Assistive Technology: What are the major issues and opportunities in your area for improving access to assistive technology?
Well, of course, as in everything in education, one of the major issues is money. Does the budget even permit us to purchase the technologies that would help our students? Still, there does seem to be a great deal of free technology available and I intend to explore it all. (well, maybe not all...)
Until this year, when half the students in one of my classes are identified as special ed, I have probably only taught 10 sped students in 10 years. My career has been mostly directed toward GT students and I have worked extensively with them. (They may need assistive technology to meet their needs as well, but that is not the main topic of this post). Therefore, I have not really given much thought to the ways that technology might help students who have learning difficulties and disabilities. However, after reading the chapters on using technology in English Language Arts and technology in special education, I have several ideas for specific students and some thoughts on what might help everyone.
I have a few students who struggle greatly in writing. Their oral communication skills are good, but they cannot seem to write down much of anything. This is a tremendous problem in an English class. To help them, I would like to find dictation software that would allow them to talk into a microphone and then it would "translate" their spoken words into written sentences and paragraphs.
I also have many students who speak English as a second language. More use of visuals would be good for them, but sometimes I struggle to find the time to download appropriate images and put them into a useful presentation. I need to find more ways to incorporate visuals, but they need to be ways that don't take immense amounts of time.
I am working on a class website, and I know that this technology will benefit all of my students. In fact, to help those who struggle with writing, we may do some podcast assignments, so that they can demonstrate their knowledge in a non-written form. We will also post visual presentations, such as powerpoint or Animoto creations.
Our website will also include blogs. All of my students will benefit from this, but especially the AP Language students who are studying rhetoric and argumentation. I am going to have them respond weekly to a political column (preferably one that creates controversy) and analyze the rhetorical strategies used by the author.
My reluctant writers might also benefit from electronic penpals--with a regular assignment to write, and someone interesting to correspond with, they might become more enthusiastic writers.
In addition to everything else, I want to encourage our ELA department to establish a creative writing journal. It would have to be online at a free hosting location (budget constraints again), but I would love for us to have a place to publish the best original writing (and perhaps art and music) created by students in our school. Once established, this could become something of pride and interest for years into the future.
The more I learn about technology and all that it has to offer my students, the more enthusiastic I am about incorporating it into my classroom as a way to truly benefit my students.