Access for All! Helping students access ITC with Assistive Technologies
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology (AT) supports individuals with learning disabilities and difficulties in their communication and education to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible.
It includes devices, tools, hardware and software.
Why use Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology can support students to complete tasks more efficiently and independently, resulting in improved performance in a variety of academic tasks.
Students with learning difficulties and disabilities may struggle in the classroom, with pen and paper and reading the printed page, but they can use a variety of digital tools and competently navigate a webpage far more efficiently than their parents… or teachers.
Assistive Technologies in the classroom?
Using technology to assist students with learning disabilities and difficulties is very similar to using technology in general education.
Technology should not be seen as an add-on of something which is apart from the general curriculum.
Assistive technology should be integrated into the general curriculum using a school-wide, cross curricular approach.
Such technology can assist all students, not just those with learning disabilities or difficulties.
Assistive Technology helps struggling students to achieve greater independence
Runs out of steam when he writes - he has motor difficulty with writing.
A good linguist, so it is not the language part of writing that is impending him.
His verbal output exceeds what his fingers can do so that his engine gets flooded when he tries to write.
Difficulty mobilizing the mental effort needed for writing.
A Typical student in your class Name : Nathan Age: 10
What’s going on inside Nathan’s head?
“ How am I going to pull together spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, my prior knowledge, my new ideas, letter formation?”
“ How am I going to remember the directions that the teacher gave while I’m doing that?” “ How am I going to organise this so that it has a beginning, middle, and an end?”
That’s a lot to juggle…. and some children sit down… bright children like Nathan… and say “Forget it! I’ll just stare out the window.” It is just more than they can handle. And Nathan is that way.
Students might have problems such as the following:
finding the right words to convey ideas
using correct grammar
Assistive Technology is NOT ‘One-size-fits-all’
Suiting the Assistive Technology to the student is a very personal and individualised experience.
Important considerations when choosing Assistive Technologies
It is important that an assessment be made as to the most appropriate choice of technology for each individual student.
Does the technology assist with the particular difficulty?
Does the technology allow the user to exercise his/her abilities?
Remember: The technology is only effective if you are confident and fluent in its use.
There are many types of Assistive Technologies that can be used in the classroom…
Digital Literacy tools e.g.MAC Universal Access, Read and Write Gold and Co-Writer, Clicker 5
Speech Recognition e.g. Dragon Naturally Speaking & iListen
Organisational Software - Mind mapping tools e.g. Kidspiration, Inspiration, DraftBuilder .
Some Assistive Technologies can be accessed for FREE
Apple Macintosh includes assistive technology in its products as standard features — at no additional cost.
These features can assist individuals with physical disabilities who have vision, hearing and/or mobility impairments, as well as individuals with learning disabilities.
Similar features are available for PC.
Free Assistive Technologies in the classroom
Universal Access (Mac) provides a range of assistive technology options. It includes four sub-components, each providing different options and settings.
Word Prediction Technology
Software to assist with typing by reducing the number of keystrokes needed to enter a complete word.
Word prediction software attempts to predict the target word based on the first letters typed by the user.
Co:Writer interprets spelling and grammar mistakes and offers word suggestions in real time
Co:Writer works in conjunction with any application you write in like MS Word, Online, Blogs, Email, etc.
To complete the word, the user simply selects one of the words offered. For longer words this can offer speed improvements.
Word prediction vocabulary can be personalised
Voice Recognition Software
Voice recognition software can help students bypass their problems with lower order writing skills by dictating their written work.
When students use voice recognition software they wear a headset and operate the computer by voice commands.
Speech- to-text software allows students to get their ideas down before they are forgotten.
Examples: iListen (Mac) and Dragon NaturallySpeaking (PC)
Is a word processor that gives immediate speech feedback as students type words, sentences and paragraphs.
As students draft their writing, they see and hear if their writing makes sense and if it is what they wanted to say.
Includes writing tools, including talking spell checker, homophone checker, and dictionary help your students confirm their word choice.
Writing with Symbols 2000 ( www.spectronicsinoz.com)
Is an integrated word and graphics processor for children who have difficulty using text.
Allows non-text ready individuals to write with pictures.
Allows text users to have a talking word processing program with a pictorial spell checker.
It can help to explain the differences between words that look the same (saw saw, spell spell) words that sound the same (hair hare, pear pair) as well as giving language support (drink drink, run ran, loud loudest)
Clicker 5 (www.cricksoft.com)
Clicker 5 is a writing and multimedia tool designed for students of all abilities.
Has a wide range of accessibility options for users who cannot use a mouse or keyboard.
Enables students to write with whole words and pictures
Easy to tailor for individual needs
Supports all areas of the curriculum
Organisational software helps students to organise information and ideas through a variety of webs or concept maps.
Brainstormed ideas can be entered as visual organizers which are then translated into outlines for the students to follow while writing.
Can be used to gather information before writing;
students can add new information which is automatically rearranged to present the information in a logical way.