Assistive Technology – No Tech, Low Tech, High Tech

Last week, along with my classmates Channing and Haiming, I researched the topic of assistive technology and presented our findings to the EC&I 833 class.  While gathering information, Channing came across great literature on the concept of assistive technology being no tech, low tech and high tech.  During our presentation, Channing presented the following information on the different levels of assistive technology:

No Tech

  • Walkers                                   
  • Cane
  • Braille
  • Pencil grips
  • Raised line paper
  • Magnifiers
  • Tactile letters
  • Post it notes
  • Slanted surfaces
  • Communication boards
  • Weighted pen
  • Number line
  • Graphic organizer
  • Scribe
  • Reading guide

Low Tech

  • Buzzers
  • Visual timers
  • Calculator
  • Electric organizers
  • Recorded lectures
  • FM systems
  • Spell checker
  • Audiobooks
  • Word processor
  • Alternative Keyboards
  • Closed caption TV

High Tech

  • E-reader
  • Touchscreen devices
  • Word prediction
  • Voice to text programs
  • Hearing aid
  • Alerting device
  • Electric wheelchairs
  • Scooters
  • Read and write programs
  • Augmentative communication devices
  • Voice-activated telephones
  • Digi drive technology

Based on these lists, I identify as having most personal and teaching experience using the “no tech” and “low tech” assistive technology tools.  As a learning resource teacher, it is part of my role to assist teachers in implementing tier 1 and 2 strategies.  These include but are not limited to those listed in the “no tech” category.  Using things like visual schedules in classrooms, post-it notes during literacy instruction, or a number line during numeracy instruction can all be categorized as “no tech.”  As a result, it appears that “no tech” assistive technology tools can fall into a category that many of us could describe as good teaching practices for all students, regardless of their needs.

As I review the “low tech” category, these assistive tools also fall into the tier 1 and 2 supports for students.  In addition to them being helpful for students, I can also attest to using such assistive technology tools such as calculators and spell check to perform daily tasks and schoolwork.  In fact, the EC&I 833 presentation on Web 1.0 & Web 2.0 by Jana, Katie, Brooke and Kyla introduced me to the app “Grammarly.”  As it’s website states, “(Grammarly) Will help you communicate more effectively.  As you type, Grammarly flags mistakes and helps you make sure your messages, documents, and social media posts are clear, mistake-free, and impactful.”  The night of this group’s presentation, I was assigned to explore this app and as such, downloaded it onto my computer and have been using it ever since.  It has been such a great tool when writing blogs or other documents as it ensures that my writing is effectively written and free of grammatical errors.

Image result for grammarly

As I review the tools in the “high tech” list, I associate those as being tier 3 supports for students in today’s schools.  Hearing and communication devices are often used for students who are diagnosed and as such, have an individualized program plan.  Tools like scooters or wheelchairs can be assumed as recommended and implemented by outside agencies (ie. health regions).  I have not had as much first-hand experience with tier 3 supports, however, I continue to learn about “high tech” assistive technology tools from teachers like Brittany Thies, who was interviewed for our presentation on assistive technology.  Brittany reviewed “high tech” assistive technology tools such as communication devices (Proloquo2Go) as a means to allow her students independence in her classroom.  This tool served as a powerful way to give each student a voice.

Image result for proloquo2go canada


As stated in our presentation last week, there are many challenges and limitations to assistive technology.  Based on research conducted for the purposes of our assignment and the interview with Brittany Thies, professionals who implement and work with assistive technology tools can be faced with the following challenges/limitations:

  • Cost – many assistive technology tools prove to be expensive and with little funding provided
  • It takes a certain expertise to find the tools that work best with certain students and even more time to teach parents, teachers and assistants on how to use them.
  • Working with team members who may be resistant to change. Individuals working with a student who requires assistive tech must be willing to learn the basics and support the on-going use of the device.
  • It is an investment of time, money and energy to make it work. Parents and families members might not be in a state to take on “one more thing”.
  • The potential for “tech issues” to arise.

Despite the challenges that we may face when using “no tech,” “low tech,” and “high tech” tools, teachers must continue to implement assistive technology in classrooms so that each student is supported, regardless of their needs.  

Joining the Seesaw Movement

Given the nature of sporadic substitute teaching, opportunities for me to use assessment technologies rarely present themselves, if ever.  Naturally, classroom teachers are choosing to assess students, rather than asking a guest teacher to do it for them.  Therefore, for the purpose of this blog post, I have chosen to study Seesaw, in hopes that when I return to teaching (full-time), I will be able to use this assessment technology.Image result for Seesaw

I first heard of Seesaw in this class, during discussions around educational technology and it’s benefits to teachers, students and parents.  Based on my impressions from class discussions, Seesaw seemed like a popular tool and thus, I assumed it was user-friendly.  Even some of my classmates, who claimed they were just in the experimental stages of using technology in classrooms, had tried Seesaw and liked it.  I related to this group of classmates as being in the early stages of using technology for instruction and assessment.  Therefore, if it were successful for others like myself, using Seesaw seemed like a great starting point in implementing technology in my future teaching practices.

