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.


Digital Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the oldest methods of teaching and learning. Digital storytelling is a modern take on storytelling. Digital storytelling is a blend of video, audio, images, and text to convey stories, information, and ideas. It’s the more exciting way of demonstrating knowledge beyond a presentation tool, such as PowerPoint. Digital storytelling can teach important literacy concepts using digital content. For example, the creation of a digital story can teach characters, setting, and plot in a highly visual and interactive way.

Teachers who use digital storytelling with their students have watched them gain proficiency in writing and research, visual literacy, critical thinking, and collaboration.  All of this is taking place while students are integrating a wide range of learning styles in the process while using technology naturally.  Digital storytelling can be the ultimate UDL approach in any classroom.

A digital story is a series of images connected with text and/or a narrated soundtrack, captured by a digital device such as an iPad, Chromebook or any other computer/smart device, that tells a story. It can be fiction, non-fiction, narrative, biographical, expository, or even poetry. It can be a way for students to demonstrate their knowledge in any area of the curricula. Because of its multimedia approach and appealing blend of text, color, movement, sound, and images, it has fast become one of the most popular writing exercises in schools. Kids love it (and as a visual learner, so do I!) And best of all, assistive technology tools blend beautifully into the process.

Digital storytelling can be a dynamic and compelling way to communicate for all students, including those with special needs who might not have been successful when using traditional narrative writing. This interactive component involved in digital storytelling will enhance learning for all students who learn in different ways. Not only is digital storytelling great as a UDL approach but also a great activity for collaboration. Digital storytelling is the perfect platform for project-based learning.

Hint: Be sure to explore the tools you use carefully as apps for digital storytelling can range from extremely simple to more complex. Be sure to choose apps that match each student's abilities and needs and then let the creativity flow!

Elements to Consider:
According to Center for Digital Storytelling, there are 7 elements critical to a good digital story. This is a great guideline to get you started:
  1. Point of View — What is the perspective of the author?
  2. Dramatic Question — A key question that keeps the viewer’s attention and will be answered by the end of the story.
  3. Emotional Content — Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the audience to the story.
  4. Voice — personalize the story with the author’s unique writing style to help the audience understand the context.
  5. Soundtrack — Music or other sounds that support and embellish the story.
  6. Economy — Using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer.
  7. Pacing — The rhythm of the story and how slowly or quickly it progresses.
This is the goal. Of course, it may not be reached by all of your students but some of the elements can be reached by some of your students.

Consider these 6 steps:
  1. Research the topic to be informed on main points that you want to cover.
  2. Develop a concept map or write a script, a storyboard, or a timeline of the desired process/components.
  3. Start collecting the multi-media parts — text, images, audio, video, oral selfies, and more.
  4. Combine it all into an exciting story.
  5. Share, reflect, proof and add your final touches to the completed story.
  6. Present!
These 6 steps are stepping stones for beginners and critical to experienced storytellers. Remember, digital storytelling is still writing. Whether it is a multi-day project or a storyboard created in ten minutes, the process for digital storytelling is the same as any other writing project:
  • Brainstorm
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Publish
  • Reflect
Students should be involved with every step, including the publishing stage.

Digital storytelling for students with special needs:
For students with special needs, the creativity of digital storytelling apps is allowing educators the opportunity to observe and understand the strengths of all students. Digital storytelling programs are very hands-on and highly visual and provide greater opportunities for learners who struggle with traditional instructional. The methods used will help to highlight their abilities and strengths.

There are so many online options for digital storytelling. Rarely is there a student who can’t find a web tool that fits their communication style as long as they have the assistive technology that they require and the support that they need, just like for everything they do but storytelling- now this is fun stuff! Here are a few sites to help you find the perfect tools for your classroom:

Further Resources worth Exploring:

You don’t have to be an expert to get started. If you don’t know it, I bet some of your students will help you through it!