What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology includes a wide range of strategies from assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices and other resources used to compensate for the lack of certain abilities. In an inclusive classroom, there are needs that have to be met with specific resources, for example, for students having specific learning disabilities educational software can help in skill-building with multisensory experiences and individualized instruction.
Why Use Assistive Technology?
Inclusive pedagogy focuses on identifying and overcoming barriers in education. It provides the least restrictive environment (LRE) to include students with special needs and disabilities. Hence there emerges the need to plan for instructional strategies in an inclusive classroom. Assistive technology is also known as technical aids or assistive equipment. For example, students with dyscalculia can use onscreen calculators that are integrated with the online assessment task, other examples are speech to text and larger font size options.
Similarly, teachers can use assistive technology to address diversity challenges, for example, if a student is ELL/EAL they can be allowed to use an online translator to translate content and tasks, also use speech to text software for capturing teacher lectures. Assistive technology connects a student’s cognitive abilities to an educational opportunity that may not be accessible due to their disability. This tells us that assistive technology in an inclusive classroom can have multiple ways for students to articulate their understanding and complete tasks with more agency and accountability.
How to Use Assistive Technology?
There are many ways to use assistive technologies in an inclusive classroom. Assistive technology can enhance the basic skills of students with needs to be part of the classroom by being able to access the materials and resources which were limited due to their needs. Teachers should consider a list of factors in order to select the type of assistive technology, some of which are; determining the specific student need; identifying the student’s strengths; engaging the student in the planning process; choosing the assistive technology which is affordable and easy to use. Other guidelines include choosing an assistive technology that suits the student, not the other way around. The instructional strategies should be allowing students to learn the technological skill, this also requires the teacher to be up-to-date with the assistive technology available in the market.
What type of Assistive Technology to Support Inclusion?
There are many types of assistive technologies available nowadays to successfully manage an inclusive classroom:
- Written Assistive Technology Tools: students struggling with writing skills can use spell-checkers, proofreading tools, speech recognition and speech synthesizing tools.
- Reading Assistive Technology Tools: students with reading challenges can use online documents to increase the size of text, phone recorders or variable speech control (VSC) technology, optical character recognition devices(OCRs).
- Mathematics Assistive Technology Tools: students with dyscalculia or dysgraphia can use online calculators, others struggling with math can enrol for Khan Academy video lessons.
- Listening Assistive Technologies Tools: students with listening disabilities can use speech to text, listening devices and recording devices.
- Memory Assistive Technologies Tools: students struggling to remember can use graphic organisers, glossaries, personal data managers to be able to retain information.
The use of assistive technology (AT) in an inclusive classroom is necessary to support students with learning disabilities. AT can help students function without any hurdles. The AT tools range from technology to tools to props to anything that helps the students to feel included. Even though the AT tools do not take away the disability or learning challenge, it supports the student to access the teaching and learning in the best possible way.
Adebisi, R.O., Liman, N.A., & Longpoe, P.K. (2015). Using assistive technology in teaching children with learning disabilities in the 21st century. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(24), 14-20. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1078825.pdf
Ahmad, F. H. (2015). Use of assistive technology in inclusive education. Transcience, 6(2), 62-77. Retrieved from https://www2.hu-berlin.de/transcience/Vol6_No2_62_77.pdf
Dean, M. (2019). 13 ways to incorporate assistive technology into the classroom. Retrieved from https://www.classcraft.com/blog/ways-to-incorporate-assistive-technology-into-the-classroom/