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Technology to Connect Potential with Output

This image is one that resonates deeply with me as it demonstrates the disconnect that can exist between a student’s potential and his work output. It reminds us that as educators, we must use all resources available to close that gap. At Ambrose Treacy College, Assistive Technology is invaluable in our ability to fully support our students with speech, vision, physical, hearing or literacy difficulties.

Assistive Technology (AT) is any technology that assists an individual to perform a task they would normally be unable to complete. At ATC we use the speech-to-text technology of Dragon Naturally speaking which was developed to create dictation-level speech recognition software that was available to the public and is widely used across Australian schools. It goes beyond dictation and supports students to browse the web, control their applications and desktop and edit their work. ATC also use the text-to-speech technology of Read & Write which supports students to read independently with the aim of making everyday literacy tasks easier, faster and more accurate. It’s applications also extend to text prediction, picture dictionaries and summary highlighters. Finally, a number of our students in the Junior School use C-Pens which are portable scanning pens that display word definitions and read text aloud to support students with reading difficulties. These C-Pens can also scan, store and transfer text to a computer; scan direct to the cursor on a computer; and act as a voice recorder.

The benefits of AT apply not only to curriculum but also to mental health. These include: removing barriers that impact a student’s ability to access the curriculum; improved self-esteem; increase independence; improved exposure to text; remediation benefits; and increased quality and quantity of work.

When introducing AT we need to consider that students need to be able to access text independently by Year 4 and need time to learn with limited/decreased expectations and demands. They also need to use the assistive technology every day in the classroom and at home. Short one-on-one support can help skills that are proving difficult to master. Boys need to have enough time to continue learning along normal oral to literate continuum and to adjust to looking ‘different’. For some students it can help them to understand that ‘technically’ they already look different when having someone read and scribe for them. By continuing to use paper instead of AT, students need to think about whether they want to look like everyone else and not achieve to their potential, or look different and work to the best of their ability.

We are extremely fortunate to have a close working relationship with Shannon Chapman (Speech Pathologist – Dare) and Jeff Souter (Education Officer –Assistive Technologies and Inclusion). They support our students and families in becoming proficient in AT and our teachers to meaningfully incorporate AT into their classrooms. Our aim is to promote personal excellence and student engagement and Assistive Technology is a crucial element of this.

Can I suggest these websites, apps and articles if you are looking for more information:
• Social media: Twitter, Facebook (many groups with great tips and tricks i.e. @tonyvincent)
• Dyslexia in the Digital Age: Making IT Work by Ian Smythe
Headstrong Nation
• Google For Education
Assistive Technology Solutions for Dyslexia
Dragonology webinar from Nuance
• Youtube channel: Ask the Dictator

Deb Butler Head of Exceptional Learners
Email the author.