“ When I applied SETT to student-based decision-making, the order did not make sense. There was frustration with what one university freshman called the, "my problems first," approach. There was also the sense that it did not direct flexibility – the need for different answers to different problems…
“ To be motivated to learn to use technology the student must accept that a disability exists and have an immediate need that can be met by the technology.” (Day and Edwards, 1996) For me this meant that the task must come first.”
“ A college student with a reading disability may need to develop a range of strategies for reading. One for "life-reading" – job applications, hospital forms, another for reading done in English courses, a third for technical reading, and a fourth for testing.”
“ A high school student with ADHD may need to alter his solutions based on the difference between a long block schedule class on Tuesday and its shorter counterpart on Friday, because teaching methods change from room to room, or because his morning has been better or worse.”
“ I often compare many high school seniors with learning disabilities that I meet to a student unable to walk who has never seen a wheelchair. If students have never been exposed to possible disability solutions they are unequipped for self-determination.”
“ The student must be empowered through a number of conditions, including the ability to borrow assistive technology solutions, the freedom to test various practices, and training in tracking how these tested accommodations alter task success.”
“ In tracking task success students can learn to look at direct results (improved test scores), indirect results (less time required for task completion), and affective indicators (improvements in mood, self-image, stress levels).”
“ The student with a disability however, will need to make an ever-evolving set of technology choices throughout their lifetime. Their capabilities may change, their environments surely will, and there is no doubt that the tool choices will continue to diversify and show new capabilities…
“ When those changes occur the assessment teams at the heart of the SETT process will not be available. If we are not teaching a fully self-determination approach, we will not be giving students lifespan skills.”
Results – Mark immediately began finding research on-line and using WYNN. He also immediately started to use ViaVoice. Only the next year did he really pursue keyboard accommodations, wanting to go to college and to take his own notes. The ABC keyboard meant little to him (he did not know the alphabet well) but he like Dvorak “with the vowels together.”
Mark has adapted in the years since, as an undergrad and now graduate student. He uses WYNN 3.5 at last check, ViaVoice Pro-USB 10. He has a laptop re-labeled to the Dvorak layout. He has a digital voice recorder that he links to ViaVoice. He has become a big fan of Firefox’s FoxyVoice for web browsing and reading email though he uses WYNN for serious research (he is pursuing a history Masters’ degree).
Results – Immediate devotion to ViaVoice. Worked for three days straight training and practicing and starting to tell stories. This was difficult because he needed to “talk through” the corrections, but Kevin refused almost all adult help, repeatedly saying “I’m gonna do this myself.” He was unhappy with keyboard alternatives though the keyguard allowed him to type some. He dismissed the switch as “for babies.”
A year later, however, wanting more choices, he reacted very well to a touch screen panel linked to Lake Software’s “click-n-type” on-screen keyboard. He is hoping the school will get him a tablet pc so he can write in class “without having to go sit over there” (away from the class).
Results – Carlos was able to study for his test with WYNN. And to use that software to read email as well, especially job-related email. He also quickly scanned pleasure books in. He never liked ReadPlease, struggling with the “paste-in” feature. He was reluctant to use the Reading Pen until after he made an expensive parts mistake at work, and realized its value in reading plans and part labels.
As he became more comfortable with technology and took more responsibility at work, he began carrying a pocket pc on which he would ask co-workers to type in notes and reminders, that he would later read at home.
Results – Abby gravitated toward digital book readers, via both laptop and pocket pc because she had trouble holding books and turning the pages. We did try six different PDA styli before choosing an easily held one. She converted her books to both WYNN and Reader, used WYNN for most studying - she liked “how it reads diagrams, and liked the scanning,” and Reader as a back up pocket version she could carry with her to meals and the coffee shop.
Though she had previously trained Dragon she gravitated towards ViaVoice which she said, “understood both when I’m good and when I’m exhausted.” She rejected alternate keyboards as too difficult to use and continues to rely on classroom notetakers.
A different kind of research is needed, devoted not to the generalized “what works on average” typical of today’s studies, but based in improving practitioner and student assessment of what is likely to work, for which student, in which specific situation.
A vital component of this is discovering how to teach “instructional tolerance” to school faculties. Students must be given a level of freedom very rare in SEN decision-making, and teachers must accept that the students may make less than perfect decisions.
Action Research, single-subject studies, and recording the experiences of students (in their own words or via video), will provide us with the kind of data that allows us to better understand how self-directed decisions are made, and how to train this type of decision-making.