EdTEch 541 Blog
“...the entire work of the field of special education technology can be summarized as searching, trialing, selecting, implementing, and evaluating technologies that augment, bypass, or compensate for a disability” (Roblyer, 404).
The availability or lack of appropriate assistive technology can mean the difference between having access to learning or not for students with learning or other disabilities. The United States Office of Special Education IDEA Section 618: Data Static Tables provides information about the percent of the population served under IDEA. For example, under Part B Child Count and Educational Environments, item 8. Students ages 6 through 21 served under IDEA, Part B, as a percentage of population, by disability category and state, the percent of the population varied from a low of 6.14% in Hawaii to a high of 11.75% in New Jersey for all types of disabilities (IDEA). However, these percentages only identify those students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and not all students with disabilities. Hence the number of students who could benefit from assistive technology is significant. As such, this population deserves and needs to be served and supported. There are both costly and less costly alternatives to serve students learning needs.
The UDL Toolkit is an excellent place to look for resources to meet student needs (Home). UDL or Universal Design for Learning “is a set of principles that underlie how to develop technology to give all individuals equal opportunities to learn” (Roblyer, 405). The UDL Toolkit is constructed using wikispaces to provide links to resources and assistive technologies that can support students with a variety of learning and other disabilities. Many of these resources would be very supportive to students with learning challenges in a sixth grade English class. In California, approximately 7.6% of students in grades 6-12 have IEPs. Those students could likely benefit from the learning tools in the UDL Toolkit.
I personally am a parent of a 20-year old child who struggled to learn, had an IEP while he was in school, and needed a variety of tools and support (technological and otherwise) to learn. As I supported his progress through the challenging educational landscape, I reflected on story of the boy who finds a bevy of starfish washed up on the shore. The boy is tossing starfish back into the sea, when a man walks up and asks him, “Why are your throwing the starfish into the sea, you can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy replies, “It made a difference to that one.”
While we might not be able to afford all the assistive technologies that are available, many more are becoming available at lower costs. As educators, called upon to serve all children, it is important to make a difference to each one.
Home. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://udltechtoolkit.wikispaces.com/
IDEA Section 618 Data Products: Static Files. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/osepidea/618-data/static-tables/index.html#part-b
Roblyer, M. (2016). INTEGRATING EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY INTO TEACHING(7TH ED.). Massachusetts: Pearson.