Huge thanks to Holly, Allison, Benita, Heidi and Launel on their awesome presentation on assistive technology. It is true that assistive technology is not just for struggling learners. There are many great assistive tech tools for all learners.
When thinking back on my teaching career and my first experiences using assistive technology, it was a speaker and microphone set (for my hard of hearing learner), a laptop for a learner and the Kurzweil program.
The speaker and microphone set was lost when it was required for my student. I spent roughly 2 weeks looking for the sound and speaking system when it was transferred from the elementary to the high school setting. During that time my hard of hearing student sat close with me and was able to understand my teaching, though not to her full potential without the required equipment. It turns out the equipment was locked away at the board office over the summer months and was unfortunately given to a different student within the system at the start of the school year. Luckily a system was found not used and I was able to pick it up for my hard of hearing learner. There was no training to use this system, luckily my hard of hearing student taught me on how to use the system for her.
For the Kurzweil program all teachers in the high school that I was at, received the start-up training.
The unfortunate part, French Immersion resources were not able to be used with some of the programming at the time, which was very frustrating for a language learner and teacher. When teaching over a 100 students in a semester, being expected to know how to use new assistive technology, though the assistive technology does not support all French Immersion resources I found myself not using it, and looking for other suitable tools to help my learners. To make matters worse, when we were trained, the training was not complete. It required two more training sessions. Unfortunately, we did not receive these training sessions due to lack of time at the schools. The information was emailed without more supportive training for the teachers.
The laptop (to support my student) arrived a month late during the semester. To make unfortunately, the laptop was not updated and was slow. I was able to bring the computer to the board office to receive its proper updates.
My first experiences using assistive tech were frustrating ones. Though these tools were necessary for our learners, so I guess you could say I just dealt with my frustrations and moved on. As Dave Edyburn discussed in Rethinking Assistive Technology, teachers are frustrated with assistive technology because there is not enough training on this assistive tools, “there is little evidence that in-service professionals have received adequate training”. (P.18)
And on the other hand these days, there is an enormous amount of assistive tech tools out there, that some educators do not know which ones are the best tools for their learners. It is best to learn/review an assistive tech tool “one at a time” to not overwhelm the teacher tech tool learner.
I have a grade 9 student who is reading at a grade 4 level. She has other cognitive learning disabilities that are impacting her learning in the classroom. My next assistive technology tool that I want to use / try with her is Google Read and Write for our French Immersion resources. I am in the process of learning this program on my own and I am trying to figure out on how to get my French Immersion resources added to this program. I found out that not all French Immersion resources are supported by this program….this is a common theme for French Immersion teachers….not all tools support French Immersion.
This video was very informative on the Google read and write program:
When researching the Google Read and Write program, I will need the following for my student:
-A Board office issued laptop for my student.
-Chrome installed on this laptop.
-Insuring my student knows her RBE Google account.
-Learn this program for myself.
-Help my student learn and understand this program.
-Help our LRT learn this program.
After having revised some of the Google Read and Write program, I am realizing that this tool (if it supports our French Immersion resources) can be a useful tool for all my Immersion students. Assistive technology can be used for all learners not just for students who have disabilities.
There is a stigma in our classrooms and we all know what it is. For some reason when a student is using these tools, they are seen as the “weak” student. Now and in the future, I want my own children/ students to understand, that there is nothing wrong when using tools to support your learning. I am hoping that we can break this stigma and have all students understand that using supportive /assistive technology is for all learners.
Do any of my fellow EC&I 833 classmates know of any other awesome assistive tech tools that supports French Immersion students?