Another rambling post.

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.

This is my dear Aunt Ruth with her Saskathewan Order of Merit Medal
This is Ruth …

 I have been known to lament about the loneliness of teaching in a one room school on a Hutterite Colony.

Boys on the right, girls on the left....
Boys on the right, girls on the left….

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.



8 thoughts on “Another rambling post.”

  1. A great read Angus! The 2:1 ratio is very interesting, and I think this is where a tool like Twitter can be real appealing in that you can tap into the worlds best experts and join in discussions on just about any new technology. It’s still daunting to try and keep current and fit all that professional development time in though!

    1. I agree Andrew that Twitter is a great tool for educators to access the experts, and the same can be said for blogs, skype, and the rest of web 2.0. The ability for educators to communicate their knowledge goes far beyond the simple sharing of lesson plans. Thanks for reading!

  2. I think we all need to be reminded of the 2:1 ratio. I feel as if sometimes we (teachers, divisions) pat ourselves on the back and feel a sense of “well done” when we work to access more devices, yet if we do not have the training to implement the AT, it can start to pick up dust on a shelf rather than actually benefit the child. I wonder if less “tech” and more PD with the tech we currently have would lead to greater gains.

  3. As soon as I read the title of this post, I knew it was you Angus!
    I know it has come up in the course before, and definitely in my staff room, but the issue of Professional Development is huge, and it was interesting to see the ratio put to it. We can have all the technology (assistive and otherwise) in the world, but if we don’t understand the purpose behind it, and how to effectively use it, what is the point?
    I would be interested to hear if there is anything that would fit into the category of assistive technology at the colony?

    1. Thanks Heidi, AT on the Colony would be accepted if prescribed by a professional (eyeglasses, hearing aides, crutches, etc.) pretty much anything else would need to be approved by the Colony. Getting left handed scissors for a student was an issue once.

  4. Ruth Pawson? Wow, Angus… you come from great lineage 🙂 I appreciate your comments about the teacher’s role when it comes to AT tools. In my post, I didn’t address the financial burden that comes with any classroom tools. You’re right … not everyone can have access to assistive technologies. I feel for the teachers who have to make such recommendations. Does it sometimes come down to “who has the most adamant parents”? The old “squeaky wheel gets the oil” situation? If so, then the children who “have not” will continue to “not have”.

    1. Thanks, Ruth was an amazing human being.
      Another thing I thought of when I read your comment was that some parents might see AT’s as being a magic bullet that will solve all problems, which can create more stress for teacher and staff. I don’t have the answers to any of it other than to do the best we can with what we have!

  5. Great post as always, Angus. Your comparison to one room schools was definitely apt. I know I sort of felt that way when I was teaching RLST 100 as a sessional. Now I’m part of a team and we try hard to support instructors as a team and communicate with others on campus but it is still all too easy to be in our silo and not talk to other units as much as we should to work on our practices. We met with the Accessibility Centre a couple years ago but they have a new head now. So many pieces to connect!

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