Assistive and Adaptive Technology

Rationale for Assistive/Adaptive Technology: In this forum please respond to the following: Schools, universities, and libraries are struggling with tight budgets. How can we justify spending a lot of money to buy assistive technologies that might only be used by a small number of people? Cite relevant literature.

To begin with, it is estimated that over 50,000,000 people in the United States have a disability; with this number increasing yearly, how can society not fund programs or tools that aid individuals with disabilities? If we have 50 million Americans who cannot be as productive as they can be given the right tools, imagine the cost to every aspect, every level of our society. Obviously, for the betterment of both the individuals with disabilities and of the country, we need to spend the money to assist, educate and involve these individuals in all of the realms of our society. The solution is technology, for technology is the great equalizer.

Technology allows individuals to be more independent in any environment. In addition, the fact that federal laws govern special education is a solid justification for funding assistive technologies in schools, libraries, and universities; for example, there are “federal laws that promote the use of technology by individuals with disabilities”(Roblyer and Doering, 2013). To begin with, the Technology-Related Assistance Act for Individuals with Disabilities provides not only the awareness of, but also the access to assistive technologies (AT) devices and services. This means that individuals with disabilities can participate “in education, employment, and daily activities on a level playing field with other members of their communities.” In addition, “the act covers people with disabilities of all ages, all disabilities, in all environments (early intervention, K-12, post-secondary, vocational rehabilitation, community living, aging services, etc.)” (“national dissemination center,” 2009). Technology is so important in our everyday lives, not only in the educational realm, but also for our economy and democracy. Overall, technology empowers individuals with disabilities and allows them to participate and be productive citizens.

According to the National Service Inclusion Project, (2011), an estimated 20.3 million families, or 29% of all families in the United States, have at least one member with a disability. Another federal law that protects individuals with disabilities, the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), revised in 2004, “mandates that every individualized education program (IEP) team consider assistive technology when planning the educational program of an individual with a disability” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013). Mittler, (2007) defined assistive technology as any “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” Schools, universities and libraries not only need to offer ways that provide individuals with physical access (Roblyer and Doering, 2013), but also this technology needs to assist with instructional access, including special teaching and learning needs. Therefore, AT devices should be available in both libraries and educational institutions, especially given the percentage of tax paying citizens who will benefit from them.

References:

Mittler, J. (2007). Assistive technology and IDEA. In C. Warger (Ed.), Technology integration: Providing access to the curriculum for students with disabilities. Arlington, VA: Technology and Media.

National center on instructional accessible materials. (2009, August 24). Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/technologies_supporting

National dissemination center for children with disabilities. (December, 2009). Retrieved from http://nichcy.org/laws/ata

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

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Obstacles and Related Solutions of Integrating Technology into a Content Area

Integrating technology into the high school English curriculum can be tough, especially if the instructor does not feel comfortable with it, or she lacks the skills necessary to integrate it successfully. According to Conley (2010) “even when the proper resources are present, teachers often struggle with an inadequate knowledge of specific technology, technology-supported pedagogy, and technology-related-classroom management. For many educators, particularly those who did not grow up with computers or the internet, technology can be a frightening concept. It may be easier to pass up the use of a tool rather than admit to inadequate knowledge. Therefore, this can serve as a significant barrier.” In order to begin to bridge this gap or fear of the unknown, teachers need to collaborate and explore best practices when using technology. Department Chairs can set up professional development aimed at pairing teachers up based on technological skill levels. These pairs can mentor each other; while one may have more technological skills, both will have knowlegde of the contennt area to share. As teachers become familiar with technology tools that can enhance instruction, they will be more likely to delve into using them.

Another major obstacle of integrating technology into a content area such as English exists when the instructor does not begin with the end in mind. In other words, the instructor has to ask the following: what is the desired learner outcome? Effective teaching and effective technology integration go hand-in-hand; the learner must be engaged or actively involved in the learning process, and the instructor must realize that technology is only effective if it has a purpose to further the learning experience. Thus, the preparation of the leaning environment must be explored and integration strategies designed that will assist all stages of learning.

Conley, L. (2010). Barriers to integrating technology. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/thedigitallibrarian/barriers-to-integrating-technology

Engaging the Learner and Integrating Technology

Engaged learning is both student centered and collaborative; it is a process where both the student and the teacher work together to construct knowledge (Conrad and Donaldson, 2011). In other words, the student and the teacher are partners building knowledge and answering essential questions. According to Conrad and Donaldson (2011), key elements of engaged learning include students establishing their own goals, working together in groups, exploring appropriate resources to answer meaningful questions, performing tasks that are meaningful and have real world connections, and using performance based assessments that are rich in content and are ongoing.

Today, Language Arts instructors need to design lessons that integrate technology, after all, according to Roblyer and Doering (2013),the definition of literacy has changed because just as new technologies emerge, so too does the need for new literacies. These new literacies include: digital literacy and information literacy. Digital literacy isn’t just about using the computer; it has evolved, and it now means using informational skills “that technological devices carry, in addition to skills in using the devices themselves”(Roblyer and Doering, 2013 pg. 267). The other spectrum of literacy, information literacy, refers to an individual having the ability and awareness to recognize when information is needed and then being able to evaluate the information and use it effectively(Roblyer and Doering, 2013 pg. 268).

Therefore, the relative advantage to integrating technology seems clear: to foster literacy in the 21st century; moreover, to produce 21st century literature. Everyday, students use a variety of technological tools to gather and synthesize information, and both using and teaching technology as an instructional strategy allows the learner to use language skills on multiple levels through multiple tools and interfaces. In addition, the realtive advatage of technology integration that offers differentiated learning strategies seems infinite in that technology affords the instructor numerous opportunites to differentiate, depending on the instructor’s creativity and mastery at lesson planning and instructional design. However, even a novice can improve differentation through any means of technology integration as long as the goal is to enhance the learning experience.

References

Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. (2011). Engaging the online learner. Jon Wiley & Sons.

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.