Genius Hour Post 5

I’ve really enjoyed spending time on my genius hour topic this summer! I started out not knowing anything about assistive technology, to spending my free time on Pinterest discovering the most creative ways to incorporate it into my future classroom. I’ve learned all about the types of AT, low-tech to high-tech, and numerous examples of each. All of the low-tech tools have interested my most, and Universal Design for learning is definitely a framework I think all classrooms should support. It’s so important to find a way to teach each and every learner, and assistive technology is an innovative solution to this need in education. I’ve also enjoyed learning about the variety of disabilities that students in general classrooms have so I can use AT to aid them as best as I can.

This might be my last genius hour post, but I certainly am just beginning my research on assistive technology in general classrooms. I still need to learn about the type of students I will be working with each year before I can select any type of assistive technology to be used in my classroom. I want to continue learning more examples of AT so I can have ideas in my head when situations come up. Though I’ve learned about many apps and accessibility options for the iPhone and iPad, I plan to keep learning about new advances in these technologies and specific areas they will help with. With all of the saved links and resources, including my Symbaloo, I will continue to have access to the immense amount of information I have learned this summer.

All educators should have a general understanding on assistive technology. It’s important that they know that any type of learner can benefit from this learning tool, and that there are thousands of tools to choose from. Some teachers might not have access to technology, but low-tech tools support the needs of learners, with disabilities or not. Classroom setup is also a large part to teaching all learners; thinking about UDL and multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement include every student to learn to the best of their ability.

To continue my research, other students could focus on apps specifically that serve as an AT tool. There are so many for a wide range of learners that it could be a genius hour topic in itself! They could also focus on areas in the classroom and what tools could be added to each area. For example, the classroom library has interested me a lot during my research, and I could mention large font books, iPads for audio books, and comfortable seating to accommodate to specific needs. More areas could be group tables, the front of the classroom, etc. Overall, future students could spend a lot of time searching through resources to find less common devices that would be helpful to others.

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Genius Hour Post 4

For the time I spent researching my genius hour topic this week, I interviewed an individual who is a current student at UGA, majoring in special education. She is in her last year of study and is very knowledgable on numerous topics, including assistive technology. Jessie answered three broad questions I put together below that discuss the importance of assistive tech and a little bit about its use in general classrooms. Because Jess is special education, I asked my mom, who teaches 3rd grade, about assistive technology. Her school doesn’t do BYOD or iPads, but she does have an online website for students to access so they have to opportunity to hear books read out loud to them. They can also magnify text here and access her Symbaloo page full of educational games to engage learners. She has a Universal Design for learning classroom setup, using centers with highlighters, slanted split boards, and many low-tech devices.

Why is assistive technology important to you as a future educator?

Jessie states that the most important assistive technology in her opinion is the kind that supports communication. All behavior, problem behavior included, has a communicative function. She says, “it is a huge priority for me as a teacher that my students are able to express their feelings, opinions, needs, and knowledge to the fullest extent possible.” I love her answer to this because it describes the role of all educators. Jessie continues to say that, “there are a huge variety of ways to make this happen and they can be extremely personalized to every student. AT for communicative purposes could be the brace to help a student point to what they need or an advanced computer screen that can form sentences for them.”

What are some examples in which you’ve seen assistive technology being used in a classroom setting?

Jessie has lots of experience in classrooms and have seen all kinds of communication boards like PEC (picture exchange communication) or iPads that students can use to speak for them. She shares, “in my severe profound class, we used a lot of eating technology like foam holders on the forks or suction plates that would stay to the table.” Aside from this, she has seen “clickers” that attach to the computer that work like a mouse but are created to only work when one finger is used in order to increase motor function and muscle memory of the finger point. Overall, Jessie sums up her experience in special education classrooms by saying, “AT can be as simple as making words bigger on notecards for visually impaired students or as complex as a fancy electronic standing.”

Are there are ways you can think of that assistive technology would be used in general K12 classrooms?

