Adaptive & Assistive Technologies
Students with Cognitive Difficulties
The Livescribe Smartpen is an assistive technology aid that can help facilitate the note-taking and learning process for students afflicted with many different cognitive difficulties. A common cognitive disability is Dyslexia, which is a language-based learning disability. With this tool students are able to record not only their written notes but, but any audio in the classroom such as their classmates and instructors voices, their own voice, or even audio from multimedia being presented. The Livescribe Smartpen allows the student to have to take fewer notes during the lesson and lets them return to the recorded material at a later time for homework or review. This technology can overcome challenges posed to students with cognitive difficulties by allowing them to take fewer notes and spend more of the time listening and learning. A lot of my financial literacy instruction takes place through slide based presentations. This type of tool would allow a student with a cognitive disability like Dyslexia to focus more on listening to my presentation without scrambling to write down ever point I make.
Inspiration is assistive technology in the form of software designed to help students who have trouble organizing and outlining information. It would be a great help to students with mild cognitive disabilities who may suffer from ADHD, ADD or other disorders that can affect their ability to concentrate or focus. This can also be used to help as a stepping stone toward develop higher level ideas and critical thinking skills. A tool like this can facilitate a student with mild cognitive disabilities in completing some of the larger and lengthy financial literacy lessons such as developing a mock business plan or budgeting plan. For any larger writing project or presentation they can use this to outline their ideas and stay on track.
Students with Physical Difficulties
Some students type much slower due to having limited or reduced hand movement and function due to disability. They sometimes may also not even be using their hands at all, instead relying on their head or foot to type on a computer. Often students with physical disabilities cannot use a keyboard and thus use a mouse or pointer device to type. Penfriend would help students with severe physical difficulties to more quickly complete writing assignments. The software functions as a text predictor to intelligently complete words as a person types thus cutting down on their typing time. This reduction in typing time would allow them to be on a more level playing field with traditional students when it comes to completion time for writing based financial literacy assignments. It comes in a standard software version or on a USB memory stick that requires no installation so students can use it on virtually any computer they find themselves on.
Some students may have a level of physical difficulty that prohibits them from using any sort of physical input device on a computer whatsoever. MathTalk is a speech recognition mathematics software product that allows students to voice any math, statistics, or graphing problems. Students who are learning about financial literacy will often be exposed to a good amount of math and number based lesson content. With this software someone who is not able to use an alternative input device to control the computer due to their physical disability can still complete lessons that include math based activities.
Students with Sensory Difficulties
Some students suffer from impaired vision. Software such as ZoomText Magnifier enlarges everything on a computer screen to a user’s necessary level of zoom so that they can see and read the content. When teaching financial literacy I use a lot of different web resources. The range of text size options built into most web browsers is not enough to accommodate people with severe vision impairments so a program like this can be invaluable for a student trying to read the required web content.
For students who are not just visually impaired but instead fully blind a piece of technology such as the BrailleNote can allow them to access course web pages as well as download emails from classmates and the instructor. With this device students can read prepared notes and lesson plans that are part of the financial literacy lessons. The device is also setup to interface with a traditional personal computer that would be found in our lab classrooms. It can even work with standard USB devices like printers.
One the reasons at-risk students may not do well in school is because of peer pressure from family or friends to not care about education. Students in this type of environment can benefit from the enhanced community that comes from online learning and collaboration technology. One great assistive tool for students to collaborate and study online is Podio. This web based software tool can allow at risk-students to collaborate with higher level students to complete projects together and receive assistance doing homework or studying for tests. Podio also links to Google Docs which is nice because the at-risk student can use Google Docs on their own for free as a starting place and then link their work at a later date.
One of the biggest hurdles in teaching at-risk students is to keep them engaged. Videos are a great way to engage students and get them excited to learn. TED Ed offers an assortment of highly engaging free videos to spark a student’s interest in a subject or supplement traditional lesson material. When looking for ways to engage students in the subject of financial literacy I often use a video to open my lesson or presentation as it gets students alert and a bit more excited for what’s to follow.
Gifted and Talented Students
When it comes to education gifted and talented students technology can be what sets their instruction apart from the regular level instruction by facilitating more advanced concepts. Massive open online courses ( MOOC’s ) such as edX can allow students to begin experimenting with and engaging in college level coursework while still in high school. For my students who experience financial literacy education for the first time they often have a piqued interest in economics. An MOOC can give them access to higher learning in the field as a supplement to their high school work, which will better prepare them for entering college.
Twitter can provide students with access to the thoughts and ideas of educators and professionals throughout the globe. Gifted and talented students can easily follow the experts in any field of study they have interest in. Often these experts post links to content on the web in their subject matter, which drives the student to new learning material. Gifted and talented students can also use Twitter to follow other students at their same level as a support network of sorts. When teaching financial literacy I have used tweets from certain economists or finance gurus and often encourage people to follow the experts for free advice.