Thursday, November 18, 2010

Technology helping to redefine disability

Students with disabilities have long been unable to express their knowledge or gain new knowledge in traditional classrooms. Teachers committed to enabling these students have searched for ways to assist and empower them, and it looks like there's finally a way. According to Milton Chen, the senior fellow and director emeritus at the George Lucas Educational Foundation, rapid advancements in technology are helping to redefine ability and disability, with assistive technology devices enabling students with disabilities. For example, the Adaptive Captioning Through Interactive Video (ACTIV 2.0) technology can be used to make academic content accessible to learning disabled students through features such as alternative narration; regular, highlighted text; picture/symbol-based captions; verbal/visual cuing; interactive hyperlinks; and built-in quizzes. Other technologies, such as Signing Avatar, which is a software that can be used with 3D science and math dictionaries to help deaf or hearing impaired students, and Big Words, which is a software that can be used to teach polysyllabic words to students with disabilities, are also in the forefront of this movement towards technology for disabled students. John Kemp of Powers Pyle Sutter and Verville says that "giving students with disabilities more choice in how they would like to learn and which tools they would like to use in their learning process can go a long way in motivating them," which can often make all the difference in the classroom. Teachers should not only be aware of the possibilities of technology for learning disabled students, but should constantly be investigating and seeking it. One great resource is NCTI's TechMatrix, which provides free information on assistive technology for students with disabilities as well as for ELL students. I don't know how to add a second link, so here's the url for that:


Annie Tillmann said...

I'm all for alternative learning methods, the more ways that the information can be accessed the better. Although this new technology is intended to aid students with disabilities, it seems as though it can be beneficial across the entire curriculum as well. This is actually the kind of stuff that I'm interested in working on and helping to develop with the major I put together. It's really exciting to see that there are already people working on things like this already!

eschmidt said...

I agree with Annie. These new technologies seem like they can could be invaluable resources to all students, not just those who are labeled as "disabled." As nice as these programs sound, I can only imagine how expensive they will be to. As many of our articles this semester have mentioned, schools are beginning to cut programs at an terrifying pace. At this point, it seems unrealistic that a public district would spend money on such technologies. I suppose that private schools that specialize in education for disabled students would benefit the most from these technologies. However these schools are often expensive and far from many families. Overall, this technology will be most effective if it is sold in a way that is affordable and accessible to all school districts and their students.