What assisted technologies are available to you as a teacher? By Ronald Griffin, Eric Merryman and Cameron Hall
There are many great assistive technologies available for teachers. Two important aspects of assistive technology are understanding students’ disabilities and selecting the appropriate assistive technology that is available for those students. These two concepts go hand in hand. If a teacher has a solid grasp on the disabilities in his or her classroom, then selecting the right assistive technology becomes much easier. Also, having extensive knowledge on the available assistive technologies leads to accurate pairings between programs and students.
The first assistive technological program I would like to mention is JAWS screen reader. JAWS screen reader is a computer program that allows students with blindness to use a computer. The program reads text on a computer screen and allows for easy navigation on the computer. This program is perfect for any classroom that uses technology. Throughout this semester many educational technologies have been discussed, and it has become evident how some of these technologies can be a game changer in the classroom. Unfortunately, disabilities can sometimes hinder the use on all available technology. Programs like JAWS fill the void that certain disabilities create and enable disabled students to benefit from technology. A simple example would be iCurio. iCurio is an amazing resource for students to research specific topics and gain an abundance of knowledge. Now, insert JAWS and students who are suffering from blindness can immediately benefit from this great resource.
Many schools are now utilizing iPads for their students, so it makes sense to use application programs as a form of assistive technology. Dragon Dictation is a great application for students with little or no use of their hands. Just like Jaws, Dragon Dictation bridges the gap for students who are not able to use a computer without assistance. Dragon Dictation allows one to use their voice to type text on a computer. There are a lot of educational systems that use computer programs as an intricate part of the curriculum. Dragon Dictation is a great assistive technology that allows schools to integrate more computer related education.
Having a disability should never be a catalyst to second rate education. Using programs like JAWS and Dragon Dictation are good ways to put assistive technology to use. As a teacher, one should be aware and have a good understanding of the assistive technologies that are available. Having a solid knowledge of these things can be the difference between a disabled student getting the education they need and rightly deserve and being left out in the cold fighting with their disability.
While trying to be a math teacher, I never realized that the blind would have the issue stated in this video from Professor Art Karshmer. He stated that blind students would have problems visualizing how to set up problems to solve, by unable to see how to line them up. Braille is unable to help as well because it doesn’t line up the problems in the proper way. My personal belief is that anyone can learn math if taught the right way, and in the case of blind students, the right way involves assistive technology.
Professor Art Karshmer in the video uses a talking computer with a matrix grid that has pieces that are registered as numbers. This reminds me of a digital talking chess board, similar layout, it says where you put the piece, just it is with flat pieces that have braille on them to say what number the piece is. This is rather ingenious, it is difficult to tell a blind person what to see on paper, but with assistive technology, it can help them see the concept of math that is on their paper.
Math-to-speech is an important tool for blind students and teachers of blind students alike. However it is limited, according to Design Science and Educational Testing Service. Does the speech of certain mathematical expressions, in the case of fractions, sound like one-third or one-over-three? Design Science and ETS are both working hard to improve on the tech, which is good, improvements can always be made. Making the lives easier for students that have a hard time learning is important. Everyone, no matter what disability they have, have the right to an education, and we as teachers must do what we can to make it possible.
In an English classroom setting, I feel that direct feedback about understanding is necessary to adapt to every student’s learning capabilities. Using the Mountbatten Braille Writer allows for this feedback in the classroom. It allows for both audio and tactile feedback which I think provides a wide range of ways for the teacher to efficiently meet the needs of that particular student. The program is very advanced, doing things a computer would and being a learning tool itself for those who do not know braille. I love this because it gives the student an opportunity to work in peer groups and not feel excluded or different from others in the classroom. For an English class, I think this could be a very useful tool for both me and the student. For the student, it gives them a way to be on the same accord with the rest of the class, not having separate less challenging work. For the teacher, I can understand the students needs a bit more and become a more efficient teacher for them.
I also came across the Special 2 Me blog. I really loved this blog because it really hit home for me. I have worked in a lot of low income, inner city schools. People sometimes seem to think that the students who attend these schools are only troublemakers who simply do not care about their education. Well I beg to differ. I love these students and they are the only ones who I would really want to work with. This blog talks about a fairly new teacher taking over a new classroom. She let her students set their physical boundaries and she respected their wishes. She was not scared of her students. She let them know who’s classroom it was and that she sets the tone and rules each and every time they walk in the door. With this attitude she was able to change one student who was starting to cause problems from the start. It seems like instead of walking into this inner city school thinking the kids it possesses are a problem, she walked in with an attitude knowing that they are students who want to learn like everyone else. In my own personal experience, some of these students just want to know that their teachers care.
School has become an outlet for some of the troublemaking students and with them maybe not having the proper support from home, we have to take on the role of supporter, parent, friend and teacher. I loved this blog because it shows us future first year teachers that we can not have attitudes about our students before we even meet them. Also that the classroom period is all about progress: progress of our students, of our classroom and importantly of ourselves as growing teachers.