Assistive Technology

The Assistive Technology project I completed was an eye-opener. While I knew that many tools existed to support those with disabilites, I hadn’t expected to find such an overwhelming number of tools and resources. I became more and more interested in the tools that were specific to my computer and operating system that I use at school and at home. Knowing that I have had students in the past with both hearing and vision disabilities, I wondered how many times I could have used the tools that were already available on the computer.

In just a short amount of time, I learned that Windows 8.0 has the following tools that are readily available.

On-screen Notification

On-screen notification helps hearing-impaired people be aware of the status of their computer. On-screen notification replaces sounds with visual cues or text captions to indicate that activity is happening on the computer. As a result, system alerts are noticeable even when they are not heard. For example, when you select one object with your keyboard, the object is highlighted. When you move the pointer to one object with your mouse, the introductory text of the object is displayed.

Narrator

Narrator is a screen reader that reads what is displayed on the screen aloud and describes events like error messages.

Speech Recognition

Speech Recognition enables you to control your computer by voice.

Using only your voice, you can start programs, open menus, click buttons and other objects on the screen, dictate text into documents, and write and send e-mails. Everything you do with the keyboard and mouse can be done using only your voice.

Magnifier

Microsoft Magnifier is available to help visually impaired people use the computer more comfortably. Magnifier is a useful utility that enlarges the entire screen or part of the screen so that you can see the words and images better.

References

Accessibility Features. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.lenovo.com/lenovo/us/en/accessibility.html#screen

Accessibility in Windows 8. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/windows8/

Assistive Technology: Resource Roundup. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/article/assistive-technology-resources

Advertisements

Obstacles and Solutions – Integrating Technology into the Content Areas

While the benefits of technology integration are clear, the reality of making this happen is often wrought with obstacles. While obstacles may be real, they are not immovable.

Obstacles and Solutions

Access to Resources: A primary concern among many educators regarding technology integration is the lack of access to resources. Schools have limited hardware to use and access to computer labs on a large campus is often difficult to come by. Access to the internet is also troublesome at some school sites which makes integration challenging. Additionally, resources on school campuses to support the use of technology such as an IT support person are almost non existent.

Potential Solutions: Many schools are beginning to implement a Bring Your Own Device Policy to bring more technology into the classrooms. While this may take a lot of work to implement, the access to technology can be greatly improved when implmented. Using students to work as a support team can be a powerful approach to solving some of the technology problems on a school campus.

 

Teacher Skill:  This is often a struggle at many school sites. Teachers who are uncomfortable with their own technology skills are unlikely to integrate technology into their curriculum. Educators who have not been witness to the power that technology can bring often are hesitant to bring technology in their classrooms. Some are even outwardly resistant. With low technology skills and and unwillingness to learn, the challenges schools face when implementing technology are tremendous.

Potential Solutions: Providing effective training can increase teacher skill.

Training:  Effective teacher training can be costly. School districts with limited resources often expect teachers to implement new tools and methods with minimal training, even though the need is great. Without the right people and/or funding, the training that is necessary is often overlooked.

Potential Solutions: Training can come in a variety of forms:college course work, district developed training, online trainings, etc. Districts must find ways to train teachers. Additionally, the training must be geared toward specific needs of individual teachers. To save on costs, teachers with knowledge and expertise can serve as trainers on school sites.

Teacher Attitude: Teachers’ attitude regarding the use of technology can often be the most challenging obstacle a school must overcome.  In one study, students expressed concern that it often appeared that their teachers did not understand that technology plays a significant role in students’ lives outside of school.  These students believed that if teachers had a better understanding of this, they would bring more technology into the classrooms.

Potential Solutions: Bring teachers into the discussions about technology use. By modeling ways to teach standards and current curriculum, teachers are much more likely to have buy in.

References

BYODExplorations – Home. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://byodexplorations.wikispaces.com/

Barriers to Integrating Technology – The Digital Librarian. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2014, from https://sites.google.com/site/thedigitallibrarian/barriers-to-integrating-technology

 

Integrating Technology into the Content Areas

When I started my teaching career 15 years ago, I didn’t have a single computer in my classroom. I didn’t even have a teacher computer. I was grateful for the calculator when it came time to do final grades at the end of each trimester. Now, I don’t think I could live without the technology I have in my classroom. It has become an integral part of how I communicate, share information, learn, and collaborate with my students and fellow teachers. While the integration of technology in my classroom is not seamless, it is something that I utilize so regularly, that imagining a day without it is nearly impossible.

I may claim that I need the technology tool to teach my social studies classes, but do I really? Is the technology as powerful as I think it is? It seems that integrating technology into classrooms is indeed a powerful motivator for students and does have an impact on learning when implemented with purposeful rigor and intent. Below are some thoughts on integrating technology into specific content areas.

The use of technology in language arts can be powerful, especially in terms of student writing. Some studies have suggested that the use of  student blogs to post student work for weekly critiques, regular journals, and debates resulted in student excitement and dialogue. Confidence in student writing increased and students become increasing more willing to share ideas in a written platforms.  (Light and Polin 2010). The use of technology in language arts classes can also help build collaborative speaking and listening skills in all students with the use of simple online discussion tools. With minimal effort, teachers can integrate technology easily into their programs.

Bringing technology into science and math can be a powerful learning tool. Access to the wide variety of equipment needed to conduct science experiments is often a road block for teachers who have the desire to have students learn through experiences in a science lab. Online experiments and interactive tools are widely available to replace the in class science experiments. Previously inaccessible activities can be made accessible with the appropriate technology tools (Edutopia, 2009).

 

References

How to Teach with Technology: Science and Math. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-science-math-lessons

Technology Integration Research Review: Additional Tools and Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-research-tools-programs