What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Using Technology in the Public School Setting

Are you feeling that schools are developed around making IT's and administrators lives easier instead of concentrating on how to prepare students for the future? I know we all feel a frustration in this area so I have gathered some misc. information that you may want to share if you feel this practice is affecting your ability to do your job. Of course, you will not be able to view any of this from your school computer as I am sure you are "locked down" and you do not have permission to be an educated decision maker who has the ability to think critically about what is safe and what is not safe when it comes to Internet sites or teaching in public schools…but here it goes: My Soap Box!

Yes, we have the Child Internet Protect Act, but maybe it is time to revisit and revise this act.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, states: People in the 21st century live in a technology and media-suffused environment, marked by various characteristics, including: 1) access to an abundance of information, 2) rapid changes in technology tools, and 3) the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.

My questions: 

Block students from Internet sites-
  1. How will we teach students appropriate use of technology if we determine for them what is appropriate and what is not appropriate? 
  2. Do we not allow students to talk in fear that they might cuss? 
  3. Do we not allow students to ______ because they might _____? (You fill in the blank.
Block teachers from Internet sites-
  1. Are they not professionals? 
  2. Do they not live by a code of ethics? 
  3. Do we not trust in their ability to be critical thinkers? 
A few YouTubes (oh, no!! Not that! YouTube MUST be blocked! We know what terrible things students and staff can get into if we allow access to YouTube!) you may appreciate:

Finally, take some time to hear what Jon-Michael Poff, who was a senior at Batesville High School, in Batesville, Arkansas thinksStop Blocking Online Content Severely limiting Internet access does high school students a disservice.

"How much longer will schools compromise students' education? To those who have the responsibility to make a change, hear our cry: Tear down that wall." 

A search on the topic of "why block school from the Internet?" will bring many links on how to sneak in through the back door. Do we want to teach our students to sneak in through the back door? How will this prepare them for the real world? 

From a teacher that teaches high school severely disabled students:
My experience…. When our class was studying musical instruments we were blocked from all sites with the filtering message “Music Appreciation Restricted”. 

Can schools legally block some Internet sites?
Schools are prohibited from restricting access to information on the Internet -- much in the same way that censoring books is unlawful -- says Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. He writes that, in some cases, software companies that provide Internet-filtering software are blocking material that should be allowed, including references to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered content. However, Block writes that the buck ultimately stops with schools, which must provide additional oversight to ensure sites are not unlawfully censored.

The federal district court's groundbreaking decision in the Camdenton case should be a warning to school districts. As technology changes, schools must be aware that all outposts in the marketplace of ideas should be open to students, whether on the bookshelves or the Internet. They must adhere to the same standards of viewpoint neutrality that apply anywhere else in a school library.
Education Week (premium article access compliments of EdWeek.org) (5/16/12)

We are only talking about the Internet lock downs here. I haven't even begun to talk about the hardware lock downs and the frustrations that limited access causes teachers to not be able to do their job. Teachers' hands are tied not by their professionalism but by the IT departments' and administrators' rules. Please, let us do our jobs...