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.


Free Classroom Supports Worth Knowing About

With the rising costs of everything combined with the school economy today, we can use all the help we can get for a greater bang for our buck. This is the 2010 list of some tools that are provided free to help your students be more successful in their educational process. So much is available for free these days, is software where we really need to be spending our money? (For those of you not familiar with the term "open source," it generally refers to a collaborative movement in which developers work together to create usable code that is made available to the public at no cost. No cost? Yep – that's right. People work together to solve a problem and then share their resources to the community so others can use it. The resources also continue to evolve as a direct result of the community cooperation. Interesting concept, eh?) Check out these resources before spending money!

Classroom teaching shouldn't be as static as the textbooks on which it's based. By learning how to use tools you could engage and inspire a passion for learning.  Learn along side of your students with the tools that foster higher levels of thinking... fostering more productive, collaborative, life long learners in all of us. And, making it fun!
  • Access Firefox - a browser designed for all users by individualizing it with the many add-ons that are offered to provide various forms of extra support. "Regardless of what your individual needs may be, Firefox will empower you to browse and interact with the Internet the way that you want to." For example: Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading. Follow the simple steps at their site to install Readability in your Web browser. 
  • Evernote (available for iDevices as an app also) is becoming more and more popular in education. For those with learning disabilities and especially those with TBI... Use Evernote to save ideas, keep track of all those little things, organize your life... things you see, things you like. Think of it as life's note taking tool. Evernote will allow you to copy and paste information from websites, create diagrams, record information, and add comments and tags to information that you find. You can send the material to your computer, cell phone, or handheld device and access it. A great tool in a hectic life. (Be sure to download this comprehensive guide on using Evernote.)
  • Ghotit Dyslexic Spell checker - You can download a free spellchecker that works, unfortunately on Internet Explorer only. It also has a text to speech engine. You will want this if dyslexia is a need for support.
  • Google Tools - Google has developed some incredible free tools for you to use. Best of all, when you sign up for a free Google gmail account, you can then use that info to quickly and easily add other tools like the document tool, Google Docs, that allows you to share a document with another person - like a teacher at school - to get updates on homework, input on ways to help, etc. Students can use it to share on a project from home with a classmate. Google Notebook allows you to paste clipped text, images and links in a scrapbook type tabbed notebook with various topics you create. Your info is with you wherever you are online. Picasa is a fabulous photo editor to crop, save and edit images as well as post them online. Google has a calendar and a desktop home page (see Google Tools link above) that you can set up to tie all of this together in a one-stop control center. Check out the Google Apps for Educators to see all that they have developed for our use.
  • My Study Bar - (See separate posting for more details) is a comprehensive set of open source and freeware applications to support learners with literacy difficulties. My Study Bar provides a toolbar which includes a range of tools to support inclusion such as mind mapping, screen masking, word prediction, talking dictionary, text-to-speech, Save as MP3 and voice recognition.  

  • 2 wonderful programs that help you understand more of what you read, faster. Rewordify will translate hard English into easier English and TextCompactor will provide you with an Automatic Text Summarization Tool. Quick, easy tools.
  • Webspiration offers the capability to work through the pre-writing process by using graphic organizers or creating outlines. With one click of a mouse you can do both limiting the need of wasting paper. This is a free Internet version of Inspiration.
  • VoiceThreadan online presentation site that allows you to attach audio and video and users to leave audio and video comments. It's been around for a while but still such a powerful tool worth revisiting.
  • Wordle - One of my favorite programs! The uses are endless. What a great way of letting students demonstrate their knowledge, provide the main components or attributes of a science term or the US. Constitution. How about a book report with the setting, characters and plot?

So, are you wondering what to do with all these wonderful tools? How do you bring them into the classroom and into the learning experience? Check out this free resource:  The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book by Terry Freedman, which is a collection of projects that have used Web 2.0 tools to facilitate learning in classroom.  This book offers wonderful examples of some highly effective ways that teachers are using blogs, microblogs, wikis, podcasts, video conferencing (Skype), Animoto, VoiceThread, Voki, Google Maps, Google Docs, and numerous other Web 2.0 resources.

Need more? Try the Educational Freeware site. This site provides reviews of sites, software, and learning games broken down by grade level and subject matter. And, please, check out the absolutely awesome and powerful site: UDL Tech Toolkit. This site is loaded with tools your students will greatly benefit from.