Week 4: Assistive Technologies


“The system should fit the student rather than making the student fit the system” (John Spencer). Educators should eliminate barriers from the learning environment rather than try to eliminate a student’s individuality and unique strengths. Inclusive pedagogy is a key part of my teaching philosophy, which can be enhanced by digital technologies and connected to social practice theory (Cranmer, 2020). Florian (2004; as cited in Cranmer, 2020, p. 318) argues that, “technology can help create the conditions for equal opportunity to learn and equal access to the curriculum for all.” In line with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), digital technologies can remove environmental barriers while shaping and reproducing social practices to eliminate the focus on a perceived deficit of an individual with a disability.

I have minimal experience with using assistive technologies (AT) in the classroom that are considered to be mid- to high- tech. A nonverbal student with autism at my school (who was in my class three years ago) has his own iPad with Proloquo2Go (an Augmentative and Alternative Communication app). He uses this app both at school and at home to communicate his wants and needs through pictures and audio clips. This example disrupts the misconceptions of assistive technology of adding too much to a teacher’s workload, being used only in the classroom, and “fixing” a student’s disability. Another AT that some of my students have used is speech-to-text on Seesaw to complete writing assignments. I believe this tool fits with the cognitivist theory of learning because students are processing their thoughts out loud. A lot of my current teaching techniques seem to fit the cognitivist approach, which aligns with my preferred learning style as a student myself. Anyways, while I have only directly extended the invitation to use the speech-to-text tool to students with low spelling skills and/or dyslexia, most students around them have eagerly wanted to use the microphone feature too because it aided in quicker work completion. This demonstrates that adaptations can be utilized by everyone to enhance equal accessibility and enjoyment (universal design). However, access and family income can limit the actual equitable use of these tools.  

I need to work on creating more opportunities for all students to communicate what they know outside of writing. Even a choice board that includes various language art skills (i.e., writing, speaking, representing) could be useful. The Council for Exceptional Children (2011; as cited in ACCESS, 2011, p. 3) explains that, “Options are essential to learning, because no single way of presenting information, no single way of responding to information, and no single way of engaging students will work across the diversity of students that populate our classroom.”

Young and MacCormack (2018) explain that assistive technology can support learning by helping students with task completion or by enabling students to work around areas of difficulty. In Daniel’s breakout room, my group talked about the challenge of middle year students tending to be resistant to using AT because they don’t want to be seen as different by their peers. One of Kelly’s strategies to address this issue is to make every student use the technology so nobody looks out of place. She also gives the entire class a tutorial on how to use new technology. Daniel also suggested using the AT outside of the classroom space with an SST/LRT.

There were key takeaways in the other three mini presentations too. Darcy’s point about soliciting feedback frequently (asking if this is or isn’t working, what needs enhancing, and what should stay the same) is something I need to do more with my young students. While I have used Google Forms with their families, and Mentimeter and Jamboard in university course presentations, I have never used these kinds of tools with my students. Secondly, the SETT framework that Janeen shared will help me as a classroom teacher to collaborate with the Student Support Teacher (SST) to diagnose a student’s challenges and decide on a well-suited technology for them. SETT stands for student, environment, tasks, and tools.

Finally, I hadn’t given much thought about wearable technology until Reid’s breakout room. Wearable technology has often been linked to medical or physical reasons (e.g., eye glasses, prosthetics, glucose monitoring, measuring heart rate), but educators must anticipate other ways they may appear in the classroom, such as Muse, Virtual Reality, GoPro cameras and Google Glass (Sandall, 2016). Similar to cell phones, the students bringing the latest technology into the classroom will be privileged by their socioeconomic status. How will teachers police wearable technology like cameras on students’ glasses or clothes? Are privacy laws enough? Will dress codes continue to evolve? I am currently a resister to this type of wearable technology in education (rather than a progressive or status quo).

The video about the use of Aritificial Intelligence in a classroom is very thought-provoking. I had immediate concerns about privacy/surveillance, mental health, and teacher-student interaction. Janeen shared on another blog that she heard Alec Couros speak about the changes of technology at an event years ago. There were feelings of fear and anxiety, which are normal responses to the change process. There is a sense of loss with changes, but also new beginnings and possibilities. Wearable technology is a particularly interesting topic so I viewed a couple of TED Talks about it, which are also embedded below and focus more on its potential medical uses.


