Research Topic 2 – Using ICT with students with disabilities

While researching this topic I have been thinking about assistive technologies as just another part of the ICT spectrum. I have been thinking of them as ways to engage all students, as well as being able to allow participation and inclusion for all students particularly those with special needs.

However, while doing this research I have come across an article ‘The use and non-use of assistive technologies from the world of information and communication technology by visually impaired young people: a walk on the tightrope of peer inclusion‘(2010), which has brought forward an issue which I had not yet thought about – what if the student doesn’t want to use the assistive technology?
If we look at these issues through a cultural lens we can see how peer acceptance and inclusion could be more important than getting assistance. We accept that young people, particularly teenagers are enthusiastic and quick to learn when it comes to new technologies, they bring them into their everyday lives with little trouble, we can see this through the explosion of social networking that is happening in the world at the moment. This article looks at the idea that technology, especially in the Western world is almost a symbol of identity and belonging, therefore to be culturally accepted teenagers need to be having and using the ‘right’ type of technologies in the ‘right’ ways. While in some cases this may mean that students are academically improved, but in other cases it is an inhibitor. Imagine you are the student who has a vision or hearing impairment. ICT capabilities symbolically do ‘stand for competence, belonging and independence'(Soderstrom 2010), however assistive technologies are still symbols of difference and inability. They show that a person is restricted and incapable of something. When looking at assistive technologies in this light it is possible to imagine why students with disabilities might not be as excited about technological advancements as their teachers!

This really means that as teachers we will have to reflect and proceed once again with caution. What do our students want and need from us? I had already decided that our students wanted to be put in an environment where they were engaged and able to learn. I had not thought of what this would necessarily mean for all of my students. Most students would actually be happier if the focus was more on the fact that they could be treated the same as everyone else in the classroom whether or not it meant they could actually learn.

All hope is not lost,  technology is developing at a rate which means that these assistive technologies are becoming less obtrusive and obvious. We can use devices such as MP3 players and tablet computers to assist students with additional needs without labeling them as different. I hope that schools can get to a stage where every student (no matter their ability) will have these devices to use in the classroom, so that a student with a disability is not as obviously outcast.

Below is a brief pictorial timeline to show just how far technology has come, in regards to students who are hearing impaired!

FIRST we had ear horns…

THEN we had these breakthroughs

NOW the FM blue tooth  receiver is so small it is barely visible!!


Soderstrom & Ytterhus (2010)  The use and non-use of assistive technologies from the world of information and communication technology by visually impaired young people: a walk on the tightrope of peer inclusion