Since my topic focuses more on the use of AT in general classrooms, I asked Jessie to touch base on that specifically. She declares, “the first things that come to mind are visual or hearing impairments or organization and attention difficulties. Putting in place a visual schedule is effective for students with disabilities or have trouble being organized in general education.” Some suggestions for specific devices she mentioned were headphones, increased volume, printing words bigger, and reading questions out loud for students with hearing impairments. Many of these sound familiar to me from previous genius hour research, but this interview has been extremely helpful in my understanding of assistive technology.

Genius Hour Post 3

Continuing onto my research from last week, I’m going to find AT devices and apps for students with dyspraxia, dysphasia, auditory processing disorder, and visual processing disorder. For dyspraxia, students can use dictation software or touch screens to enhance their learning. Alternative keyboards such as sketching, WordBoard, and Emoji all support students with dysphasia. There tools are great for non-verbal students or low literacy communicators. Voice output devices are used commonly for auditory processing disorder, while large print texts, various text colors, and magnifiers are helpful for students with visual processing disorder.

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I’ve had experience working with students with ADD/ADHD in the classroom, and I’m curious about assistive technology that aid these students. There are many visual timers and schedules for these students who have time focusing on one task at a time. Educational apps are recommended, tape for boundaries, and brain breaks (goNoodle) to aid these students. I have spend hours researching various tools and apps  for many different disabilities, and the type of assistive technology must fit the student’s environments, interests, and abilities. That being said, a teacher must observe and use a team of individuals to determine the best device for the student to be successful.

After viewing numerous genius hour topics of other classmates, I found a few common ideas that enhanced my knowledge on AT in general classrooms. It was difficult to find any topics that directly related, but many contained bits and pieces of my research. Danielle chose assistive technology for organization/study skills, which benefit all learners, ranging from severe autism to moderate learning disabilities. Madison investigated AT devices for students with dyslexia, which was one of the more common learning disabilities I researched last week! I found similar tools and also discovered new ideas. I enjoyed learning more about Jordan’s topic, which focused on depression/anxiety, because I personally went through school with anxiety and I can imagine how helpful it would have been with some support. Ansley’s post on inexpensive technology relates to my overall research because most of the AT tools I’ll be using in my classroom are low-tech.

I’ve also used twitter to find information that has enlightened me more about assistive technology in general classrooms. Some useful people to follow are @AssistTech for a wide range of ideas for UDL and examples for every subject and @ASHAWeb for communication devices. @pbsdAT actually helped me most because they had easy to access links and many apps for learning. There are many hashtags that describe AT and technology in the classroom that I have viewed relating to my genius hour topic, including #techeducator, #edtech, and #edchat.

Genius Hour Post 2

To begin researching my genius hour question this week, I’m going to start with overall classroom setup. How can I structure my future classroom to assist the needs of my students? Since one of our tasks this week was to use ThingLink to create a UDL classroom, I’ve spend so much time learning more about AT devices!  When setting up a classroom, it is important to have lots of room between desks for student’s with physical disabilities. All classrooms, general and special education, should support the idea of Universal Design for learning, which is framework to meet the needs of each learner. In my opinion, low-tech devices are most common in general classrooms, meeting the needs of less severe disabilities, but high-tech devices are just as important if needed. At each table, low-tech AT tools such as highlighters, pencil grips, and visual schedules can accommodate for different needs. The classroom library has numerous possibilities to satisfy each learner’s way of learning. With audio books, enlarged text, iPad screen readers, and screen enlargers, students with disabilities pertaining to reading/visual impairments are given a chance to effectively learn. This also highlights the influence of high tech tools in a general class.

After reading many articles, I found it best to investigate the most common to least common disabilities in general K12 classrooms and how AT can support each type. According to The Condition of Education 2015, the top 3 largest percentages of students with disabilities fall under specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, and health impairment. The least common disability is orthopedic impairment. While it’s been a little challenging for me to find statistics and information regarding general education, I did find that roughly 60% of students with disabilities spend 80% or more of their time in general classes in 2013 compared to roughly 35% in 1990. These numbers are important because teachers are seeing a more diverse group of students every year and they need to be informed on how to support such differences. Once I get a better understanding of the students I will be working with, I will be able to relate better with assistive technology devices and their benefits. Below is a list of common disabilities I could possibly see in my future classroom. I’m going to also add ADHD and language barriers as common challenges for children as well. Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 8.43.20 PMInformation found here.

