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.