This summer I want to better understand “what” accessible technology is and “how” it works to promote student learning. What I am discovering about accessible technology embedded in Office 365 is creating a “poof, my mind is blown” moment. Over the last few school years, I have watched in awe how the Immersive Reader within Learning Tools has developed into a powerful tool for students.
My goal is to prep lessons that purposefully teach students how to use these accessible technology tools to become better science writers. In my school I collaborate with our humanities teachers to coordinate cross-curricular lessons to provide a purpose and audience for scientific claims and conclusion writing. The challenge is, as with any class or grade level, how to best help struggling students and provide the supports and strategies they need to succeed in writing their content in a coherent format for others to understand. I believe students often know what they want to say but get bogged down with where to start or how to format — even how to edit what they produce is beyond their scope.
Accessible Tools for Learning
There are a variety of accessible technology tools available to teachers and students, including Dictation, the tool I’m using right now to write this blog. To use dictation, you need to click on the dictate button located on the upper right ribbon in Word and in OneNote. Once recording, you just speak what you want to write. There is a slight lag with speech to text, but that is to be expected, and it is easy to understand and use as a means to get words onto paper.
Using the Read Aloud speech button, located in the Review ribbon, is a great way to have a written passage read back to the author. Students who listen to their own written work can hear errors or omissions in their writing, thus helping them to become their own peer editor.
Using Researcher, students can quickly search a topic for relevant research. Researcher can be found in the References ribbon. Upon a quick search on ‘accessible and assistive technology for learning,’ I found a variety of abstracts to read and reference (Marino, Tsurusaki, & Basham, 2011) (Meyer, 2016) (Williamson-Henriques, 2013) (Flanagan, Bouck, & Richardson, 2013). Additionally, I was able cite my resources in text and create a bibliography. *Please note – the references cited here are to show the ease of researching and citing sources, not necessarily for promoting the science studied within the research cited.
All in all, the benefits and ease these accessible learning tools provide is immeasurable. This fall, I plan to take time throughout the school year to introduce and use these tools to foster student communication skills. Students who utilize these learning tools within the context of explaining scientific content will have a better chance of learning and understanding our science topics.
Class of 2030 and AVID Digital Teaching & Learning
Accessing learning tools is not just for students, teachers need to learn how to use and teach how to access these learning tools as well. I am excited AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is paving the way to help educators learn which digital tools are best suited for their class and how to teach these digital skills that will help students leverage and meaningfully use technology in school and life (AVID, 2018). Ultimately the teacher, classroom routines, and learning strategies are first and foremost in building student understanding and comprehension, but adding in digital tools can foster accelerated student ownership of their own learning.
For more information regarding AVID DTL, go to AVID’s Digital Teaching and Learning
Recently Microsoft Education published a “Class of 2030” Report, which looked at research detailing how technology can support today’s kindergartners’ educational journey towards graduation. The report focuses on how incorporating technology in our classrooms today will help students bridge the knowledge gap they may face in their future work world.
“Within that context, we found 2 core themes: social emotional skills and personalized learning. Whilst not new in education, these are newly important for more people. Employers are placing a premium on social skills and emotional literacy with up to 40% of future jobs requiring explicit social emotional skills. Academics are noting their impact on deep learning and the students themselves recognize these skills are critical for success. The research highlighted personalized learning as an approach which supports skill development — both cognitive and social and emotional by guiding students towards greater autonomy and control.”
Read more about the Class of 2030 Report at “The class of 2030 and life-ready learning: The technology imperative.”
The bottom line is teachers who teach how to use accessible learning tools provide students the autonomy to learn. Giving students the tools they need to amplify their voice and share their knowledge, whether it is in science class or beyond, builds deep learning and confidence. Teaching teachers how to use these digital tools can foster a classroom of personalized student learning. I have summarized just a few of the accessible tools for students and teachers. For more information and teacher stories, go to Microsoft Education Stories or reference the Microsoft Educator Community for your own personalized educator learning.
AVID. “AVID’s Digital Teaching and Learning.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Mar. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgngEhTL8gU
Flanagan, S., Bouck, E. C., & Richardson, J. (2013). Middle School Special Education Teachers’ Perceptions and Use of Assistive Technology in Literacy Instruction. Assistive Technology, 25(1), 24-30. Retrieved 7 13, 2018, from http://tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400435.2012.682697
Holzapfel, Barbara. “How Can Technology Empower the Class of 2030? |.” Microsoft EDU, 24 May 2018, educationblog.microsoft.com/2018/05/technology-empower-class-of-2030/
Marino, M. T., Tsurusaki, B. K., & Basham, J. D. (2011). Selecting Software for Students with Learning and Other Disabilities. The Science Teacher, 78(3), 70-72. Retrieved 7 13, 2018, from https://learntechlib.org/p/50509
Meyer, L. (2016). 4 Ways Teachers Are Learning to Use Technology to Benefit Students with Special Needs. T.H.E. Journal Technological Horizons in Education, 43(2), 19. Retrieved 7 13, 2018, from https://questia.com/library/journal/1g1-455783515/4-ways-teachers-are-learning-to-use-technology-to
Williamson-Henriques, K. M. (2013). Secondary Teachers’ Perceptions of Assistive Technology Use for Students with Learning Disabilities. Retrieved 7 13, 2018, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ed565593