I’m going to break down two of 4 of the specific learning disabilities in this post and the other 3 plus ADD next week. The decision makers for assistive technology must heavily evaluate the student and their multiple environments, including their skills and differences. For dyslexia, text-to-speech software is a great high tech AT device made to convert text into voice output. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a voice recognition program turning your speech into text. Reading pens, audio books, Inter readers, and apps, such as Prizmo, all support dyslexia. For dyscalculia, AT devices such as talking calculators and screen readers with text-to-speech voice to read equations are recommended. Any visual math diagrams/symbols are effective low-tech devices for students. I plan on using pipe cleaners with beads as numbers, 3D shapes, and flash cards for math. Lastly, assistive technologies for dysgraphia include pencil grips, electronic concept maps, graphic organizers, prompts, and speech recognition. (Assistive Technology for Children and Youth with Disabilities, p 135). In my future classroom, I will use various forms of low-tech devices such as writing in sand, forming letters with clay, and tracing with highlighters. Raised line paper and slanted clipboards are also helpful.

Whenever I typed in keywords such as assistive technology and disability, special education filled pages of searches. I really had to dig deep to find information particularly for general education. I think in my next genius hour time I will gather information from specific disorders and devices rather than the classroom type. Anything I find can be used or modified to fit a general classroom. As I was reading through every article, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed with all of the needs of students and the 4,000 assistive technology devices. I want to be able to categorize and understand how each device helps a student, so I started researched each device separate from my original search. Though AT and UDL are large concepts, I also feel like learning this information now can really help many students I teach in the future. I believe each each time dedicated to researching my genius hour topic is narrowing down my question and opening my eyes to the opportunities of AT.

 

Genius Hour Post 1

The question I’m going to use for Genius Hour is, “How can assistive technology be used in general elementary classrooms?” My topic is vague for now because I want to explore a wide range of ideas that I will be able to use in my future classroom: devices, levels, aids, audience, and apps. I’m hoping to become overly interested in one of these ideas that will lead me to a more specific Genius Hour question. I’m totally new to the idea of assistive technology, but I know it is used more frequently in special education classes. I’m curious to find out how it can be used in a general classroom, what kind of tools work best for each learning disability, and the overall effectiveness of AT.

I was a peer leader for a Kindergarten class a few years back and one student in particular had a writing disability. He couldn’t grip a pencil well, which naturally made him a little behind when it came to writing sight words and numbers. The teacher decided to  let him make letters using a variety of tools such as clay, sand, pencil grips, and highlighters. I saw this student become more independent and more successful in school. I’m pretty sure this is an example of low-tech assistive technology that I can use in my future classroom, but I would love to find out more.

All educators will be interested in my Genius Hour question and will discover many different technologies (and some low-tech/no-tech) that meet different disability needs. Assistive technology is important for educators inside and outside of special education for the purpose of constantly learning more about students. These individuals bring in countless strengths, weaknesses, disabilities, and skills to the classroom daily. As educators, it is our job to research and find the best way to instruct each learner to their particular need.

This is relevant to K12 education for the purpose of teaching in general and universal design for learning. UDL motivates learners and encourages effective instructional goals to better education. I will start looking for answers at various sites and teacher blogs, including Pinterest posts. I’m going to categorize each Genius Hour post based on topics. Some websites I plan on reading are: UDLlearning disabilitiesAT in general education , and the most of learning. As I dig deeper into my question on AT, there are some people I followed on Twitter and relevant hashtags: @AssistTech, @pdsbAT, @ASHAWeb, @USSAAC, #edtech, and #assistivetech. For next week, I’m going to research more on assistive technology and what tools are most commonly used in general classrooms.

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