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.


Teaching Students with Varied Needs

It's a new year but there have been so many wonderful ideas for teaching students of various needs and and differences in the past, maybe it is time to go back and revisit a few before we move forward. A mid-year jolt of sorts... Let's use all that we have learned in the last few years while remembering and considering all the many wonderful ideas we have learned along the way. A mid-year jolt of sorts... Let's rejuvenate, rethink and remember what has worked!

What do you have ingrained in your brain and what are those wonderful tidbits for teaching a variety of students that are just somehow put on the top shelf in the everyday challenges?

Maybe it's time to try exploring more modifications in the classroom, from low tech to high tech and everything in-between? Is it time to think a little more about designing programs with universal design for learning (UDL) and/or using tools for differentiating instruction? When designing lessons, have we forgotten to consider Gardner's multiple intelligences and multiple learning styles?

Edutopia shares: " having an understanding of different teaching approaches from which we all can learn, as well as a toolbox with a variety of ways to present content to students, is valuable for increasing the accessibility of learning experiences for all students. Indeed, providing different contexts for students and engaging a variety of their senses -- for example, learning about fractions through musical notes, flower petals, and poetry meter -- is supported by research. Specifically:
  • Providing students with multiple ways to access content improves learning (Hattie, 2011).
  • Providing students with multiple ways to demonstrate knowledge and skills increases engagement and learning, and provides teachers with more accurate understanding of students' knowledge and skills (Darling-Hammond, 2010)."     

Georgia Project for Assistive Technology created these Assistive Technology Considerations Lists continues to be worth exploring and to keep on hand:

Using Colorado's Instructional Accommodations Manual 2014 -15 you will find a wonderful layout for considering presentation of content, response accommodations, setting/environmental, timing/scheduling accommodations.

Differentiated instruction... what can this offer our students? Strategies for dealing with diversity!!! Differentiated instruction is an approach that assumes there is a diversity of learners in every classroom and that all of those learners can be reached if a variety of methods and activities used. Carol Tomlinson (2000), a noted expert on differentiation, points out that research has proven that students are more successful when they are taught based on their own readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. Well, imagine that!

To learn more, you may want to explore Edutopia’s: “18 Teacher-Tested Strategies for Differentiated Instruction”. Simply said, differentiation is modified instruction that helps students with "diverse academic needs and learning styles master the same challenging academic content."  A daunting task? Take some time to explore this a little. Consider that teachers can differentiate instruction with an individual student, within a small group, or with a whole class. Differentiating does not mean providing separate, unrelated activities for each student but does mean providing interrelated activities that are based on student needs for the purpose of ensuring that all students come to a similar grasp of a skill or idea.

Between modifications, accommodations, assistive technology, multiple learning styles, universal design for learning and differentiated instruction, our students with special needs are going to have an amazing 2015! Let's work as the best team possible to provide the best chances possible for our students to find their path to many successes.And don't forget to consider a Flipped Classroom!!! Talk about fun...

I say, let's help our students dare to be different, standing right there by their side enjoying the journey! I can't wait to see what the future has in store for all of us. I just know it's going to be awesome!

A couple of Pinterest Boards to consider for more resources: