‘Cause I’m Going to Stand By You, Even If We’re Breaking Down Assistive Technologies, We Can Find a Way to Break Through…

Assistive Technologies & Methods
(Week 4: Post 1)

Photo Courtesy of hdspeechtherapy.com

Experiences with Assistive Technology

Daniel, Darcy, Janeen, and Reid walked us through assistive technologies this week, and used breakout rooms in a unique way, by keeping small groups together and moving the facilitators from one group to another. This was interesting in the fact that we could move through content more quickly, and there was time to have discussions in a more condensed way.

Darcy talked about Universal Design, and how this design begins with students in mind. The goal of Universal Design is to eliminate barriers so that all students can be successful in their learning. This led to Janeen talking about assistive technology in the classroom, and we discussed what assistive technology is, what it may look like, and some examples of it. We talked more in-depth about how students and teachers alike were depending on talk-to-text dictation tools to speed up responses and feedback. I also discussed how my students were utilizing the voice note functions as a way of engagement in their learning. Janeen also reminded us of the SETT Framework for assistive technology integration.

Photo Courtesy of Exceptionalchildren.org

Piggybacking off of assistive technology, Reid went more in-depth with wearable technologies and how that may assist in student learning and engagement. A lot of different technologies were mentioned that I had never thought of as wearable technology, however, the first thing I thought of was the microphone I wore around my neck that I depended upon so much this year. Lastly, Daniel discussed how students with exceptionalities often get left behind without the use of assistive technologies and teaching methods, and reminded us of John Spencer’s quote “The system should fit the student rather than making the student fit into the system”.

There are many assistive technologies and methods I use in my teaching practice, but for the purposes of this blog (and trying to keep it a little more condensed for my fellow readers that probably cringe at the lengths of my posts), I am going to focus on a few that I have focused on this past year.

girl wearing blue dress while using smartphone
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  • Text-to-Speech (dictation tools): this was especially helpful for students that had  assistive technology provided to them, when they engaged in a project or assignment and working independently. This tool allowed students who were usually not able to record their thoughts on paper, to engage in the learning and feel more independent. I used this tool as well to give student feedback more quickly and while multi-tasking.
black headphones on white table
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  • Wearable Microphone: although I had a microphone because it was assigned to a specific student with a hearing impairment and auditory processing delay, it was truly a life saver. I found that it not only saved my voice, but students were able to hear me better and more consistently throughout the room. I also think that it helped more learners stay on task, and I was able to get attention and keep it for longer periods of time.
boy watching video using laptop
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  • Google Read & Write: this is not only a fantastic tool for students who have learning disabilities, but it is a good tool that I use with the whole group, individuals as well as I build it right into assignments. This tool is great to help students with reading and writing, as well as dictation, etc. I remind students that it is good to listen to their writing to see what sounds off, or maybe where they have missed punctuation. I sell it as a tool that is good for everyone (including teachers) to use regularly.
woman with a face mask looking at her smartphone
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  • Voice Notes: although I questioned if this was a good teaching practice, I let my kids leave voice notes for their responses during online learning. Was it tricky to assess their writing? Yes. But were they engaged in the learning? Yes. Therefore, because this allowed students who normally weren’t engaging to be present and active learners, I thought that it was more important than being able to assess their writing. It was also a good way to get students speaking and using oral communication which is an outcome that also is just as important.

Connecting Assistive technologies & Methods to Theories

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So how does all of this apply to the learning theories we discussed in this course? Well, I think that using assistive technologies fosters more of a constructivist learning theory, as it allows students to engage in their own learning, and to be able to participate in collaboration and sharing. This learning theory also allows students to use other methods than the traditional ones that may be prescribed by a behaviorist or cognitivist approach. Like Universal Design, it’s important to have students at the forefront of learning and teaching, and that we need to do a better job of incorporating assistive technologies and teaching methods not only for the students with exceptionalities but for all of our students. I always tell my kiddos that we can always benefit from listening to our written words from someone else speaking (computer or in-person), and it’s a great way to fine-tune our writing and hear the readability of our work.

