Assistive Technology to Support Struggling Learners

The shift toward 21st century learning has put an emphasis on the use of technology to support teaching and learning. Technology is being used both universally and in the form of assistive technology to support the individual needs of struggling learners. Regarding the universal use of technology in classrooms, many schools have invested time and money to purchase technology such as iPads and Chromebooks and to train teachers on their effective use. Difficulties present themselves in the sense that teachers must sift through numerous apps, websites and programs to determine what they would like to utilize; and teachers must be provided with embedded, content-specific support in order to effectively use the technology to enhance and transform learning for all students. In addition, schools must determine if students with Individualized Education Plans would benefit from a particular assistive technology, and if so, which one(s). This research brief will discuss what we believe to be the best online websites and resources for administrators and teachers in order to streamline the process of integrating technology. In addition, research and best practice strategies for technology integration within the classroom will be shared.

 

Resources for School Districts

 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that, “Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services…are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP)” (IDEA, 2004). In order to determine if assistive technology would be beneficial for the child, schools and families must first have knowledge about what technology is available, and then have an understanding about how various technologies may or may not help reduce the impact of the disability upon learning. There are two websites that can be instrumental in guiding schools through this process:

  1. Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) www.qiat.org

            The QIAT Community is a nationwide grassroots group that provides input into the          ongoing process of identifying, disseminating, and implementing a set of eight quality indicators for assistive technology services in school settings.  These indicators can be        used as a tool to support schools as they seek to provide assistive technology services that          follow federal and state requirements.

  1. Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) www.wati.org

            WATI is a volunteer network of assistive technology consultants from across the state       who continue the work of providing AT training and support within Wisconsin           educational settings. There is a wealth of information on this website including free tools        for assessing a student’s need for assistive technology. There is also an exceptionally   useful guide to using technology for students with autism.

 

Best Practices for Integrating Technology

 

Technology integration, as defined by Joan Hughes (2015) is “the use of digital information communication technologies by teachers and/or students that support instruction and learning of subject area content.” Dr. Hughes has developed a framework that describes three levels of technology integration: Replacement, Amplification and Transformation (RAT). The goal for any teacher using technology in the classroom is to incorporate all three types of experiences over the course of a year. Not every use of technology will be transformative in nature, but the goal is that there would be several transformative experiences for students throughout the year. The chart below describes each of the three levels of the R.A.T. Model.
 

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