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Expert Q&A

Engaging Students in Their AT Plan

How do you go about engaging students to help formulate their own technology plan?

That can make a big difference, especially with older students. One thing we run into is we often give students way too much technology at first, and that can become overwhelming for them. So the goal really is to look at, and have the student help identify what is the main area that is most problematic for them. Am I struggling with reading? Or writing? Or getting my ideas generated and getting them down on paper? Am I struggling with math calculations, or word problems? What is it that is really the biggest problem?

And then we get a technology solution that begins to address that one immediate problem, as well as provide them with a metacognitive strategy for using the technology in an effective way, so they can actually get their work done. And we just focus in on that one specific area. Then we give them time to practice — and often we start outside the classroom. We might ask the student to practice first at home, on their homework, so it’s in a safe environment. And as they start to gain some success, as they start to feel more confident, then they may be more willing to take that technology into the classroom. And we can problem-solve any implementation issues at the classroom level. Then once the student is really comfortable with that first tool, then we can consider introducing another tool. So we try to take it task by task for the student. We don’t want to overwhelm anyone. We want to identify one specific area that’s challenging, and use a technology solution to solve that one specific area before we move onto the next one.

We also need to keep an eye out for hidden barriers. If the technology is not readily accessible, if students can’t use it immediately when they need it, then they might stop using it. And sometimes we have a lot of hidden barriers in our schools. Can you access the Internet? Do you know where the power charger is? Is the device plugged in? Do you have to go to another classroom to get the technology? There are a lot of these little barriers that make it harder for students to actually use these tools.