Assistive Technology – No Tech, Low Tech, High Tech

By | November 20, 2018

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.  

3 thoughts on “Assistive Technology – No Tech, Low Tech, High Tech

  1. Scott Gardiner

    Great comprehensive look at assistive technology, Kelsey. I wish that I would have read your post prior to writing mine!

    I particularly liked how you mentioned that “no-tech” assistive technology could easily fall under the category of standard “good teaching practices”. I know that prior to this particular unit, I generally associated assistive technology with hi-tech devices such as computers and wheelchairs. However, something as “simple” as a graphic organizer or a post-it note can be considered assistive technology.

    Your point about “working with team members who may be resistant to change being a challenge” is also a good one and I would actually extend that to students as well. I teach a handful of students that have their own board-issued laptop. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to encourage them to actually use the device because they don’t want to look different when compared to the other students in the class.

    Again, great post!

  2. Kyla Ortman

    I love that you sorted things by no tech, low tech and high tech! It gives us a clear picture of what resources fall in each category. It was awesome that you included Brittany as an expert to talk about the communication devices she uses. The Proloquo2Go has allowed more independence and belonging as it allows her students to be involved and accomplish tasks on their own!


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