The term “assistive technology” refers to any software or hardware used to help a student with a disability overcome a learning barrier and improve their abilities. Using individualized lesson plans, assistive technology ensures that all students have access to a high-quality education regardless of their individual learning needs.
Students with special needs can benefit from assistive technology in the classroom, just like those without disabilities. Therefore, understanding the role of assistive technology for students with learning disabilities and other impairments in both traditional and online settings is essential.
Assistive technologies assist students in overcoming challenges and reaching their full potential. We will look at some of the most common examples of assistive technologies you can use in your classroom. We will also delve deeper into how your students can benefit uniquely from assistive devices while highlighting known barriers to using such technology.
Assistive Technology Examples and Their Benefits
Assistive technology is intended to assist students with special needs. Students with physical disabilities, dyslexia or cognitive issues can benefit from assistive technology in the classroom. These tools include any equipment or device that assists students in compensating for learning disabilities. While they cannot wholly eliminate learning problems, they can assist students in capitalizing on their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. Some of the most common examples of cutting-edge technologies available today are the following.
- Audio recorders can capture lectures and discussions that students with auditory processing disorder may miss. Your child may benefit from listening to the words while reading them. Many e-books come with audio files. In addition, text-to-speech programs on smartphones and tablets can read aloud whatever is on your child’s screen. If children have difficulty writing or taking notes, they can record the teacher’s lecture and listen to it at home using an audio recorder.
- Closed captioning enables viewers to follow along with the show or video by providing transcribed text that flows along the bottom of the screen. This text includes dialogue as well as a description of sound effects and scene details.
- Reading guides provide significant benefits to children who have trouble with visual tracking or who need help staying focused on the page. The plastic strip draws attention to a specific line of text while hiding any irrelevant material below it. Keep the strip in place and have your child move it down the page as they read.
- Graphic organizers. Numerous designs available for printing can assist your child in organizing thoughts for a writing assignment. More sophisticated tools, such as organizing programs, are also available to help children map out their ideas.
- Personal audio players that connect to a personal speaker or earpiece via Frequency modulation (FM) radio waves, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth capture teachers’ voices more clearly.FM systems can amplify the teacher’s voice while lowering background noise in the classroom. This may help with issues with attention and auditory processing. The instructor uses a microphone to transmit to the student’s receiver or speakers placed around the classroom. Children with hearing loss, autism spectrum disorder, and difficulties with language processing can all benefit from FM systems.
- Calculators. A basic calculator in class may be appropriate, depending on your child’s math issues. There are also calculators with large displays and even talking calculators. A talking calculator includes built-in speech output to read the numbers, symbols, and operation keys aloud. It can assist children in confirming that they pressed the correct keys.
- Writing supports. Plastic pencil grips or a computer may help your child write. Pencil grips help fine motor skill-challenged students write, while basic word processors have spelling and grammar features.Different software can help students whose thoughts outpace their writing. For example, word prediction software suggests words that start with the letters your child types. Your child can use speech recognition software to type. Many smartphones and tablets include this software.
- Special keyboards. The standard computer keyboard is designed for use with two hands and has a number pad on the right, which favors right-handed individuals. To accommodate a variety of learning needs, special keyboards have been invented. For example, braille aids those who are visually impaired. Other alternatives also include ergonomic keyboards and keyboards with larger keys.
- Speech-to-text software. With the aid of computational linguistics and speech-to-text software, spoken language can be recognized and converted into text. It is also referred to as computer speech recognition or speech recognition. Real-time transcription of audio streams into text that can be displayed and interacted with by specific software, equipment, and devices.
- Text-to-speech software. Text-to-speech (TTS) software is an assistive technology that assists children who have trouble reading standard print. Blindness, dyslexia, any visual impairment, a learning disability, or another physical condition that makes it difficult to read are examples of common print disabilities. TTS technology, however, can also help other students, including those with intellectual disabilities, autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Assistive Technology Barriers
Technology has dominated most industries recently. Innovations that simplify life occasionally hit the market with a bang. One such innovation is assistive technology.
According to records, the AT sector still needs work. The following are the known challenges to using assistive technology in schools.
1. Opinions on assistive technology
Assistive technology aids students with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, there is that preconceived notion that only teachers can help students understand in class. Some teachers and even parents worry that AT tools will disrupt the class. They fear adding tools will take over the classrooms. There is also the idea that phones and tablets can distract other students.
2. Insufficient assistive technology training
AT is all about technology, so classroom use requires skills. Most people lack the skills to use these helpful tools.
A previous study on assistive technology in classrooms found that 41% of teachers interviewed needed to learn what AT was and how to use it. The percentage suggests more teachers want to use the tools but need more basics.
One of the most significant barriers to implementing AT in classrooms is the need for trainers or teachers who understand the tools. As a result, these tools may go unused because the people expected to use them don’t know how.
3. Scarcity of resources
As previously stated, assistive technology benefits differently-abled students. These devices make up for any learning difficulties.
According to a recent study, 70% of respondents did not use AT in class due to equipment shortages. Teachers may be proficient in the use of all tools. Their knowledge, however, is only useful with resources and assistance.
Technology has made many assistive tools available to people with disabilities. However, most of these tools are too expensive for low-income families. US poverty statistics show that not all households can afford these tools.
In 2017, thirty-nine million people were living below the poverty line. Most bracket families struggle to get assistive tools as they are torn between basic needs and assistive devices. These people would have to choose basic needs over special tools for loved ones.
Poverty affects institutions too. Many schools need help to afford the technology. They need more tools and support to train their trainers on tech advances. Most of these schools suffer because they can’t afford such large projects, not because they don’t want the technology.
How Can Assistive Technology Be Used in the Classroom?
Having the right assistive technologies and knowing how to use them in your classroom is just as essential to achieve school success. No matter what kind of assistive technology you use or what kind of students you teach, here are the best ways to use it in your classroom:
1. Understand what works
Assistive technologies are tools that are made for each person. What works for one student may not work for another. Finding the right assistive technology for each student is crucial to figuring out what they need.
2. Let your students play and learn by themselves
Students learn more by doing. So, students can be given full access to the different types of assistive technology and let them figure out how each one can help them learn. The students will learn more about themselves and what works for them, giving the teachers a better idea of what and how they like to learn.
3. Maintain development training
Administrators assist teachers in learning about and becoming more aware of students with disabilities. Teachers must work effectively with these students to make appropriate adjustments.
Maintaining a regular training schedule will assist in keeping teachers up to date on new technology. It would be helpful to emphasize how critical it is for students who require additional learning tools to receive the same treatment and education as other students.
One of education’s core duties is to give students the resources they need to engage fully in their education. Assistive technology may be vital in creating an inclusive learning environment for students with disabilities.
We owe it to our students to offer the best educational opportunities possible as technology becomes more pervasive in our schools and society. The use of technology to drive down barriers for all types of learners will increase, and students will be more successful throughout their lives.
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