The sooner you fall behind, the harder would be to catch up. That’s an early lesson struggling students get in life. When someone has different needs from the rest and doesn’t receive the appropriate assistance, education becomes a true nightmare.
Fortunately, during the last few years, there has been a significant change in the way assistive resources are used in traditional classes (from kindergarten to higher education) in which technology plays a fundamental role.
Wait! Students using technology in a productive and meaningful way? Is that achievable? A century ago would have been impossible, but in today’s ever-changing world there is no longer a stigma associated with the use of electronic devices in school.
In the next post, we’ll briefly describe some of the assistive technology (AT) tools available to those who learn differently and have been left by the wayside. In addition, we’ll explain how technology allows them to solve the problems they face at school or home by focusing on the different academic areas they’re struggling with.
Tools to Help Struggling Students to Succeed
Reading and writing are not natural abilities. For some of us, acquiring these essential skills is a frustrating process. These people are usually forced to see their classmates move on to make interesting and challenging activities, while they barely make sense of the worksheet in front of them. But education isn’t what it used to be.
New digital transformation trends are making things easier for those who struggle with the written word, whether reading or writing it. Surprisingly, these resources are widely available, and their affordability makes them accessible to all, even for children and people with physical disabilities.
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These additional tools are not intended to replace conventional instructional programs. However, all institutions, educators, and tutors should understand that technology and education combined could make a positive impact on students’ lives. If you want to know all in learning disabilities and figure out how to access AT check out the following guide.
Assistive Technology Tools for Reading
1) Audio Books
Allow the user to hear the sound of words and pay close attention to their pronunciation. Audiobooks (or any digital publication in audio format) also help students engage in reading and gain exposure to more words/terms, ultimately improving their vocabulary, reading fluency, comprehension and critical thinking skills.
The ability to improve reading through audio publications shouldn’t be underestimated. If struggling readers are left to read only written material at their own level, they’ll lose the chance of getting access to content and substantial information that represent their intellect and capabilities.
Audio Books Multiple Uses:
• Provide a multisensory experience
• Reinforce reading aloud
• Emphasize key concepts
• Become difficult topics (such as math or science) easy to understand
• Help remember previous knowledge
• Develop and strengthen academic independence
• Increase self-esteem and promote confidence
• Reduce working-memory deficit
• Removes word decoding anxiety
TTS or “read aloud” technology is a software program which allows users with reading difficulties are reading see digital text (books, emails web pages, etc.) and hear it read aloud at the same time.
This AT tool scan and then read the words selected or highlighted by the user in a synthesized voice that can usually be speed up or slowed down. Voice quality varies, but thanks to advances made in speech synthesis, this technology is more accurate than ever
• Enables bimodal reading experience
• Improves science literacy, vocabulary, and discourse
• Increase substantial information recall and memory enhancement (especially for those who struggle with word decoding)
• Boost learning motivation and reading self-confidence.
Common Reading Disabilities Include:
• Blindness or any other visual impairment
• Attention deficit
• Hyperactivity disorder
• Different native language
• Other physical condition or intellectual disability.
Assistive Technology Tools for Writing
3) Word Prediction
Is a word processing feature aimed to alleviate writing breakdowns, by reducing the number of keystrokes? This kind of software usually uses “word banks” (commonly used words in a certain topic or subject area) to help users come up with words and suggest correct spelling/grammar after only a few letters typed. Predictions are based on syntax, spelling and frequent use of words.
Students with writing issues may also benefit from proofreading software programs (included in most word processing systems identified as spell or grammar checkers) that scan written content and alert user to possible mistakes.
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• Helps students recognize and fix errors in their own writing
• Allows users with motor skills issues spread their word in just a few clicks, so they can focus on the ideas and thoughts they’re trying to express
• Users with bad spelling/grammar can broaden the range of words they use while writing
4) Graphic Organizer
A graphic organizer is a visual tool designed to breakdown students’ ideas in an unstructured manner as they begin a writing process. With the assistance of this type of program, struggling writers can organize the information into appropriate categories and plan what they want to write.
Several studies have confirmed that graphic organizers are effective for students with special needs. Since they’re widely successful, they’re used at all grade levels. But why are they so effective? Our brain is more equipped to process images. For this reason, by integrating text and visual images, students receive a complete educational experience.
• Provides a way to simplify information into an organized visual representation
• Serves as a vehicle to take a topic from thoughts to paper
• Allows students to plan before writing and visualize the sequence and organization
Common Writing Difficulties:
• Motor control for handwriting or keyboarding
• Spelling and grammar
• Organization and planning
• Other physical condition or intellectual disability.
Multimedia to Target Background Knowledge
Background knowledge also called “prior knowledge”, is a collection of residual data gathered from all life’s experiences. We all bring diverse bits of prior knowledge – whether consciously or subconsciously- to every subsequent experience, and we use them to connect and relate new information to old.
Is an essential component of a student’s learning process because it helps him/her make sense of new ideas and projects. Without such crucial knowledge, it becomes extremely arduous to construct a meaningful and engaging educational experience.
How to Build Background Knowledge?
• Teach words in categories to encourage language and vocabulary development.
• Use comparisons to further the understanding of categories and concepts.
• Utilize analogies, so students compare something new to something they already learned and build new knowledge.
• Encourage topic-focused reading to drive learners to read more and develop a deeper knowledge on a topic of their interest.
• Include multimedia to teach students important concepts in a highly motivating way.
A technology and education cooperation is the key to embrace the new era of learning processes, so don’t be afraid to try different things. Remember that innovation means evolution. With more inclusive classrooms reading, writing or any other disability will no longer be a barrier and much less a reason to be excluded.
By including this dynamic and engaging technology in the classroom, students will feel the confidence to raise their hand and participate in front of their classmates, no matter how different they could be.
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