Make Learning More Accessible for Students

Although ISTE 2017 was almost 2 1/2 months ago, I am still thinking about all of the great conversations I had with other educators after my Ingnite presentation.  I was ecstatic to be able to share how my learning as a kid was affected by a piece of technology.  Without that piece of technology, a hearing aid, I would not have been able to learn as well as I could.  That was key, I wanted to be able to learn as well as I could, not just as well as my peers.

We now have technology that is more available, built into every device we have or can be added easily through a Chrome Extension or app.  These technologies are free for the most part but there are some that we can purchase for a very reasonable price.  These technologies can make learning more accessible for students who have a physical/cognitive/psychological issue that can impact their ability to learn in a traditional classroom.

While I had to be pulled out of my regular classroom to get help with speaking and understanding others better while still having this piece of technology that caused me to stand out, which did lead to some bullying by others because I became such an easy target, the technology we now have can allow students to use it without standing out or leaving the classroom.

Although the technology is easily accessible now, we still have two main problems that stand in our way of getting this technology into the hands of our students: mindsets and knowledge.  We still have too many teachers that view these technologies as a cheat or a crutch because it is not something they used as a student or just because of how they view technology’s role in learning.  These are tools that can help our students learn as best as they can and if it is our duty to help our students learn, why wouldn’t we use these tools?  We should have the mindset of doing whatever we can to help our students learn and these tools can help with that.

The other issue is that too many teachers, and students, do not know what tools are out there or how they can be used effectively.  Many people know about text to speech tools but may view these as a gimmick but more and more research is being done that shows that text to speech tools can help struggling readers.  We have a large number of students who struggle with the reading that they have to do in every classroom, even math classes require some reading.  While we can give these students extra instruction to help them become better readers, the time it takes to do that would cause them to fall behind in their classes.  Using text to speech can allow them to better comprehend the text by listening to it and watching the words get highlighted while it reads them – which is done by variou stools.

One of my biggest goals this year is to help improve both the mindset of others and the knowledge of others when it comes to accessibility tools.  For now, I have started a basic document that will give various examples of what tools are available and how they can be used.  There is so much more that I can say but that will have to come in later posts or other ways, for now – focus on helping your students become the best learner they can by using those tools that are already available to them.

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