Finding the Right Assistive Technology Tools
How do we go about finding the right tool for a particular child?
I think the TechMatrix has last documented more than 400 assistive technology tools out there on the market. So finding the right tool can be challenging.
One way to think about this is called the SETT Framework: Student, Environment, Task, and Technology. So you start with the student. Who is the student? What are their learning strengths and challenges?
And once you have an understanding of who our student is, you consider the environment that student’s going to be working within, knowing that students aren’t just in classrooms when they’re doing their work. So they might be at home, or in a library, or at a friend’s house. We have to know all the environments that the student is going to be working within. The importance with the environment variable is that if we prescribe a technology that doesn’t work in the environment that the student is in, then the student’s not going to use that technology. For example, for some tools, having access to high-speed Internet is really important. If you don’t have a high-speed internet, the product is not going to work.
The third factor is to understand the tasks the student has to do. So if I’m asking a student to complete a worksheet, and the student can’t read the worksheet, then the task of reading is the thing that I need to figure out how to accommodate that student for.
The last thing is I need to choose the right technology. So if I’m working in a school that with poor Internet connection and we’re using very basic Windows computers, and I need my student to be able to read something, then I might recommend a program called The Natural Reader, which is a free text to speech program that works on Windows platforms. The Natural Reader program can read any worksheets that are put into that computer out loud to the student. And hopefully, that will turn out to be the right technology that’s going to help that student because we’ve thought about the different variables that are involved in selecting the program.