Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Assistive Technology Consideration Checklist

I recently attended AT summer workshop at the University of Iowa presented by ICATER. The workshop began with a dyslexia simulation that lasted about 45 minutes. Within the first 10 minutes I wanted to quit. I wanted to leave right away. The simulation increased my empathy and returned me to a question I often ponder. When do students give up?  The simulation placed me in an environment in which I could not demonstrate my ability. I knew the environment was temporary, afterwards there would be lunch and we would check out some cool AT stuff. Remediation versus compensation. I often repeat the saying, “A learning disability is a weakness in a sea of strength”. Students need to access their strengths while their weaknesses are addressed or they will disengage.  As a high school special education teacher often I find accessible technology is not used due to lack of motivation. Students have disengaged. They no longer believe in their sea of strengths. Remediation and Compensation must be employed simultaneously.  If not, students will give up hope.  Would you be more motivated to actively participate in a reading program if you knew you were capable of comprehending the same material when presented in an audio format? What happens to a student’s motivation to learn when material is presented only in their area of weakness? Assistive technology must be considered annually.  The growth of technology is exponential. I can remember playing Pong and the excitement of having more than three television stations.  Now I am using dictation which is part of the accessibility package on my MacBook operating system to compose this message. New technology is coming out daily. We need to rethink how we define comprehension or composition. Does it matter if one can read the text or demonstrate knowledge through typing keys on a computer? What if we put as much time as teachers into finding the ways students can learn and demonstrate their knowledge as we do trying to remediate their learning disabilities?  The same technology that many of us use as convenience can remove barriers for others. We must consider the use of technology at every annual IEP.  Using a document such as the Assistive Technology Consideration Checklist engages the IEP team in the process of looking at assistive technology.  The process can be just as important if not more important than the data it produces.  The checklist takes less than five minutes to complete. Please make a copy and use it for all IEPS.  For more assistive technology assessment, please visit my website.