What AT is

Wow this first class was certainly packed with information!  I am going to love this course – it is practical, informative and hands-on!  A colleague of mine had taken this course a few years ago and recommended I take it; she certainly didn’t steer me in the wrong direction.
The suggested readings for the class were very helpful in providing background information.  The Shaywitz article about dyslexic children and the chapter of Sousa’s book provided an excellent definition of dyslexia as an ‘unexpected difficulty in reading despite adequate intelligence, environment, and normal senses’. The idea that some children learn to accommodate and read accurately but not fluently really struck a chord with me. As a Grade 9 ELA teacher, I often see this with my SRW students. They may be able to decode well enough or have memorized words to be accurate, but are not engaging with the text fully and therefore; the comprehension of what was read is absent.  I have had experience in using Kurzweil in the classroom, but, at times, it was frustrating as it didn’t work properly and then of course, there is the challenge of convincing the student to use it. A lot of my students who have an LD refused to use AT in the classroom for fear of being viewed as ‘different’.  The Edyburn article about learning from text presented the problem of remediation versus compensation. Particularly at the middle school level, we are faced with this challenge.  Most often, due to time constraints, we find that compensation is what we do. But this is frustrating and we are often asking ourselves – is this best for this student?
The process of successful reading requires the coordnation of three neural systems as is outlined in this diagram from Sousa’s book. When there is a difficulty in one or more of these systems, reading is impaired.  When working with students at the middle school level, it is necessary to have accommodations in place for students who have reading difficulties to ensure their independent success. I guess at the time, to provide independence, these accommodations are best for the student.

(Sousa, 6)

In our discussion of what AT is, it was like I had déjà vu – I knew I had heard this before, but had to dig deep to find it!  It was definitely defined for us as not being IT! It’s funny that that descriptor was provided because in my experience, many teachers feel that is what AT is and shy away from using it in their classrooms because of their own lack of IT confidence. Often times, the supports are not in place (either in the form of EAs, training or the AT itself) which makes it increasingly difficult to implement necessary accommodations for our students. I think this takes a concerted coordinated effort by the entire staff, student and parents to ensure success. Using AT can be done and it works beautifully when supported fully by everyone!

Training, training, training, training and more training – we heard this phrase repeatedly in our first class and it is so true. There are always new technologies, differing needs with our students and the need to access those tools is huge!  After all, I think we came to agree that AT is a dynamic process providing access to a task and improving performance of a student with a disability.  If I have plagiarized, please forgive me, but this is the definition I came up with in my notes during class.  So, in my mind, AT can be anything that helps someone with a disability become independent in completing tasks. 

I really enjoyed watching the video of varying samples of AT usage. I found myself becoming quite emotional when viewing the success and independence these students gained, especially with Tyler. I have a friend who had a son with cerebral palsy. They lost him when he was ten. He was an amazing young man who was very independent thanks to a multitude of assistive technologies.  He was verbal, but had no control below his neck.  He used a wheelchair and a speech to text technology to help in school and at home.  He loved the simple things in life and inspired all who knew him to appreciate those things as well.  It is always amazing and inspiring to see people with disabilities able to perform tasks independently!  Also looking at the list of AT Ryan uses reminded me of another little boy I met this summer. He has Autism and is considered high functioning, but he would greatly benefit from using his Ipod in the classroom as he uses it outside all the time. He is very adept at using a variety of technologies and loves them. He says he hates school and doesn’t want to go, but being able to use his Ipod in the classroom may be the key to inspiring him to enjoy school more.

Having the opportunity to use the Ipad 2 and Pictello was great! I can definitely think of some former students who would have loved this program and the independence it provides. My biggest concern is the cost of such technology – not all students have their own Iphone or Ipad to use!  I know in our little rural middle school we don’t have the funding and even through our AT services at the board level, we may not be able to get such technology. I’m wondering if there is a similar program we could use on a netbook or laptop –I guess it would be powerpoint!

Being faced with the challenge of creating a task analysis of the reading process seemed quite daunting in the beginning especially when seeing the task analysis of the writing process, but once we started in class, many ideas flowed. It is great that we have the opportunity to use the technology (like Inspiration) while completing in class assignments!  Linking the ideas together seemed a little difficult at first, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I am sure the suggestions provided in class will help.
Using Blogger is another first for me this class.  I hope that once I have the opportunity to play with it on my own, it will make more sense. Right now, I have titled my blog incorrectly so I have to figure out how to fix that.  But, I know that my students would love this and they likely have been using it already! 
I am looking forward to many challenges to come in the weeks ahead.  Remember – training, training, training!  That is why I chose this course because I know I need a great deal of training when it comes to AT!

1 comment:

  1. WOW Bernice! EXCELLENT reflection! I appreciate the comments on the readings and value your input. And there is so much more....