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Assistive Technology.

Helping the blind, see.

The immobile, move.

The voiceless, speak.

The awkward and anxious, share.

Poor-writers, compose.

The disconnected, connect.

Always developing, never complete.

Assistive technology is an enormous umbrella term. We think of devices developed to help the “disabled” typically as assistive tech (devices), but then we are inclined to extend the definition to include even adaptations in the classroom (services). But where is the line? If we include differentiation as assistive, do we include adaptation? There are extensions of the technology definition to include ideas and classroom practices so I should… but, wow, including that wide definition of technology with a wide definition of assistive tech will that be a infinitely inclusive term. When we consider the definition of assistive technology including means to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability… it feels like everything in a classroom will be included. As such, what responsibilities does the school and education system bear to make this happen? What counts as a disability warranting support? If we include supplying devices in a BYOD classroom to those who have them, who is obligated to supply this? Today, many schools must include WiFi, is this now a mandatory “assistive technology”?

 

This ridiculously inclusive approach now also breaks down the illusion of limitations provided by assistive tech. Why is it simply an illusion? Circling back to the concept of a growth mindset, assistive technologies are constantly being developed and improved for all types and abilities of students/individuals. The strides made in hearing aids allowing individuals to hear again are incredible.

The increasing ease of movement for those bound to wheelchairs is ever-evolving or making music available to those who have lost their hearing. The field encapsulates potential, and while there will be difficulties, is there also the potential for the enhancement of the human form as a result creating a gap between “typical” individuals and those with assistive technologies. What comes to mind is sprinters with prosthetic devices, are they meant to compete against those with regular legs? If performance is drastically increased, is this fair or equitable? If they can afford it, should they be allowed it? Wealth gap aside, consider even grandiose ideas about the direction of human evolution. Is this wrong?

Sarah Reinertsen via Pinterest

I would argue it isn’t wrong, but we simply compare those with similar technology to others with the same tech? Or is this further segregating us? As always, where is the line?

What is a measurable amount of support to be provided to individuals requiring assistive technology? How do we train our educators to be familiar with an ever-changing field?

Where do we head next? What about assistive technology for managing teacher stress and workloads?

What assistive technologies are available to mitigating stress and workloads for teachers? Online assessment tools help reduce marking – but does the net work put into establishing these translate to better learning outcomes for students? Is there a world in which we tell devices to assess learning of each student, highlighting common difficulties students may experience, or individual anomalies and allow teachers to simply focus on learning support and facilitation? Totally possible. Will that negatively impact what a teacher provides their students or result in “worse” teaching?

Comments? Answers? Thoughts?

Logan Petlak

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