase the efficiency with which the task is performed.” Technology dependency is however the negative aspect. Trends magazine (2011, p. 29) points out one of the impacts of overuse as the state of “continuous partial attention” where, “a person is keeping tabs on numerous unrelated bits of incoming information, while never completely focusing his or her concentration on anything.”(ibid). This is in direct correlation to the multi tasking abilities that we assume our children to be born with today. How can educators promote learning of web 2.0 technologies unless they can help their students strike a balance for optimum technology so that learning is truly ‘active’?

    Reference:

    Coleman, M. (2011). Successful implementation of assistive technology to promote access to curriculum and instruction for students with physical disabilities. Physical Disabilities: Education And Related Services, 30(2), 2-22.

    The Challenge of “Media-Addicted” Consumers, Employees, and Citizens. (2011). Trends Magazine, (98), 27-30.

  2. kelasher says:

    I agree with your belief that technology should be assistive for all learners. Just as automatic doors found allow people in wheelchairs easier access to a store, so too does it support the needs of an individual carrying a toddler in one arm and two bags of groceries in the other.

    Matching technologies to student need, and ensuring sufficient knowledge and training are in place for both the student and the teacher are essential components in the use of AT in classrooms. You note how it is imperative for teachers to be knowledgeable about how to best match AT to student need and plan for its’ effective use. Finding the time and support required to gain this knowledge becomes the sticking point. This is by far my biggest struggle. Coleman (2011) acknowledges that in “an ideal situation, the school system would have a team of AT specialists that assists with assessment, procurement, training, and implementation of the use of AT devices.” (p. 4). In reality, such ideal situations rarely materialize. But even in the absence of the’ ideal situation’, we must persevere in our efforts to support the needs of our students. For me, often the most important thing I do as a teacher is to encourage my students to reflect on their learning and help them to develop self-advocacy skills for ensuring that their individual learning needs are being met.

    References:

    Coleman, M. (2011). Successful implementation of assistive technology to promote access to curriculum and instruction for students with physical sisabilities. Physical Disabilities: Education And Related Services, 30(2), 2-22.

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