By now we all know what assistive technology is as the definitions and examples are in abundance. So now the big questions surround the “who gets what and the how do they get it” issues of assistive technology. Allison writes perfectly in her blog that “… living in a world where everyone is not the same, it’s so important that we recognize these differences in us all and celebrate them and learn from them rather than see them as barriers or label them as “different”. Knowing ourselves and our students, identifying needs and supporting one another in which ever way we need is the best way to achieve this success.” Luke makes a great point in his blog that part of a teachers job is “to help evaluate which students are in need of which specific aids” and that “it is paramount that we keep in mind that not only should we as teachers seek to find tools but also to break down unjust barriers to enhance student success.” In a nutshell, Luke and Allison have defined the never ending pursuit of educators; we try to match each student to their ideal learning platform, whatever it may be, whatever supports they need.
I once heard that for every dollar a school spends on technology, two dollars needs to be spent on professional development. As stated in the Edyburn article, there are not a lot of people in our profession who are trained in or who are experts in assistive technology. School Division budgets are nowhere near robust enough to support the 2:1 dollar ratio for professional development, and new technologies are emerging regularly. This is problematic, as we end up with teachers who are unaware of new supports for students, and teachers who are unsure of the best practices for their use. It isn’t ideal by any stretch of the imagination.
We like to think that schools have changed a lot since the days of the one room school house, and in many ways it has, but in many ways it hasn’t. My Aunt, Ruth Pawson, used to share amazing stories of teaching in a one room school in rural Saskatchewan in the 1920’s and 30’s.
I have been known to lament about the loneliness of teaching in a one room school on a Hutterite Colony.
In a way, many modern schools are just a series of one room schools that share a common hallway. (I would bet that everyone can name at least one teacher they know that teaches with the classroom door closed and who emerges only for supervision duties and staff meetings). I just bring it up to illustrate that, for the most part, we are on our own and it is up to us to figure out what works best for the kids (and the adults), and this includes incorporating assistive technology for students. Unless teachers stay up to date on their own, it can be difficult to know what is available, and challenging to figure out best practices with limited training.