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.


Flipping a Classroom and Special Education

As schools shift to mobile device usage and new forms of technology inspired instruction, such as flipping the classroom, special education is realizing the power of these mainstream approaches for its assistive technologies, modifications and accommodations. It is an exciting time! Assistive technology is blurring with educational technology. It's a dream coming true.

I just love the idea of flipping a classroom. For our students with learning challenges, this could be the cat’s meow! As special educators, this could be a wonderful strategy to help general education teachers explore. Talk about pre-teaching! The main theory behind a flipped classroom is having the lecture/lesson video taped and/or in digital format (a Youtube, a TED Talk, etc.) then watched at home, the classwork is then project based... when our normal approach has more of an approach to lecture/provide the lesson at school and the project at home. In the flipped classroom. the teacher is more of a facilitator.

Watching recorded lessons in the privacy of your home (or in a support classroom) allows students to re-watch, rewind, discuss with a friend/support teacher/parents… then the teacher can reteach in small chunks while students are participating in active learning. When flip teaching is done right, what matters is that it uses time differently and more effectively, in ways that can profoundly benefit all learners, including students with special needs.

Students with diagnoses including learning disabilities, ADHD and autism absorb lessons at different rates and benefit from different learning styles to  process and retain information. Flipped instruction helps to put students with learning challenges on more of an  equal playing field which in turn allows for more effective classroom participation. Learners who may not have immediately grasped their teacher’s in-class instruction may now feel empowered to contribute to classroom discussions and ask informed questions instead of worrying about standing out.

With instruction taking place in the home on students’ time, teachers will have more time to observe their students as they apply what they have learned. This provides teachers more opportunities to watch students when working, which in turn allows them to identify the challenges and provide support for struggling students with differentiated activities and/or interventions.

Consider this by Andrea Prupas, the head of inov8 Educational Consulting, whose firm specifically addresses special education and technology. “We argue that the benefit is really for the collaborative and active learning aspects in the classroom,” Prupas said. “The teacher is more of a facilitator.” For example, if a student with autism needs to work on social skills specifically, a flipped model allows the teacher to focus on those skills in the classroom by setting up activities that are team-oriented and collaborative. In that case, the instructional videos might show social skills such as taking a phone call or performing a transaction in a store. Then, in class the students would work on the skills together.

How to get started, the basics-

Six Steps to Flipping a Classroom
ELearning Infographics shares insight into the essential steps to flip your classroom. For a handy visual, head over to their Website. The steps identified are surprisingly simple:

  1. Plan: Identify which lesson you want to flip.
  2. Record: Make a video that incorporates your classroom lessons.
  3. Share: Send the video to your students, explaining that it will be discussed in class.
  4. Change: After students view the lesson, they’ll be prepared to take a deeper dive into the concepts discussed.
  5. Group: Split students into groups and give them a task to perform. Make it fun—examples include writing a poem or making a video. 
  6. Regroup: Bring the students back together to share everyone’s work. Ask questions to encourage comprehensive understanding.
  • iNov8 provided a Flipped classroom for students with special needs – List of toolsthat includes: Those that can be used outside of the classroom only (content curation and interactive screencasting) Those that can be used both inside or outside the classroom (screensharing, interactive polling) and Those used mainly for use inside the classroom (digital storytelling, blogging/microblogging, concept mapping).

Tech and Learning's article, "Flipping Instruction for Struggling Students" provides a short slide show along with tips and resources.  
The thinking behind the flipped class - blended learning where students learn content through technology usually at home, and "homework" is done in class with teachers and students discussing and solving questions, involved in projects - is to engage learners in and out of the classroom. The dynamic nature of this approach enables teachers to create effective and fun learning experiences. Flipped classrooms can help to bring parents into the classroom, creating more family involvement, conversation and knowledge about what is being taught. Parents have the knowledge to then reinforce what is being taught in the classroom with life experiences, extending the learning even further. How our special needs students lives can be enriched through this process and the support it can provide - that's the cherry on the top.