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. Information 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.