Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Assistive Tech - Week 7

I must say, I was fascinated with Chapter 5 in Beard, Carpenter, and Johnson's (2011) book. Last week, I printed a list of the AT available in our school for our students with high-incidence disabilities. It is exactly along the lines of what is in the chapter. I read the book sitting next to the computer so I could look up the devices and see how they looked and how they were rated by consumers.

If Assistive Technology is "cognitives prosthetics," (Alper & Raharininia, 2006) we all use AT to some degree.  Eyeglasses, planners, and audiobooks are common in the world outside of the classroom. I think it is important to include AT in the general education classroom.

Text-to-speech software is the main AT tool at my school. Being a technical high school, a lot of students are sent from the suburban schools because they are "good with their hands." Many of these students have high-incidence disabilities: reading, writing, and math.

We participate in the Accelerated Reader program in order to boost our students' reading levels. This is a mainly K-8 program. We are grades 9 - 12. In my library, there are books written at the second- and third-grade level that circulate often because there are students who need that support. In contrast, our trade textbooks are written at upper high school and college reading levels. Our AT Specialist has permission to digitize the textbooks on a flash drive along with text-to-speech software (Snap and Read) for the weaker readers through SPED.  In many cases, I think it would be great to expose all of the students to the text-to-speech software because often trade material is so dense, it is hard to absorb on the first pass, especially for self-proclaimed non-readers.

Assistive Technology belongs in the general education classroom because it can bring support to both students who rely on it and students who can get by without it.  Using a planner to keep track of assignments, hearing text as well as seeing it, using a calculator to check work, and having a computer spell- check are independence-giving AT for some, and examples of good life skills for others.

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