Saturday, July 25, 2015

Does (Assistive) Technology Make a Difference?

Does assistive technology make a difference? Don't take my word for it.

Ask the fifth-grade student who typically took four months to read one book and was finally able to read four books in one month because of her use of technology (VoiceDream Reader with Bookshare membership). She recommended books to her friends. How do you think she felt being able to do that for the first time ever?

Ask the high school student  with written expression challenges who received support through the Insert Comments feature in Google Docs. He stated, "I'm getting help when I'm writing instead of after I'm done." 

Ask the high school autistic student who up until that time was dependent on others for being his voice since he wasn't provided with the technology he needed. For the first time, he could use his device and finally tell someone, "Leave me alone!" 

Ask the elementary age student who had a meltdown any time he was asked to write. He used recording technology and was able to independently record his thoughts instead of needing to dictate to an adult (which promoted dependence).

Ask the student who is now able to use vocabulary which reflects his superior language skills when composing text instead of using words that he was able to spell independently. (Word prediction or spellcheck built-in Google Docs)

Ask the student who is now recording his thoughts for the first time instead of having to be dependent on someone else who scribes for him. 

Ask the 18-year-old student who struggled with significant reading issues (reading at a second grade level) but felt successful when he read grade level text by adjust the visual presentation and reading rate to what worked for him. (Very large font size and focused reading screen with only two words on a line).

Ask the ninth grade student who saw the font size in the print copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and dreaded trying to read through the text on his own and then was introduced to a reading app. He listened to the book while he followed the text and described it as the best book he ever read.

Ask the senior in high school who attends a very prestigious school for students with learning disabilities who was introduced to assistive technology the summer before his senior year and asked, "Why didn't anyone show me these things earlier?"

Ask the middle school student who doesn't want to be seen as different but realizes the use of technology makes learning possible. Why is he in an environment where he is "different"? Why don't we make technology available to everyone, embedded, proactive, universal, adjusting to variability within our classrooms? This is Universal Design for Learning.

Ask the brilliant high school student with dysgraphia resulting in illegible handwriting which interfered with his ability to demonstrate his learning in AP calculus. He was introduced to technology which bypassed his challenges and excelled (Efofex).

Ask the student who was given packets and packets of worksheets and information that was paper-based and was provided a device (iPad with specific apps) which stored all his materials. He no longer struggled with managing his materials and kept them organized in folders on his device. No more zeroes for failing to hand in completed assignments.

Does (Assistive) Technology make a difference in the lives of students? It's a resounding, "Yes!" So why don't all students who need it have access to it? I will try to answer that question in another post. 

It is time to ensure all students have access to the technology they need. 


Unknown said...

Well said, Karen. It is often said that we don't have research to "prove" AT works. Well just ask any of these students for which AT and accessible materials made success possible. One of my favorite quotes is the one from Radabaugh in 1988 - still true.

For Americans without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For Americans with disabilities, technology makes things possible.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this inspiring piece, Karen. I'm doing a presentation tomorrow introducing the iPad as an AT tool. I'm going to quote you!

Karen Janowski said...

Thank you for your comment, Diana. It is so true - waiting for the research to validate what we observe following effective implementation delays the possibilities for student success. Great quote, btw!

Karen Janowski said...

Hi Jacquie,

Great to hear you found this post inspirational. It's all about our students; they inspire me, too! Hope your presentation went well.

Carrie Baughcum said...

I just loved this piece Karen. Not only is it inspiring to hear each of their stories but it shows technologies true power...provide me independence and empowering students. I also love how your words share the areas of weaknesses in students and also shared the technology (with the resource) that can help support that type of learner. It's a great reminder that what we do, what we advocate for, what we work so hard to make happen for students with disabilities matters and impacts their lives!

random thoughts said...

I was working with an older gentleman who had limited use of his hands. He desired to learn how to use the computer, but was convinced that he could never learn anything. He had also recently become a widower, and was still grieving deeply for his wife.

I usually do an interview with new patrons. Because of his mobility issues with his hands, I decided that keyboarding would not be the best alternative for him. He did however have a wonderful baritone voice.
I introduced Dragon NaturallySpeaking to him and spoke with him about using this technology to document his life history. After some prodding and trial and error, he eventually created a blog that he shared with his family. He was able to talk about his wife, his time in the Navy during World War II and his job in agriculture that took them around the country. His family loved the blog, and he was very proud of being able to share stories with his family.

Because of this success, we were able to expand his new found interest in technology with his love of gardening. I helped him research seeds and equipment. He even ordered online.