Karen Campbell ECOMP 5007 Week 2 Review of article June 15, 2005 Behrmann, Michael and Marci Kinas Jerome. “Assistive Technology for Students with Mild Disabilities: Update 2002.” ERIC DIGEST. January 2002. < http://www.ericdigests.org/2003-1/assistive.htm >. This article gave a brief overview of the assistive technologies that can be helpful in the area of special needs. It was a good beginning for one new to the field and appropriate to the types of cases which may be found at a small, private international school for college bound students. Behrmann refers to Lahn and Morissette’s (1994) 1 areas in which assistive technology is pertinent and further explains 6 of those areas in detail. The six are: 1) organization, 2) note taking, 3) writing, 4) academic productivity, 5) access to reference and educational materials, and 6) cognitive assistance. Poor organization skills will hold a student back from performing their best work. Programs that allow students to keep organized show them ways to sort and categorize information logically and effortlessly. They help students produce work in an organized and neat format. Programs such as Word for outlining or Kidspiration or Inspiration for mapping concepts are used by many schools as prewriting strategies. Arguable, these tasks could be performed on a paper and pencil method by most students, but for others getting the organization of their work into a format that is visually helpful to them is easier said than done and could detracts from the usefulness of the activity. Using technology, students are able to manipulate information, group and organize it in a manually with the click of a mouse or a simple drag and drop method. This makes the information become more meaningful as the formatting becomes an easier task, thereby putting more students on a level playing field when it comes to organization. Students with mild difficulties, say for example, poor motor skills, will find the mere task of copying off the board a chore. Some are not able to transfer this information as quickly or accurately as others and lose the benefit of review notes. Ways to assist these students using the copying of notes, recording of lectures, either video or audio, and the use of more portable devices will help the student for whom the act of writing gets in the way of the actual content production. The particular implementation of a Smart Board by teachers, who later save and print the notes they put on the board, can be vital to a student’s success in lecture type classes. Technologies that assist in the writing process are able to aide students mainly in the area of mechanics. As this is only one of the areas of assessing writing, it is valid and appropriate for a student to be able to access technology which assists with spelling, punctuation, grammar. It is if the students were to have at their disposal, an individual teacher to give the necessary feedback so they can immediately learn how to correct their own mistakes. Students using word processing programs for writing are better able to focus on the content, organization, and creativity of their work, rather than spending valuable time glued to a dictionary. Overall, this article provided a fine foundation for a teacher new to the field of assistive technology. In addition, the article discussed three different levels of technology in several of the area, “no tech, low tech and high tech.” Instructors of special needs students and classroom teachers have been trained and have practiced the no tech strategies for years, and the authors help those who are not as familiar with technology to see the related assistive advances. Each individual area of technology application, as well as each the devices or programs themselves, should have devoted to it a further in-depth discussion. What I was most struck with in Behrmann and Jeromes’s article was the applicability of the learning/instructional methods to not only special needs students but to all students. Good technological resources and uses for special needs students are the same as those for mainstreamed students. Any teacher reading this article would find examples of what he or she considers “best practices” and uses on a regular basis. I know that many of these areas are addressed in the Lower School Technology Curriculum at my school and should be made further available to those students who can most benefit from their application. This involves money to purchase additional devices, time to instruct on their usefulness, and the willingness on the part of teachers to see these modifications as truly useful and helpful to students with special needs. 1 Lahm, E., & Morrissette, S. (1994, April). Zap 'em with assistive technology. Paper presented at the annual meeting of The Council for Exceptional Children, Denver, CO.
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