The past couple of weeks I have encountered some interesting thoughts regarding the use of technology for helping students access learning. I’ve especially heard some thoughts regarding the use of text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and word prediction for students to better access learning on grade level.
Here’s what I’ve encountered:
- A belief that allowing a child to access Accessible Instructional Materials is a crutch.
- A question of why a child would even access tools such as text-to-speech, speech-to-text, or word prediction because that individual felt it was a “crutch”, making the child forever dependent on the tools, therefore diminishing the learning process.
- A belief that by introducing technology as a support that educators would be “done away with” and technology would replace “good instruction”.
These encounters have made me think, take some deep breaths, send these people some love and understanding, It’s also strengthened my resolve to spread the word about how technology can be leveraged to support learning, make learning fun, and give students support when (and if) they need it.
Perhaps these statements are FEAR based. Fear that a child would be labeled. Fear that we are enabling our children. Fear that technology will replace the art and science of teaching. Perhaps it’s more of a lack of understanding or awareness on how technology can eliminate barriers to learning.
The role I play is a truly unique one. I spend time researching tools and methods to help students with special needs access learning. I use Assistive Technology to help with this practice. I have seen students flourish using technology as a TOOL to reduce or eliminate BARRIERS TO LEARNING. Learning becomes FUN for students. Or at least, not as hard.
I also see students that do not have special needs that could benefit from these tools before it’s too late. Before they are referred. Or labeled.
In the past 7 years of this work, a common theme emerges:
How can we provide strategies and supports as a forethought, and not as an afterthought?
The answer is UDL. Check out the video below:
Think about your Smartphone. If you access voice typing to compose an email or text message, you are accessing a tool that’s originally intended for a student with a disability, but you have access to it. Is it a crutch?
Or, do you use closed captioning when you watch TV in bed so that you don’t disturb your significant other who is sleeping next to you, you are also accessing a tool that’s originally intended for a student with a disability. Will you make the nightly newscaster obsolete by accessing it? Hardly.
Educators have a tough job. One where they are charged with ensuring that children are learning, growing, thriving, and flourishing. They work hard to ensure that this happens. But, what if we took a moment and looked at how we can support all learners, as well as support all teachers, of making sure that the necessary strategies and supports were put in place first, and not afterward? How would that look? Would we be empowering our students and teachers? Why wouldn’t we want to give strategies and supports first and not later on when a student or teacher is frustrated, overwhelmed, or it’s too late?
In short, it’s not a crutch, it’s UDL.
If you would like to learn more about UDL: