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2012-2013 Shelly Hutton: Assistive Technology in a Universal Learning Environment

Research Question: To what extent will the use of assistive technology support learners with physical, sensory, cognitive, speech, learning or behavioural special needs actively engage and communicate in a Universal Learning Environment to achieve their learning goals?


Proposal: Use Assistive Technology in a Universal Learning Environment


Through the use of assistive technology learners with physical, sensory, cognitive, speech, learning or behavioural special needs will actively engage and communicate in a Universal Learning Environment to achieve their learning goals. The modifying of their environment through assistive technology will support these learners to overcome the barriers they face and participate inclusively in the school setting.

Enhancement of 21st Century Portrait Characteristics through this Initiative

The four main drivers of the 21st Century: ensuring universal accessibility, focusing on personalized, authentic-based learning, building 21st Century competencies, and accelerating research and innovation will be addressed through the use of assistive technology to support the learners. Through the use of assistive technology learners will be given the opportunity to use flexible instructional materials, techniques, and strategies that are flexible, adaptive and innovative, empowering them to take an active role in their learning while acquiring 21st Century competencies.

Examples of the Visions for the Learner:

Case One: Non-Verbal

Through the use of iPad and Touch Chat AAC HD a learner that in the past has had difficulty communicating with peers will have access to an application that will enhance communication. Moving into the 21st century these learners will have the option to readily and quickly upload pictures and information to enhance communication with peers in a timely fashion. Strategically replacing Boardmaker which is time consuming and requires planning time with Touch Chat will allow learners to experience an immediate sense of belonging. The learners’ experiences and contributions to the school community can be quickly shared through an alternative method of delivery.

These students will also have the opportunity to showcase experiences, learning and favourite activities through the use of Pictello and other story/movie making applications. Learning within Universal Learning Environments will be possible as the iPad. The size of the assistive device (iPad) will allow the student to participate in a variety of environments.

Case Two: Memory Deficits

Learners with memory deficits find it difficult to share and present information in front of peer groups as these learners require time to collect and share their thoughts. With the use of the iPad the students will be able to put together their compile their research to show understanding and learning of topics through pictures, audio, powerpoints and movie presentations. These learners can feel comfortable sharing without the pressure of speaking.

These learners will also benefit from having ongoing access to calendars, timers, notes and lists to help in organizing their day.

Case Three: Cognitive Delays

Learners with cognitive delays will not be required to “know” all information. Having access to applications such as calculators, grocery lists, bus schedules, calendars, emergency contacts, visual recipes, maps, Skype, will allow these learners to access the information they need in one spot. These skills will be taught and will form a large component of their life/living skills program.

These learners will be able to experience success in a universal learning environment as they will have the tools readily available to support their learning. With the option to explore reading material through the use of audiobooks and visual representations students will not need to rely on their decoding skills. Instead understanding can be generated through the use of dictionary applications, online resources, multi-media viewing and applications that will support specific learning objectives.

Case Four: Physical Challenges

Through the use of iPads learners with physical challenges will have the option to present material in a variety of ways. These learners will have the opportunity to utilize auditory to text features; multi-media; power points; and videotaping of learning.

There are also many applications that support mobility. Included are applications that require “swiping motions;” develop typing skills, short cut key applications, word completion applications. New applications are continually being developed.

Case Five: Social Interaction

Social stories and access to visual schedules will enhance learning. These learners often need to review expectations in social situations or experience anxiety when presented with a new social situation. Through the development of social stories that are easily accessed on the iPad through Pictello the learners will be able to review expectations prior to entering a social situation. This will help to reduce anxiety for this learner.

Applications available will also support these learners to develop skills that focus on managing anxiety, recognizing feelings and improving communication in social situations.

Case Six: General Use of Applications to Enhance Learning

Through the use of assistive technology learners will be engaged and will take an active role in their learning. Applications that support developing to advanced academic skills, life skills, social skills along with tools to support a variety of learner needs can all be accessed through the use of an iPad.


Supportive Video Documentation for Proposal

These video segments show how the use of the iPad can help students overcome their learning challenges. understanding-autism/?tag=contentBody;currentVideoInfo

Evidence of success for students with Diverse Learning may include:

  • ● active participation in an inclusive classroom with peers

  • ● using applications on the iPad - including Touch Chat, Pictello, Choice Board,

    Educational applications, stories, motor skill development

  • ● using google documents, emailing, reminders, notes, imovies, dictionary, text to speech

  • ● development of an e-portfolio showcasing student

  • ● community information i.e. bus schedules, recreation centre hours

  • ● audio and visual versions of material

  • ● print from the iPad

  • ● skyping - familiar members of community and through networking with students in other


  • ● students are involved with the school and greater community

  • ● iPad often encourages interactivity - Students will share a lot of what they're doing, ask

    each other "How did you do that?" or, "Oh, look what I did!"

  • ● students will want to problem solve together

  • ● encourage group discussions between the students

  • ● development of independence (seek information, complete assignments)

  • ● students will be engaged, less distraction

    The following iste.nets.s Standards will be addressed with this proposal: 1. Creativity and Innovation

    a. Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes

    2. Communication and Collaboration

    a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
    b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats

    c. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems

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3. Research and Information Fluency

b. Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media
c. Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks

4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

b. Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
d. Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions

5. Digital Citizenship

a. Advocate and practise safe, legal and responsible use of information and technology b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning

6. Technology Operations and Concepts

a. Understand and use technology systems
d. Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies





Submitted by:

Shelly Hutton
Learning Support Teacher, Cochrane High School

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