A couple of my other article reviews were focused around newer technology such virtual reality and artificial intelligence. These types of technology are fun, innovative, immersive, etc. for the classroom, but not a necessity to keep students functioning in the classroom. Assistive Technology (AT) is something that a portion of students need in order to learn alongside their peers.
Assistive Technology levels the playing field.
According to Assistive Technology Industry Association, “Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities”. Assistive technology doesn’t have to be specialized programs or computers, it can be as simple as felt boards for communication or specialized pencils. This type of technology can be divided into low tech or high tech. High tech costs more and is not as accessible to school districts due to funding.
I found an article titled, Perceptions of Using Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities in the Classroom by Areej Ahmed. This article focuses around research done by a questionnaire through Google and posted to a newsletter and a Facebook link. This form received 28 responses, and 92% of the participants (meaning around 25 of the participants) did not have a disability. “In regards to individuals’ experiences with using assistive technology during their education, 78.6% state that they have not utilized assistive technology whether devices or services, but in contrast, 21.4% have used such technology.” After reading that, I already felt like this research could have benefited from having more participation. Instead of sharing it on a Facebook page and a newsletter, it could have been spread across multiple different pages or schools to ensure representation was accurate.
When looking at the results, you can see that when asked if assistive technology should be provided in the classroom, there are more no responses than for yes. Seeing as 92% of the participants did not have disabilities, I wonder what the chart would look like if there was a more varied audience.
The article talked about how assistive technology is considered a controversial subject. Ahmed quotes research, “People may look at assistive technology as a tool that leads students with disabilities to succeed, while others believe assistive technology makes them dependent and students with disabilities will not be able to do the tasks on their own (Edyburn, 2006)”. The other side of the argument is that students with disabilities would rely / depend on other people to help them instead of depending on technology that could allow them to lead more independent lives. The article even mentions that assistive technology in the classroom could support students who would typically be separated from the general education classroom to be incorporated into the classroom with their peers.
There is this video that talks about accessibility for online courses. Vanessa Robinson is deaf and taking an online course at a college campus. She finds that sometimes she can not fully participate in class or discussions if there are no accommodations, such as captioning. Sometimes a professor will assign a video, and there are no captions or transcript for her to read what they are saying. She will have to go to campus, set up time for an appointment to get a translator to interpret the video for her.
Another video talks shares Alex’s story of having a learning disability and being held back in the classroom. He found it difficult to get his thoughts on paper. It was a struggle to write two or three sentences; but with assistive technology such as voice to text, he was able to be more expressive. Teachers can use technology to see what students actually know and all of the things they are capable of doing.
These videos showcase that assistive technology can help students with physical and learning disabilities to improve their education. It can also allow both to be incorporated into the classroom through discussion, collaboration, and participation since the playing field is more level. Ahmed also discusses the barriers being cost and teacher training. Teachers, administration, and sometimes family need training to help utilize the technology in a way that will be effective for the student. In another article about assistive technology in schools, this research compared two schools and their experience with assistive technology.
Participant A is a principal at a school of 20 staff and 289 students. Participant B is a principal at a smaller school (though not by much) with 26 staff and 237 students. This showcases that it is a challenge to acquire assistive technology and to have time to train staff in using the technology.
Having seen this other study and the videos, it feels like the article written by Ahmed would really benefit from having a larger audience. The literature review included in the article talked about the advantages and disadvantages of assistive technology in classroom settings, which was interesting to read through! The questions for the survey were well thought out and interesting to read through. I think people’s perceptions of assistive technology would be interesting to include in an article, but I don’t know if it should have been the focus of the article (especially given the limited participants in the study). He ends the research with, “The researcher strongly believes that every individual can learn and improve themselves academically, yet individuals must have access to the learning environment in order to achieve these goals”.
Here is a link to common assistive technology tools
This is another video about assistive technology in the classroom