One Size Fits All: Adaptive and Assistive Technology in the Classroom

With money for education lacking, is spending what little there is on adaptive and assistive technology really necessary? It is,  if we believe that all students should have equal access to what is being taught in the classroom. Differentiation goes beyond pulling students over to the kidney shaped table to discuss a problem or question they don’t understand. However, the truth is, some of the technology needed can be pricy. But considering the cost of giving each student, no matter what the handicap, an equal opportunity to learn, how can we as a society not afford it. It is easy to tell someone to throw money at the problem, but what if there is no money to throw? We need to explore options, such as grants and loan programs to make sure that no student is lacking. We need to try and fit in in, or find alternative ways to acquire the more expensive technology.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) state that technology is essential in including children with disabilities. Without it these students will continue to struggle and get left behind without given the chance that technology can give. In the report by the CEC, “Embedding Technology in Education for All Learners: CEC’s Recommendations to the National Education Technology Plan”, more and more exceptional students are being placed in normal classrooms. This could be due to growing class size, and/or lack of funding. Either way, it is crucial now more than ever that these exceptional students have the tools they need to be involved in the regular classroom. If not, they will be left behind.

There is no question that technology does work to help students. In the article, “Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities inWriting:Beliefs, Knowledge, and Use”, students with disabilities were shown to be able to work more independently and use higher order thinking using assistive technology. They are able to participate in a normal classroom, and feel involved. This in turn will help them take ownership in their learning.

Many states are seeing the need for adaptive technology and have programs set up to help schools acquire the technology needed. In Nebraska, for example, they have put into place a program called “Assistive Technology Partnership”. It uses the service AT4ALL.com to help find technology that students can have on loan to use. People can post items they may have and teachers as well as parents can go online to see what technology is available for loan. This program is a wonderful example of how a community can come together and provide educational needs.

Even though technology can be expensive, usually it is a very low percentage that needs overly expensive technology. Since the percentage is so low,  the materials could be used over and over again. In this sense, it can be seen as an investment in the schools that will last a while. Even if the number were greater, there are some things that should not have a price tag placed on it. An equal opportunity for learning should be one of those things.

Sources

Atp assistive technology solutions. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.atp.ne.gov/services/AT.html

Bigelow, D.L. (2008). Assistive technology for students with learning disabilities in         writing: beliefs, knowledge, and use. Informally published manuscript, Department of Education, Miami University, Miami, Florida. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/36537205/Assistive-Technology-for-Students-With-Learning-Disabilities-in-Writing-Beliefs-Knowledge-A

Embedding technology in education for all learners. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.cec.sped.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Assistive_Technology&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13604


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7 thoughts on “One Size Fits All: Adaptive and Assistive Technology in the Classroom

  1. Adaptive and assistive technologies are used by many people in addition to those with disabilities. What ones do you use?

    “But considering the cost of giving each student, no matter what the handicap, an equal opportunity to learn, how can we as a society, not afford it.” Many would argue that this nations public schools are going bankrupt trying to meet the needs, no matter the cost, of every single handicap of every single child.

    I love your link and examples of ways to loan and community participation for learning.

  2. Melodee,
    You make excellent points about the importance of making sure assistive technologies are present. I too feel assistive technology are important and we must do what we can to make sure the funding is there for these technologies. After reading our text I’ve realized how much of a role technology has played in creating success in students who have disabilities. These technologies allow our students to become more independent and successful in the real world. This is what we want with our students. We want them to be successful in the world.
    Thank you,
    Cassie

  3. Hello Melodee,

    I enjoyed reading you post and thought that you brought up a key point about “how can we as a society not afford it”! I look at the alternative of not providing quality education to those with extra needs and I don’t like where that leads. Otherwise, do we lock them up in a closet like so many other countries?

    Also, that is a great point about how “students with disabilities were shown to be able to work more independently and use higher order thinking using assistive technology”. This is such a great step forward! I think it is absolutely imperative that these people are educated in such a way to give them independence to whatever degree they are able to and to break that dependence on others. If those with disabilities realize that they can independent, they feel empowered and will strive for greater things.

    Great post!

  4. Where do you see this situation (the need of assistive/adaptive technologies) headed in the time of budget cuts? I live in Kentucky and cuts are coming at us in all directions, both state and federal. Do you see this as an impediment to spending for such technologies?

    • A huge impediment. My sister-in-law works for PACS in Kentucky and she is even telling me about the cuts coming to schools in her area (Hopkinsville). With teacher cut backs and larger class sizes, it gets harder and harder to reach students without special needs. As I am sure you know, it makes it impossible to reach kids with them! It is unfortunate.

  5. Could the US Department of Education not develop a set of assistive technologies, bundle them in a tool kit, and make that kit available to schools across the country at no charge?

    That would seem a natural consequence of IDEA.

  6. Melodee,

    I think your blog contains some great information. I really like the idea of having adaptive technology equipment available for loan. Some of the equipment is very expensive and it would be difficult for individual districts to make these purchases. Nebraska’s program provides support to all districts, which is important during tough economic times. Thanks for the post.

    Travis

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