When considering how I will use Seesaw, I reflect on my classmate Joe’s recent blog on his use of this assessment tool.  In past weeks, Joe has shared that he works as a learning resource teacher.  In past teaching experiences, I too have worked as a learning resource teacher.  Therefore, I have paid special attention to Joe’s use of Seesaw as it will relate closely to my future experiences in this role.  In Joe’s blog, he describes himself as using Seesaw in his Leveled Literacy Intervention groups in order to “inject an element of fun and pride into our efforts with literacy, as well as to establish an easy, meaningful line of communication with parents.”

After exploring the Seesaw website and watching the videos that Joe included in his blog, I can see how Seesaw would foster an active home-school connection when using interventions such as LLI.  In the following video, Seesaw models how students can send parents samples of the work that they complete in their classrooms.  It is evident that the children have a sense of pride, sharing their work with their parents and in return, positively respond from their praise and feedback.

As I continue to explore the Seesaw website, an obvious benefit of this assessment technology tool is that it allows both parents to access their child’s school work and academic development.  In a family situation where a child’s parents are living apart, separated or divorced, children would know that both of their parents can view their work and respond to them.  I assume that this would alleviate some of the stress or miscommunications that can often occur when not all family members are living together.

The most obvious challenge to an assessment tool like Seesaw would be that parents who do not have access to mobile devices, computers or tablets would be unable to receive their child’s updates and messages.  Families living in lower socioeconomic statuses would often be at a disadvantage due to a common lack of access to technology.

On a personal note, while I do not have a classroom of right now, I plan on exploring Seesaw further through the day-to-day teachings and activities of my children.  Tonight, I downloaded the Seesaw teacher app and asked my husband to download the Seesaw parent app.  I have created profiles for my kids and plan to start using Seesaw this week, by sending their dad updates on the pre-kindergarten readiness activities that we do at home, at our local library and preschool.  Although not as ideal as experimenting in a classroom setting with a large group of students and families, I’m hoping that a little homeschooling creativity can allow me to learn more about Seesaw in the next coming weeks!

Web 2.0 –> Web 3.0

The readings assigned for this week were useful to further my understandings of Web 2.0.  When considering how the shift to Web 3.0 has on education, I consider Nicole Krueger’s article, “3 things every teacher should be doing with web 2.0 tools.  Krueger states that teachers should be: 

1. Constantly evaluating what students know
2. Creating personalized learning experiences
3. Helping students explore complex problems

I think that these suggestions by Krueger can be applied to the shift to Web 3.0 and will advance the educational experiences provided to students.  Teachers using technology in Web 3.0 will continue to evaluate students and create personalized learning experiences through the use of more complex and advanced tools.  The basis of education may not change but the ways in which it is facilitated and the tools that are used, will.

In addition to Krueger’s explanation of Web 2.0, Virginia Society for Technology in Education (2014) assists in my understanding of the positive effect that Web 2.0 has on today’s education.  VSTE states that “Web 2.0 tools are powerful mediators between students and the world around them, and they may motivate students to continue learning outside the classroom. Such tools have the potential to initiate and enhance the love of life-long learning.  Some students are already tapping into the potential for exploration and learning.”  If used effectively, tools used in Web 3.0 will continue to have this positive effect on student engagement and learning.  The following video supports the idea that Web 3.0 will be an advanced continuation of existing techniques.

When considering what types of students and teachers are privileged and disadvantaged by the shift to Web 3.0, I think of those populations that are privileged and disadvantaged in Web 2.0.  As discussed throughout the semester in EC&I 833, teachers and students who appear to be at a disadvantage by Web 2.0 include those living in remote communities with a poorer quality of internet service, those living in a low socio-economic status, those with physical, mental or cognitive disabilities, just to name a few.  EC&I 833 students have also discussed that students and teachers who experience privilege in Web 2.0 may include those living in higher socio-economic status or those living without mental, physical or cognitive disabilities.  Like those teachers and students who are disadvantaged and privileged in Web 2.0, it would be assumed this would continue in Web 3.0, as well. 

On a personal note, I can relate to the statements made in my classmate Adam’s blog post.  He mentions how “The technological advancements have been so drastic in this lifetime that it has become a bit difficult to keep up with all of the tools that are at our disposal.”  Often, I feel behind or knowing far less then what I should when it comes to technology in general, but especially in classroom settings.  However, as Adam explains later in his blog, it is important for educators to take risks with technological tools and experiment with what types of tech tools work best with the students we teach.  The various tools that this week’s presenters introduced us to is a great place to start in exploring what tech tools could be useful to implement in today’s classrooms.