Assistive Technology and Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment | Holly Morrow - UK
Dyslexia Specialist and Creative Writing & Wellbeing Post-Grad, Holly Morrow, discusses how assistive technology is vital to creating an inclusive learning environment.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is the use of any device, software, or equipment that helps people work around challenges so they can learn, communicate, and function better. A wheelchair for instance, is an example of assistive technology.
These tools can help individuals work around the challenges they face in day-to-day life, while also playing to their strengths. This is especially important for students who struggle in their learning environment.
Assistive technology can provide students the opportunity to thrive in education and support their ability to work independently with confidence.
Misconceptions around Assistive Technology
Using assistive technology (AT) is not ‘cheating’. There is a misconception around AT whereupon students who use these resources may become too reliant on it.
Another myth is that using AT will prevent students from learning academic skills. This simply isn’t true.
While AT has many benefits, it can’t “cure” learning difficulties such as dyslexia. It also can’t replace good teaching and instruction, either.
Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment
There are a range of assistive technologies available that can aid students in their studies.
Reading guides are handy tools for students who may have trouble with visual tracking.
They can support those who need help staying focused on the page. The plastic strip on a reading guide highlights one line of text while blocking out surrounding words. This might help students who find too much text at once distracting.
Spellcheck and grammar check are also useful to students. These are available on most word processors and are handy as they can highlight areas that may need grammatical improvement. This promotes independent study without the need of a proofreader.
Handwriting tools can help people who have trouble with motor skills. For example, a pencil grip may help individuals to hold a pencil properly. Another example is lined or graph paper which can support writing in straight lines.
Microsoft Immersive Reader is a free to use software that all students should be able to access. It offers several built-in features which students can utilize alongside their studies. These include:
- Screen Masking: The line focus option hides all but a few lines of the screen while students are reading, to reduce distraction.
- Display Control: Students can control how documents are viewed. Spacing, fonts, and margins can all be customized. The colour of the text and background can also be changed.
- Picture Dictionary: When students click on a word, they can hear the word read aloud and see a picture of what it means.
- Grammar: Immersive Reader can divide words into syllables, which can help with decoding. Words can also be coloured and labelled according to parts of speech, like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
Students can also use their college email to access Microsoft Outlook, allowing them to access their academic calendar. This can be useful for calendar-blocking which is a strategy to schedule your time as effectively and efficiently as possible; by assigning each hour of the day with a different activity. This can help students organize their time better and plan time for independent study.
The use of these tools can aid different areas of development, such as:
- Note taking
- Time management
My focus as an educational provider is to ensure all students have the tools available to achieve academic success. It’s important to consider a student’s normal way of working, and keep an eye out for students who may benefit from a different model of support.
Written by Holly Morrow
Instagram - @holcathh