Assistive Tech

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Enhancing Self-Directed and Independent Learning through Educational Technology

One of the greatest opportunities technology provides is that it enables educators to diversify their instruction and allow students to work on different assignments to meet the learning objectives. Technology helps to meet the needs of all learners, including those with special needs. Assistive tehnology encompasses hardware, software, devices, and other electronic equipment to improve the capabilities of students with disabilities. With technology tools, including assitive technology, all students have the ability to participate in classroom lessons, drive their own learning goals, work more independently, self-motivate, and personalize learning.


Empowering Learners

How do we shift from students having to learn to students wanting to learn? When you access the students’ interests and find out what they want to learn, then you allow the students to ask their own questions, and they embark on a learning journey through inquiry, creation, and critical thinking. They own the learning process and can work at their own pace, choose their own product, and decide how they will accomplish their goals. When this happens, the student has ownership in their own learning and this drive creates self-directedness and independent learning. Technology is a useful tool teachers can use to foster and support individual student learning goals.


Technology for Setting Goals. Technology allows students to access different resources and work on different things so they can experience their own self-directed learning. Through various technology tools, students can set their own goals, reflecting on their learning, and get immediate data to know how to interpret their successes and failures. Teachers then act as coaches to assist students through their failures and setting new goals. There are various tools that help students develop and monitor their skills. EdTech tools like Quizlet allow students to create flashcards and games, and set their own goals with their learning. This helps students to become more independent and autonomous with their learning, learning more efficiently and effectively, and be more motivated to reach their learning goals (The Digital Teacher, n.d.).


Building Learner Autonomy Using Choice.  Providing students with numerous choices on how and what they want to learn is empowering and motivating. Not all students like to use the same resources, and technology makes it easy for students to find and use a variety of tools. They can find information through documents, articles, lectures, and videos. Products can be made in a variety of ways through apps and programs and can be built with digital tools that work with sound, graphics, animation, video, or written documentation. When students are given choices on what they want to learn and how they want to present their learning, it creates connection and motivation and provides a powerful self-directed learning experience. For example, some students can be very self-conscious about speaking. Giving options for presentations, like a video, an audio-recorded podcast, WeVideo, Voki, Doodly, or Talking Emojis can be great options for students. Learners choose tasks that motivate and engage them and work on projects that relfect their own creativity, helping them work independently and achieve their goals.

References

FSGImpact. (2014, September 5). Supporting self-directed learning with technology [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCaPpdFoXu8


K., S. B. (2013, July 8). How technology promotes independent learning? Retrieved from https://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/422-how-technology-promotes-independent-learning


The Digital Teacher. (n.d.). Tips—Using digital tools to develop learner autonomy: Help your learners define their own aims and organise their own study. Retrieved from https://thedigitalteacher.com/training/using-digital-tools-to-develop-learner-autonomy-tips


Understood. (n.d.). Assistive technology for learning: What you need to know [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/assistive-technology/assistive-technologies-basics/assistive-technology-what-it-is-and-how-it-works

Enhancing Self-Directed and Independent Learning through Assistive Technology

Assistive technology includes programs and devices that improve the functional capabilities of a student with a disability. It is anything that helps people who learn and think differently work around their challenges and it empowers students to do things for themselves, fostering more independent learning and providing opportunities for self-directed learning. With assistive technology, their reliance on others to help is less, so they can do more for themselves with the added techonoligal assistance. There are numerous ways assitive technology can support students. Below are two examples.


Assistive Technology for Writing. There are numerous applications and a wide range of tools available for students who have difficulties with writing. Physial disabilities that make it difficult for students to hold a pen or pencil, can use a device that utilizes a keyboard or touchscreen. Tablets and laptops have many finctions that aid in wiriting. Predictive text suggests words from a word bank that typically fit within the context of what is being written. Word prediction and spell check help support students with their writing. Talk to text (dictation) has been a revolutionary application to assist students with writing difficulties from dyslexia to language disabilities. Text to speech can help students evaluate what they have wirtten and assists with editing and revising their work. Graphic organizers are tools that utilize visual representations to help students break down ideas into smaller parts and assist in the brainstorming process of writing. all these tools allow a student to monitor their progress towards their goals and allows them to work more independently.


Assistive Technology for Math. When students struggle with math, assistive technolgy now goes beyond using a calculator. Mathematical notation can be difficult for anyone, let alone someone with dyscalcula. There are math notation tools that can hep students with special symbols and numbers used in equations. Graph paper can also be used through programs to help students with graphing or lining up numbers for calculations. Drawing tools and equation solving tools are available to help students who need more support and alternatives to the standard classroom tools of rules, protractors, and compasses. Programs such as Math Learning Center apps for iPad and Chromebooks, and Mathigon Polypad, both of which are free, allow students to work with dozons of different interactive manipulatives to work on concpets like number lines, geometry, fractions, money, and more. They can work independently and monitor their progress so they can set their own individual goals and engage in self-directed and independent learning.


These tech tools go beyond the level of differentiation and allow students to utilize technology to assist them in working at their own level and setting their own pace with learning. They can set their own goals and keep track of their progress, allowing them to be more independent and self-direct their learning based on their own individual needs.