Firstly, I would like to thank Allison, Benita, Launel, and Holly for being so wonderful to work with on this weeks presentation on assistive technology. I could not have asked for a better group of ladies to have laughs over zoom with!
My first experiences with assistive technology was extremely similar to the flip grid response I shared in this weeks presentation. When I was first introduced to assistive technology, I found it very frustrating. I was teaching at two schools as a specialists. I was teaching over 500 students in a given week. When I was handed Kurzweil information with no explanation other than this ONE student may use it. The information booklet hit the read tomorrow pile on my desk, and remained there until the end of the year. After doing research, I found that in fact lack of training and support is a huge challenge when it comes to assistive technology.
Dave Edyburn states the following in regards to this issue, “There is little evidence that preservice teachers receive adequate training in assistive technology to prepare them for their responsibilities to consider assistive technology in each IEP meeting. Similarly, there is little evidence that inservice professionals have received adequate training. Hence, the paradox of consideration: How am I supposed to consider AT when I don’t know what the options are?” (pg. 18).
I agree that lack of training is an issue, however we lack training in many areas. The accessibility of assistive technology has increased. With technology such as google read and write at our finger tips, I believe we would be doing a disservice to our students to not access the tools we have readily available. While this does take time to set up and learn, I believe if we allow ourselves to admit to students we are learning alongside them, our very students will help teach us how to best meet their needs.
Google Read & Write
Many people discussed google read and write in the chat this Tuesday. In September I decided to set all my students up with google read and write. Firstly, it took me awhile to set it up myself. I then played around with it. I figured I might as well just jump in! Here are a few pros and cons. The process of getting grade 5/6 students to add this google add on was not easy. It was many hours of chaos with students frustrated and everyone wanting me to help them. Students needed to be logged into chrome as well as their google account. What I ended up having to do, and looking back would recommend to others, was setting each students account up with them individually and making sure it was working. Once things were working I introduced the puzzle piece icon so they would relate that to this tool. Many students found neat things that they can do on their own when given time to explore the new tool.
Where have I used it so far in my class? Many students used google read and write to highlight and read information on websites while doing research. I have also downloaded snapverter and have been able to take pictures and upload pages from textbooks onto google drive. Students are then able to access these through shared google docs and listen to the texts. I hope introduce and use the text prediction tool, to aid students on our next writing assignment. All in all a very valuable tool with lots of options, however you must be willing to put in the time to get your student’s set up and started.
Here is a video I found on google read and write for those of you interested. Anyone else use this tool already and have suggestions?
When considering what I want to see in the future of assistive technologies, I tend to think not of what technologies I hope to see, but rather who is accessing and using these technologies. I strongly believe that all students, even our most capable learners are able to use assistive technologies to improve their work. I have even used the dictionary tool on google read and write while completing readings in my masters program.
Chris Bugaj, presents assistive technologies from history that are now used widely to assist and make life easier for everyone. In this video Chris questions, “instead of planning for students that don’t have disabilities and then making all sorts of modifications for students with disabilities… what if we planned and created materials for students who have disabilities and then just applied those to everybody else?”
Would you ever tell someone they couldn’t use a ramp, because they didn’t have a wheelchair? Sometimes ramps come in handy when I am carrying a heavy load or are using a wheeler to move boxes. So why would we deny a student a piece of technology just because they do not have a diagnosed disability. Sometimes work loads are unpredictably heavy for our students. All students can benefit from utilizing ramps from time to time!