My experiences with using Assistive Technology has predominately been through the use of a sound system for students with hearing impairments. I found that many of my students benefitted from having a sound system for the obvious fact that the students can hear better, therefore be able to understand the instructions and lessons more effectively. As well, it would save myself from having to speak loudly to ensure everyone can hear. The article; Using Hearing Assistive Technologies in the Classroom: Why, When and How?, explains that;
Classroom audio distribution systems (CADS) or sound field system makes it easier for all students in the classroom to hear over the noise coming from classmates, squeaky chairs, and loud ventilation systems. Additionally, teachers experience benefits in the form of reduced vocal strain and a decrease in need for repetitions.
Fortunately, my students and I have benefited from having the CADS system in our classroom. It is an excellent tool!
A couple of years ago, one of my students, who was visually impaired, required assistive technologies. She had access to many supports through PSVI; Program for Students With Visual Impairments. The goal of the program is that;
all students with visual impairments acquire skills, knowledge and confidence needed to learn on par with their peers. This requires specialized instruction in the areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum as well as classroom instruction to meet learning outcomes for Saskatchewan Curricula.
Based on having these tools for my student over a one year time period, I found that there were certainly many positive supports for students through this program. My grade 4 student was provided with a specialized desk. One side of the desk would tilt up slightly, so that she could see her work better and she would also use a slant board.
She was provided with Social, Science, and Math textbooks reprinted in large print. Notebooks were provided for her with darker lines, larger spacing, special fonts, etc. This particular student was also provided with a desk that had a special magnifier screen that would enlarge any handouts or books that she was unable to see written in 12-14 font size. Basically, I was provided with the necessary tools to support my student’s success. I was thankful and appreciative of the PSVI program and yet, at the same time, somewhat overwhelmed. It was a bit of a struggle figuring out how the tools worked and how I could be a support for my student, but it worked out in the end.
As Krista mentioned in her blog post, some students feel a negative stigma when they are using a tool that is for their benefit, but yet, are not enthusiastic about using it due to the need to fit in and be like everyone else. This was certainly the situation for my student. She was very social and therefore, loved visiting and spending time with her friends. She was not interested in going over to the magnifier desk or pulling out her larger textbook or notebook with large print.
I can probably count on 2 hands the number of times I noticed her using the magnifier desk. The question I often asked myself is; Do I insist she use the desk, knowing it is a helpful tool or just gently remind her that it is available for her? Will I be embarrassing her in front of her friends?
Fortunately, this particular student has moved to Arcola School where they have the PSVI program. She can fit in with visually impaired students just like herself. Hopefully her comfort level will improve and she will become more willing to use the many helpful tools that are provided for her.
It is clear from my personal experiences, the Tedtalk video, the handouts, and the video below, that assistive technologies are essential for many people. It is clear that there are an increasing number of opportunities for all learners to learn.
Since we don’t all learn the same, we shouldn’t be expected to learn using the same tools!