Tag Archive: to whom am I accountable?

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




Assisting Anne…

Anne’s Scenario – Module B

Anne (2)
Anne couldn’t believe her luck when her former school invited her back to fill in a maternity leave position. Seven years on and she is now a permanent teacher at this old private college and about to embark on an overseas exchange for a year. The school has a significant boarder population with students drawn from the city and rural areas. Anne has developed a reputation as a great teacher, with her students achieving high grades and routinely making the top 10% of the state / territory cohort. Similarly her International Baccalaureate students have achieved outstanding results. Anne is looking forward to her travels and is excited about bringing back new ideas from overseas, as well as a little personal travel. Recently Anne’s school has opened a boarding house for rural Aboriginal Students, upon her return Anne will be taking on the role of coordinating this equity initiative. She has enjoyed teaching the students in this program for the last year. While it does entail extra work in preparing work to support the students and after school tutoring, she finds it very rewarding. Anne is hoping to develop some ideas on her study tour of Canada about how to help students from different cultural backgrounds develop empathy and understanding for each other, and learn from each others experiences and ways of viewing the world.

Anne has been learning how to teach students from various cultural backgrounds. At the school she is in she is involved with a mix of cultural heritages and traditions, including the newly established Aboriginal boarding house. Anne wants to understand her students and help them to achieve to the best of their ability.

We use our brain in order to achieve the process of learning. To optimise brain activity Anne should attempt to get her students to use both sides of the brain. Traditionally education in a classroom uses the left side of the brain but it is possible to get coordination between the two hemispheres. This occurs with the use of the corpus callosum which is a bundle of nerves that allows the two sides of the brain to communicate (Kusche 2008).

Image from Kusche, 2008.

As teachers it is important to be aware of possible ways to understand the brain as we are trying to change it and optimise its use in our students everday. This can influence learning techniques in the classroom as well as the different ways in which culture and environment can effect the growth and development of the brain within our students (Sousa, 2006). This brings to light the argument of nature vs nurture, and whether one of these is a greater influence than the other?

Anne, in her travels, is trying to find ways to go beyond the nature of a students culture and try to nurture and teach students to the best of their ability. Anne is searching for new teaching ideas, but also needs to remember, as Churchill states, that because each student is an individual there is no all-purpose method that will motivate all students.  (Churchill p 129).  Anne needs to look at Russian theorist, Vygotsky’s idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which attempts to show the area in which a student can optimise their learning with the help of their teacher.


Vygotsky’s believed that culture and cultural settings could not be overlooked, and that human beings and their behaviours and activities could only be understood while looking through their specific culture (Woolfolk 2010, p 51). Anne’s interest in understanding differing cultural backgrounds shows she is thinking about her students through the lens of Vygotsky’s theory. She understands that culture as well as a student’s interactions with others is important to their cognitive development (Woolfolk 2010). She wants her students to be able to understand and empathise with other traditions and cultures, to help them have a broader and better understanding and picture of the world.

Before Anne worries too much about understanding other cultures I believe she needs to understand and be aware of the culture and cultural setting of her own school. Krause discusses the ides that students from academically selective schools and environments (such as Anne’s) have lower self-esteem and self-concept than students who are educated in schools where this is not the case. Krause talks about this effect being called the ‘big-fish-little-pond effect’. If a student is achieving well in a school where there is no real pressure to achieve and there is not the competition and expectations, then they are likely to have a high level of academic self-concept (Krause 2010).   At Anne’s school there is a great deal of pressure and expectation evident, this comes from the Principal and from the parents of the children, this brings to mind the provocation of- to whom am I accountable? If Anne was able to focus on what was best for her students and their development she could take the pressures and expectations off them. However with high expectation and traditional academic achievement, Anne will perhaps not be able to be the teacher she wants to be???


  • Churchill, Rick  [et al.] (2011)  Teaching Making a Difference. Wiley
  • Krause, K.L. …[et al.] (2010). Social, emotional and moral development (Ch. 3). In Educational psychology for learning and teaching (3rd ed.)(pp. 98-146). Cengage Learning.
  • Kusche, C.A. & Greenberg, M.T. (2008). Brain development and social-emotional learning: an introduction for educators (Ch. 2). In M.J. Elias & H. Arnold (Eds), The educators guide to emotional intelligence and academic achievement (pp. 15-34). Hawker Brownlow Education.
  • Sousa, D.A. (2006) Introduction. In how the brain learns (3rd ed.)(pp. 1-14). Hawker Brownlow Education.
  • Woolfolk, A & Margetts, K. (2010). Physical and cognitive development (Ch. 2). In Educational Psychology (2nd Australian ed.)(pp. 24-80). Pearson Australia.