On Tuesday evening, Launel, Benita, Holly, Allison and Heidi educated our class about Assistive Technologies and included helpful tools that may be integrated into the classroom/work place. I appreciated the interesting perspectives they shared about assistive technology and felt inspired when I heard that assistive technology is beneficial for all people. Initially, assistive technologies were created to assist those with disabilities. However, we have learned that the true purpose of assistive technologies are to aid/help people who require additional assistance with completing a specific task. Therefore, its usage is not simply narrowed by a diagnosis.
After class, I began to reflect on my experiences using assistive technology and the current ways I am integrating it into my primary classroom. As I reminisce about my educational experiences growing up, I do not recall assistive technology being used and do not know why it was not being used. Perhaps it was due to a lack of funding within the school division or maybe teachers felt their students did not require its use. Either way, I find this disappointing as assistive technology provides enrichment, supports all learners, builds confidence, reduces anxiety and stress and allows students to work at their own pace. Furthermore, assistive technology may be accommodated in all curriculum tasks.
Within my primary classroom, I am currently using a program called Read & Write for Google. This program does not require a specific diagnosis in order to be used. Any student may use this program and benefit from its features. I find this program to be effective as it boosts confidence for reading and writing in students. Initially, I began to use this program as I have a student in my class who requires assistive technology to support her learning experience. However, this program has proven to be beneficial for many of my students, regardless of whether they “need” it or not. I use Read & Write for Google as part of my literacy lesson every morning; developing skills for building complete sentences, writing with expression and editing spelling/grammar errors. All of my students enjoy this program. They particularly adore the speech input (speech to text) feature as well as the read back feature. By integrating this program and providing access to all of my students (and not just to the ones who need it on a daily basis), I am creating an environment where assistive technology is welcomed by all and no one feels embarrassed or segregated for using it.
Some other assistive technologies currently being used in my classroom are timers, standing desks, swivel chairs, and fidgets. Many of these tools allow children to concentrate while being able to move around, keeping their bodies busy. Personally, I have never really been able to sit still for long before my mind begins to wonder, therefore how can I expect my students to do so? Amy mentions in her blog this week, “It is helpful for me to be in a comfortable space, and have the ability to move, if those things are not possible, it is important for me to have the ability to tap my toes, and if there is something I can fidget with, I will do it”! I value her honesty as it is sometimes difficult to expect our students to sit still and focus when in reality adults struggle to do this for long periods of time. Brain breaks are important for our students in order to relieve tension, get their bodies physically moving, and regain focus. Within my classroom, GoNoodle is used often as part of our brain breaks. For those of you who teach primary grades, I suggest you “join the movement” as this program is fun and engaging!
What are some assistive technology tools being used in your classroom? Which tools have proven to be most effective?