How will assistive technology empower you to help your students with difficulties?
Students with cognitive, sensory and physical disabilities face several challenges in learning. For example, those having motor disabilities face difficulties in writing, as they cannot hold pencils or pens. On the other hand, those having learning difficulties face problems in decoding words. Since long, teachers across the world have been struggling hard to address the learning needs of such students. But, not anymore! Thanks to assistive technology, teachers these days are better equipped to cater to such students in classrooms and help them achieve academic excellence.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology (AT), which is considered an umbrella term, refers to adaptive, assistive and rehabilitative tools and devices that assist persons with disabilities in working around the challenges they have so that they can learn, work, and communicate better. These tools and devices are found to be effective in addressing various attention- and learning- related issues . They help students with difficulties to be more productive and academically successful, which ultimately boost their confidence and independence.
For example, if a student has poor vision, he/she can be introduced to a tool that helps him/her enlarge the text. On the other hand, a big, simplified computer keyboard can be of immense use to a student having motor difficulties. Non-verbal students can be introduced to talking switches, while students having reading problems can be empowered with a computer that scans as well as reads any text.
Indeed, the flexibility of assistive technology goes a long way in empowering teachers to use tools and materials in order to cater to students with various difficulties.
Classroom-based assistive technology
When it comes to classroom-based teaching and learning, several types of assistive technology can be used. Let’s discuss each in detail.
According to some studies, when students with physical difficulties are positioned properly in classrooms, they are able to pay more attention to teaching for a longer period. So, if you have such students in your classroom, you can use positioning equipment like walker, standing aids, beanbag chairs and so on. There are different types of communication devices that work wonders for students with articulation problems, dysfluent, or nonverbal.
Active listening is also important in the classroom. However, many students have listening problems. To improve such students’ classroom experience, various assistive devices for listening can be used. There are some listening devices that help students with hearing difficulties to tune in to their teachers’ voice even from a distance and follow the classroom lectures.
Assistive technology is also helpful for those students who use their vision as the main mode of learning. You can use several devices to help such learners. Some of these devices include audiobooks, light boxes, scanners, magnifiers, and screen enlargers.
When it comes to school life, the importance of recreation cannot be ignored, as it helps students interact with each other and improve their social skills. However, most of the schools provide little recreational scopes for students with difficulties. However, this situation is changing fast.
Thanks to assistive technology, schools can now offer such students a wide range of adapted recreational activities. Some of the adapted recreational activities include computer games and simulations, drawing software, adapted puzzles, just to name a few. Undoubtedly, these activities can make a significant difference to students having several disabilities.
A discussion on assistive technology remains incomplete if we do not talk about software. Software can be a great help to students with different types of disabilities. If you have students with learning difficulties, you can encourage them to use the software that provides feedback immediately. It will help them improve their academic performance and motivate them to perform better.
To help your students with developmental disabilities, you can introduce them to special software that compensate for their motor difficulties, organize their behavior, and communicate with less possibility of misunderstanding.
Talking software is another good example of assistive technology. By using this software, your students can listen to the words while reading them. At times, students with poor vocabulary and those with motor impairments face problems in writing. If you provide such students with word processing tool with word prediction facility, they will be able to perform better.
Accommodating students with attention deficit disorder in the classroom is also quite challenging for teachers. Now, with the growing penetration of modern technologies, teachers can opt for the software that minimize the effects of all external stimuli and help such students focus on studies.
Can you use assistive technology to assist other students too?
Now, the obvious question that arises in the reader’s’ mind is—Can assistive technology be used to assist general students who have no difficulties? The answer is a big ‘Yes’. Thanks to auditory, tactile and visual approaches of assistive technology, teachers can make the best use of technology to address students’ with different learning styles.
Further, assistive technology helps students become independent learners. It ultimately enables teachers to pay more attention to each student and focus more on various group activities.
Last but not the least; assistive technology helps create a positive learning environment in the classroom. When every student provides his/her undivided attention to the study, it gives a healthy boost to classroom-based teaching and learning.
Are assistive technology and educational technologies the same?
Most of the time, assistive and educational technologies are interrelated. And the reason? There is a very thin line between the two. While assistive technology is considered very personal to every student, the latter is mainly classroom-based.
It is now clear how assistive technology, along with educational technologies, has brought a significant change in the classroom-based teaching and learning. Most importantly, assistive technology promotes more independence among students having difficulties as well as general students. In a nutshell, assistive technology has helped take the overall teaching and learning to new heights of excellence.