Whilst arguably Assistive Technology is not going to resolve a learner’s challenges, which they may face daily in both their educational and home environment, it should be both identified and used fully as a mechanism of support. It should form part of the practitioners’ toolbox and used to supplement other teaching and/or learning experiences, in the classroom and/or at home.
Every curriculum aims to develop ambitious, capable learners, that prepare them for the rest of their lives. In this day and age, digital literacy is a necessity in the modern workplace, whilst the role of technology is vital to everyday operations, therefore, it needs to be developed from a young age and this applies to all, including and especially those learners with Additional Learning Needs.
As educators, it is our duty to be aware of the countless applications and tools available to support their learning and development, securing equal opportunities for all. Learners with difficulties or disabilities such as limited sensory perception, reading, writing and mobility may face obstacles upon beginning their working lives. With the right guidance learners with an additional need can equip themselves with an effective toolkit of technologies in order to overcome additional hurdles and reduce limitations being placed on attainments and achievements. Every child should be given every opportunity to reach their full potential and every possible resource utilised to this end.
In 2020, whilst involved in Google’s Innovator Program, I identified that; until Assistive Technology becomes more widely used with educators and with families having increased access and an increased understanding of how to get the most from it, it will remain only a ‘potential’ to bring about the changes it has the promise to make. Technology, and more specifically Assistive Technology, can provide individuals with strengthened inclusive access to their curriculums through a digitally scaffolded, personalised learning experience.
As a former Head of Faculty at a Special Needs Residential School, I am extremely passionate about facilitating access for EVERY pupil to curriculums that engage and inspire. I have continued to witness a constant theme throughout schools locally, regionally, nationally and globally that staff: “don’t know what they don’t know”. Having previously worked in various education settings across Wales and more recently, across the world through his role at Aspire 2Be, I feel strongly that Assistive Tech needs to become more widely used in educational establishments and I have experienced first hand the benefits and results of their use in the classroom.
With statistics showing that up to 1 in 4 learners in a mainstream classroom as having an additional learning need, it only highlights the need for additional resources within most, if not all, classrooms or settings. Teachers are often unaware of the plethora of software and hardware available to support, scaffold, reassure and give further opportunities to all learners, but most especially to learners experiencing an additional need. One thoughtfully selected piece of software or hardware can enhance the learning experience of a child who may be in need of multiple opportunities to overlearn a skill before moving on to any additional steps necessary to fully accomplish a task.
Having graduated from Google’s Innovator Academy, I have now developed my free to use, one stop shop for Assistive Technology, IncludEdu.Online – albeit still in beta phase, the site is intended to reach educators and families globally to support them in providing personalised learning experiences for all in their care. Please feel free to visit the site, provide feedback online or via the Twitter page or even sign up to become an ambassador, via the Ambassador sign up page.