Assistive technology is a huge door opener for students with learning differences. Using and embracing technology in the classroom and home can help make these once reluctant learners feel supported and confident.
In educational settings prior to using technology, there was usually only one way of learning. Today with the many differences in technology, learning can be more inclusive and offer multiple routes to gain the same information. We are becoming more inclusive of our learners by offering multiple ways to process and apply the information being taught.
This is an exciting time for students who may have otherwise labeled themselves as a “struggling learner” or “not good at school”, all of our students now have multiple ways to learn and apply. As assistive technology is mentioned, I am discussing technology, an application or system that helps the learners' weakest area to be bypassed to reach their learning potential.
Types of Learning Differences
Many of the learning differences in schools today have to do with how information is processed. Many students with learning differences require specific and routine ways of teaching content. Living in a technology-based age allows these students more opportunities than before to get the help and support they need.
Learning differences can range from physical to cognitive . I like to look at dyslexia because it is a learning difference that affects so many children and often goes undiagnosed especially in the K-3 grades. Dyslexia can affect up to 25% of school aged children. Knowing this and knowing the different types of assistive technology available can provide a lot of ease and comfort for these students. While it also can be beneficial for all students in a classroom and may help your child if they are undiagnosed and struggling.
Talk to type
Many learning differences are language-based. For students struggling with a language-based learning difference such as dyslexia, writing can be a chore. Writing is a complex skill without a learning difference.
Students often shut down and become defeated when asked to write or are required to write independently. Struggling with complex spelling and sentence structure and developing thoughts into meaningful text can feel overwhelming. Using devices with Talk to type can be a life saver for a learner who is apprehensive about writing. Talk to type helps users that have high-level of comprehension but weaker phonemic and written skills. As an educator I strongly encourage teachers
Writing notes and Graphic Organizers
As mentioned above a lot of learning differences can be language-based and prevent learners from sharing the content they know because they are focused on the phonics and mechanics of writing.
Assistive technology such as recorders and word prediction programs can help a student when they are asked to take notes on specific subjects. Tape recorders can allow students who have more auditory strength to listen to a lesson multiple times if writing is a weakness.
Predictive typing programs allow students who may struggle to have ease when typing notes and not become focused on the spelling. Using graphic organizers digitally can help students organize their thoughts into a meaningful construct when writing fiction or nonfiction. It helps students take all their thoughts and make meaning which will eventually turn into a paper.
Read Aloud, books on tape or any other type of device or application where content is being read to the reader is an amazing type of assistive technology for students with learning differences in reading.
Read aloud technology helps give learners direct access to content without the work of decoding text which can often lead to frustration and shutting down in a learner. While students absolutely need to learn decoding and reading, it shouldn’t stop them from gaining knowledge in other content areas…enter read aloud assistive technology. When this assistive technology is applied, students gain knowledge in other content areas and they will strengthen their confidence and this will show in all areas of their learning.
Living in a time of assistive technology is really amazing for all learners and educators. While I’ve only mentioned a select few there are many out there that will help students with specific weaknesses excel in learning. If you notice your child struggling over time with a specific skill make sure you reach out to your school or teacher and ask about the use of assistive technology to help enhance their learning. Using assistive technology will help learning be inclusive for all types of learners.
About Jessica Stallings:
Jessica Stallings MA Ed. is a veteran teacher and tech writer. She is a National Board Certified Educator who values teaching the whole child and enjoys working with learners of all ages. Her favorite thing as an educator is to watch how technology motivates all different types of learners of varying ability levels. She hopes to empower learners and families to use technology to help connect them to and learn more about the beautiful world we live in. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she loves to spend time on the North Carolina Coast with her family and dog, Fletcher.