ACCESS Project. (2011). Universal design for learning: A concise introduction. Colorado State University. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1c0FClx2A0B7Sx_BXtkcJASVQ4SgN6e65/view

Cranmer, S. (2020). Disabled children’s evolving digital use practices to support formal learning. A missed opportunity for inclusion. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(2), 315-330.

Sandall, B. K. (2016). Wearable technology and schools: Where are we and where do we go from here? Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education, 1(1), 1–11.

Young, G., & MacCormack, J. (2018). Assistive technology for students with learning disabilities. LD@school.

4 thoughts on “Week 4: Assistive Technologies

  1. Kelly

    Gosh, you posed some great questions! I am not sure how teachers will be able to police wearable technologies, but I know that we will have to do a better job at teaching students digital literacy and citizenship, as well as have some guidelines or protocols in place for both staff and students alike. Although these tools can be used for great learning purposes, there is also an ugly side to technology that needs to be monitored in the school setting. I think wearable technologies also pose privacy issues for other students if they are recording voice, video, or images.

    It’s funny that you bring up dress codes. I just saw that some women’s teams are being fined by the Olympics for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms, etc., so basically being fined for wearing too much clothing. Yet, women and girls are always judged for wearing too little or getting in trouble at school for wearing clothing that doesn’t fit into dress codes. So it’s interesting to me where we draw the line, and how society plays such a huge part in what we normalize and what we don’t. Also, I feel like it is very one-sided, meaning a lot of dress codes are usually directed towards females and not males. Very interesting indeed.

  2. Michael

    I think any policing of wearables at the primary and secondary levels will be futile. I hope that with so many more technologies and potential ways to cheat in traditional exams that teachers will begin to start retaining what exactly they’re assessing and how they’re assessing it. True and false, multiple choice, and anything that focuses on rote memorization might be emphasized less.

  3. Janeen Claek

    It’s interesting that you bring up the question about policing because that’s something I thought about a lot as well. I remember maybe 10 or 15 years ago I was sitting at the Centre of the arts and Alec Couros was presenting to Regina Public Schools. He talked about forthcoming technology and how it would change our classrooms. He talked about devices that could record our every moment I could be shared in the blink of an eye. At the time I remember being both pretty freaked out about that possibility and also sceptical that such technology could exist so quickly. Fast forward and I hold that very technology in my hand and use it every day. However, at the same time it hasn’t been as scary as I thought it would be. As the technology has evolved so, too, have my fears regarding privacy and policing. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t still have to be diligent about critically examining what we bring into our schools. When I watch the video that Reid shared, it freaks me out just as Alec did many years ago. However, I have to be careful not to let those fears stop me from examining the potential use of new technology.

  4. missjosiephillips

    I agree with you, Kelly; it is important that we teach digital citizenship skills to all students (primary, middle years, and high school). The school I taught at in my first year chose developing digital literacy as one of their overall goals for students. I should note that this is a school in an affluent community with full access to technology. On the other hand, I do not think a community school I volunteered in could realistically focus on digital literacy as a broad goal because of its lack of devices. The factor of privileged and disadvantaged is at play here.

    I was prompted to search for a Ministry of Education document about teaching digital literacy across the grade levels, similar to the documents on inclusion and gender & sexual diversity that were introduced to me during my Inclusive Education certificate program. I came across a framework written by Drs. Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros (2015) within our Saskatchewan context, which is much appreciated! It is called “Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools: A Policy Planning Guide for School Divisions and Schools to Implement Digital Citizenship Education from Kindergarten to Grade 12.” They use Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship as a guide, broken down into three categories. I look forward to using this as a resource while working on utilizing more technology with my students:
    • Respect
    o Digital Etiquette
    o Digital Access
    o Digital Law
    • Educate
    o Digital Communication
    o Digital Literacy
    o Digital Commerce
    • Protect
    o Digital Rights & Responsibilities
    o Digital Safety & Security
    o Digital Health & Wellness

    Also, thank you for sharing that news story. It’s frustrating that some sport organizations perpetuate sexism, patriarchal thinking, sexualization of women, etc. The athletes already have to deal with that from ignorant media sources and internet trolls. Nobody should have to worry about the leaders of their organization oppressing them. Society as a whole has a long way to go in terms of disrupting the various -isms and loyally implementing workplace diversity policies.

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