Assistive Technology

Technology in the classroom is rapidly expanding including the assistive technology that is available to students. As a teacher, I feel that it is my job to create an environment where students are given the tools that they need to be successful. Allowing a child to use technology to complete academic tasks is not cheating or taking the easy way out. Rather it is creating an inclusive environment and providing the right tools so that students can perform to their full potential.

For children with disabilities, assistive technology can help them overcome hurdles and conquer barriers that may be present due to their disability. I think a strength of allowing students to use assistive technology is that it allows the teacher to assess the task at hand and helps to eliminate other aspects. For example, if you want to assess a student’s ability to construct a story with all the elements of a story you have been studying. But if you have a student the struggles with written expression, it will affect their ability to get a story down on paper. Therefore, to ask the student to hand write a story may not be an accurate picture of their understanding of the elements of a story. You want to assess their ability of being able to create a story that has all the elements of story not details such as their spelling. So I think allowing students to use assistive technology to orally scribe the story still gives an accurate picture of what you want to assess.

Assistive technology can gives students with disabilities the ability to fully participate in activities in the classroom. As well, it will build their independence and self esteem in the classroom. I think the following video perfectly illustrates the independence assistive technology can grant to students with disabilities.

I have personally seen the difference that assistive technology can make for a learner. Throughout high school I was supported by a few different means of assistive technology that led to my academic success and making school a less stressful environment for me.

There are many things that need to be considered when exploring assistive technology for students. However some of my favorite assistive technologies that I have experienced using are:

  • Dragon Dictate– Dragon Dictate is available as both an app and software for your computer. It is a voice recognition software that allows you to speak to the computer while your computer is typing what you say. The one thing I do not like about the Dragon Dictate software is you have to train it to listen to your voice. This can be time consuming. Check the above link for Dragon Dictate as it provides a great detailed explanation on how to get Dragon Dictate, what situations it will support you in, and what it is capable of.
  • Kurzweil– Kurzweil is software that offers the opposite service of Dragon Dictate. With Kurzweil, you are able to scan in any text document. Kurzweil will then read the text to the student. As the text is read to the student, each word is tracked by a colored bar. Kurzweil also has many features to go along with the text being read to the students. Check out the video on the home page of the Kurzweil site (found at the link above) for further explanation of additional features.
  • Livescribe Smartpen– I would say that the Smartpen is the best kept secret and most under used piece of assistive technology. With a Smartpen you are able to record audio along with any text that you write at the same time as the audio. You can then upload the audio and written notes onto your computer or tablet. Clicking on different places in the text will take you to that spot in the audio. To fully understand what a Smartpen is capable of, check out the pen casts at the above Livescribe Smartpen link.
Smartpen and Notebook

Smartpen and Notebook

  • Office 365- Many people may not consider Office 365 “assistive technology” however, the app has some great features. With the app on a smart phone you can use Word online and scribe any word processing document. Then because the document is on your Office 365 account, you can open the document on your computer to print or do any formatting that needs to be done. This is my new favorite tool. I learned about it at a Technology Lunch and Learn during internship. I then used it all the time during internship. I was AMAZED at how accurate the voice recognition is: I would almost say that it is perfect.
Office 365 app

Office 365 App

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