Building assistive technology into a future strategy for your students is an integral part of designing your curriculum for the year. Schools have committed to planning a structure for homework and frameworks aiming to deliver spiritual, moral, social, and cultural knowledge, all essential to the healthy development of a child. If however, EdTech planning is not in place, then your school is heading in the direction of a strategic learning gap. Assistive Technology in education, or “EdTech”, can give every student an advantage. Hopefully tools like visualisers, voting boxes ‘classroom clickers’, and tablets are already part of the wider strategy being employed in classrooms across your school. EdTech is no longer just for students with additional needs. It is a tool to raise achievement for all. There is a wealth of technology to embrace that can ensure that all students benefit. As you plan your strategy, it is important to ensure nobody’s needs are left unsupported, particularly SEND students who can gain the most from well deployed EdTech. Without strategic planning we could end up without the tools we need the most. We all know that value for money is an essential factor in our planning, so too is finding ways to maximise the benefits of our spending decisions. With this in mind, here is a list of four assistive techs that are SEND specific, but could be used as a schoolwide learning strategy.
1- AI teaching platforms
In more recent years, AI teaching has become more prevalent in schools. This kind of technology will be an integral part of all education at some point in the future, but right now it’s a fantastic tool for SEND students. With the help of this advanced AI, we can identify and address the weaker areas in their knowledge.
Platforms like CENTURY allow for a real-time analysation of student performance by creating sophisticated algorithms based on student response. Teachers can access at this information at any point in the students’ learning. Not only would this make it easy to track the success of SEND students, it can be used for ALL students. This whole school approach allows for a quick overview of usage and progress made. At the present time AI is at the spearhead of EdTech but there are other less expensive options that also have a huge impact with similar routes of access from home and school.
2- Online learning portals
Similar to AI teaching, online learning portals are a great way to keep track of your students’ progress while constantly updating their curriculum and extracurricular needs. These portals can be used from home and are the perfect tool for students that may have extended periods out of school for medical (or other) reasons. Not only will they not miss out on their learning opportunities, they can even collaborate with peers from home. This is obviously enormously beneficial for every student in school, not just those with extenuating circumstances.
One fantastic use of online portals is the manual control teachers can have over each student’s learning strategy. Everything you need; from homework, essays, and even revision, can be uploaded and tracked on these portals.
In programs such as Moodle and Show My Homework, deadlines and important dates can be assigned and highlighted in an online calendar, a useful feature the importance of which is highlighted in the next section.
3- Time schedulers
A skill that we often find underdeveloped in many students at all key stages is their time management. Knowing when a test is coming and how much time they should spend studying is essential support that makes a huge difference.
Abilia, an online scheduler, is just one of example of a great piece of assistive tech that could inspire a whole school approach. This support was originally made for students with ASD and ADHD. By scheduling their day-to-day activity, students are able to become independent where they otherwise may have struggled.
Previously, ASD students might have had a serious anxiety attack if their pattern were to change without warning. With the help of a detailed online scheduler, they can now be informed in real time of these changes to their day. A change in a regular teacher, form of transportation, study time, and any other daily activity can be updated well in advance to leave these students well prepared for their day. It doesn’t just allow teachers and family to update their schedule, students can also manage themselves while informing others.
This approach to independence and self-empowerment can be introduced schoolwide with easily downloadable planning aps to tablets and mobile phones.
4- Assistive Readers
Very few assistive technologies are accepted in examinations. Often, they require lengthy paperwork to be completed and need to be arranged and validated long in advance of the exam. There is an exception that can give many students a boost without the need for any additional accommodations to be made, not even a Form 8. Where students have weak literacy skills, the text-to-speech scanners like the ExamReader from Scanning Pens are the exception. Provided the pen has been used in advance of the examination, and has become a normal way of working, it can be used in any JCQ exam to support reading fluency.
The ExamReader also gives struggling readers the confidence to approach their exams independently. It reads aloud, or via headphones, any text scanned, in a clear and natural voice. Students in the U.K can sit any of their exams with their peers, and without any extra accommodations or a human reading assistant. This inclusion tool gives independence and provides a boost to student mental-wellbeing during exam periods.
For students with reading difficulties like dyslexia, this EdTech allows them to comprehend questions that they may otherwise have answered incorrectly. We also know that students reject human support because they do not want to repeatedly ask for help through embarrassment.
Fortunately this tool is not limited to supporting those with dyslexia, anyone is welcome to use them. That means undiagnosed or borderline dyslexics can use the ExamReader. So can those with weak literacy or slower speeds of processing.
Assistive technology is the revolution ahead. While you count your coins and choose your strategies, consider the maximum impact for all. Think universal and think smart!