by Dr. Fran Smith, Coordinator of Technology and Distance Learning at VDOE Training & Technical Assistance Center, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
These are exciting times!
As Ben’s video illustrates,the rapid growth of technology over the past years has spurred many opportunities to enhance student learning. We now have books that can be read in print, read aloud by a computer, or transported through small devices. This flexibility in format expands the reach of media.
The assistive technologies we used twenty years ago have reached a level of sophistication that expands their “assistance” across many mainstream tools. For example, word prediction is now working in the background when we write a text message or email. Speech-to-text recognition enables Smartphone users to type a text message with their voice and desktop users to write a letter without using the keyboard. Magnification of a screen viewing area is as simple as tapping or stretching the screen with one’s fingers. These trends point to a future that will continue to offer technology tools that help all individuals learn more effectively.
Contemporary educational frameworks such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) also support the valuable intersections that all of these technologies play in the learning process. Through a UDL lens, educators can become better “instructional designers” and consider ways to weave technology into the classroom that expands opportunities for all students. More students are able to learn when classroom instruction and assessment practices are provided in multiple ways to teach, reach, and engage students. Flexible instructional approaches, accessible instruction materials and assistive technologies all play an important part in these learning situations.
Special thanks to Dr. Fran Smith for this insightful post and for all the great information and resources Fran’s provides throughout the year to advocate and inform others about the benefits of AT.