Therefore, I really think that it’s important to use accessible technology as much as we possibly can (where it fits and not overdoing it to the point of total and utter confusion). However, I do think that this is an area that I would like to do better in and learn more about. I would also like to see what other people are doing, and how it works for them. I would really like to learn how to implement more assistive technologies and methods into my teaching and would love some feedback and professional development and learning in this area.

I Value Your Feedback, So Let Me Know What You Think!

This is the last formal blog post of this course, but it is a topic that I would love to learn more about and use better in my classroom. If you have a few minutes, let me know what you think. You can leave a general comment, or answer one or as many of the questions below as you would like.

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  1. What assistive technologies or methods have you used in your practice?
  2. What are you go-to assistive technologies, and how do you use them as a large group? Small group? Individually?
  3. What advice would you have for someone who is starting to implement and use more assistive technologies in their classrooms.
  4. How do you think we can incorporate more assistive technologies in our schools or workplaces, and how do you think we could better prepare teachers/instructors to use these tools while supporting them through it?

9 thoughts on “‘Cause I’m Going to Stand By You, Even If We’re Breaking Down Assistive Technologies, We Can Find a Way to Break Through…

  1. I never cringe at the length of your posts and appreciate how thorough you’ve been over the course of this shortened semester.

    1. I’m big on subtitles personally and professionally. I want to start putting subtitles into my videos so that I don’t have to rely on the (something hilariously poor) auto-generated subtitles that YouTube comes up with. I know that live transcription is baked into Android’s voice recorder app, which is pretty cool and I’ve had a few students use it to make their videos more accessible or to transcribe audio interviews that would take a long to to transcribe by hand.

    https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/15/googles-new-voice-recorder-app-transcribes-in-real-time-even-when-offline/

    2. I primarily use WordPress as my LMS, and I see this as an assistive technology. Instead of having to rely on a friend when they’re away, students can access the day-to-day of my courses from there. I have had EAL students take this and translate portion of it so that they can understand it better, and it allows students to go at their own pace to a degree.

    3. I think that starting with that SETT framework, which has been talked about on most of the blog posts this week, is a great starting point. Also, knowing what assists are available (staff and tools that the school may already have on-hand) can be valuable. As a new teacher, this information might come from admin, the support staff, or a learning leader/department head.

    4. I think that having PLC time to talk about school-wide issues that could be helped through assistive tech is a big piece to the puzzle. As far as preparing teachers, I don’t think I received any training on assistive tech through post-secondary, and outside of an occasional presentation from an LRT I have not had many opportunities in the form of professional development to explore current and upcoming assistive tech.

    1. Mike, you always do such an incredible job of your comments and it’s evident that you put a lot of time and thought into your responses. So first of all, thank you for putting in the time and effort on my posts each and every week almost. I appreciate your engagement.

      Subtitles are a great tool, although I am still surprised that they are now only starting to be used more for videos, Tik Toks, Instagram stories, etc. This is a great tool not only for those with hearing difficulties or exceptionalities but for everyone. I am interested to see some of your videos with this included. I am sure that it will be super helpful for your learners as well.

      Your advice for people just starting out in the world of assistive technology is great. Start using the SETT framework and work your way from there. But I too agree with your last point, that there definitely isn’t enough PLC time or support when using assistive technology. You kind of are put in the water to either sink or swim. It seems very apparent that this is a topic that needs more investigation, support, and time for implementation. Thanks for the great response! Hopefully, our paths will cross again. Congratulations on your last class!

  2. I would like to echo Mike’s sentiments that the length of your posts were always perfect. The way you integrated the presentations, personal perspectives as well as great space for reflection and growth was something I looked forward to every week! I have learnt so much reading your blog and reflecting on your questions, it has been a pleasure!

    The advice I would have for someone starting out is something you said in your post and Christina said during the presentation: it’s important to have students at the forefront of learning and teaching, and that we need to do a better job of incorporating assistive technologies and teaching methods not only for the students with exceptionalities but for all of our students. That’s it. That’s the advice. The best teachers I know are the ones who are thinking proactively. who are curious about what could amplify and empower student voice, who are willing to see what tools could assist in the process!

    Thanks for an amazing three weeks of learning alongside and from you! I hope you have a great rest of your summer!

    1. Gosh, you are far too kind Jacquie. Thank you for the kind words and affirmations. I appreciate it.

      I too agree that it is important to have students at the forefront of designing lessons and unit plans and to always have the learning needs of your students in mind. Your point is also very accurate. Some of the best teachers I know are the ones that are always thinking outside of the box, trying new things, reflecting critically, and trying to get their students engaged and their voices represented.

      It has been a slice of learning from you and listening to your experiences! I like how you challenge your students while giving them some freedoms and choices. That must be a very new concept to some of those kiddos, but refreshing (and probably scary at first). Hopefully our paths will cross again soon. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  3. Kelly, thanks for another interesting blog post!

    1. I have used PECS, Proloquo2Go, and most recent speech to text through Word and Microsoft One Note.

    2. For assessment, I use GoFormative, Seesaw, FlipGrid, and Plickers just to name a few. If it is a large group formative assessment, I will use more game-based ones however, if it is individual, I usually lean towards Microsoft Forms, or GoFormative.

    3. I would recommend using SETT as a foundation to establish the best assistive technology for the student. I would also suggest talking to colleagues and consultants while always keeping in mind that less is more and focus on what is practical!

    4. I guess it depends on what the Division is willing to spend as far as what assistive tools could be available for students. However, I think that teachers need to collaborate more and discuss which ones are effective and beneficial to others. Doing this is the best way to learn new tools and create success for students.

    Thanks again, Kelly. Wishing you a restful summer!

    1. Well thanks for popping in, Arkin! I have not tried PECS or Proloquo2Go before. Also, because our school division is Google Workspace, I have also not tried the Microsoft One Note, however, I have used the dictation on Word before. Very interesting, I will have to look into the first two that you have mentioned and try to get a better idea of how they are used.

      I also appreciate that you use a variety of different assessment technologies. When writing this post, I meant to write assistive instead of assessment (which Raquel was kind enough to point out my errors), but I am glad that you wrote about all of the different assessment tools you use, as it is always interesting to me!

      It sounds like most people would recommend the SETT Framework right off the hop. I know the infographic I included at the beginning of my post would have been helpful for me in my first couple of years of teaching as it laid things out easily, and gave some examples to start out with. I too think that alongside the SETT Framework, teachers need time to collaborate, experiment, trial, and overall have support when implementing and trying new assistive technologies out, as well as best practices while using the tools. Hopefully, our paths will cross again soon. Enjoy the rest of your break!

  4. I love how you succinctly summarized the topics from each breakout room from the presentation. I also appreciate how visually appealing your blogs posts always are! You do a fantastic job of organizing your posts and using coloured blocks and pictures. Do you think you will be able to continue using the wearable microphone this year? I agree that using voice notes is a great way for students to develop speaking skills, and it’s a nice way to switch things up from writing. If you have students who prefer voice notes, maybe those audio responses could become a pre-writing strategy for them! They could record their first thoughts on a voice note and then listen to it while typing/writing it out. Thanks for your post!

    1. Hey Raquel, I just want to first say that I am so sorry if I have been spelling your name with a C throughout this course and last. I play soccer with a gal that shares the same name as you do, but hers has a C in it. That’s where the confusion comes from, but I apologize if this has in fact been the case!

      Thanks for your kind words. Blogging has definitely been a learning journey for me. I only started blogging last year after about a decade or more of not doing it, and when I did, I wasn’t great at it at all. So it’s been interesting!

      I sure hope that I will be able to use a microphone in the fall. I do believe that I have to obtain a doctor’s note for it, but because I already see a specialist for my voice (and have for years), I think I should have enough documentation to do so (or so I hope). Usually, I would tough it out, but after a year of teaching and only losing my voice once, I think it is something worth the fight (if it even is one). I haven’t had to deal with any accommodations yet, so I hope that it will be a smooth ride. But you never know! Here’s to trying.

      Your idea about a pre-writing strategy is great for voice notes, and honestly, it wasn’t something I had thought of. So thank you for your help! I do hope that you end up taking the EC&I831 class in the fall. Even though I know you want to take other topic courses, three in a row would be such a treat! Have a great rest of your summer!

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