Assitive Technology

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive Technology for Learning is the devices, media and services used in learning environments to overcome barriers for students with physical, sensory, cognitive, speech, learning or behavioural special needs to actively engage in learning and to achieve their individual learning goals. The primary goal of ATL is to support all students, including those with special needs, in achieving the learning outcomes of the curriculum or their individual learning goals.  ATL is directly related to the delivery of learning outcomes in the Alberta programs of study.

Like other technologies, ATL ranges from simple tools to complex systems.  It can be as simple as providing a pencil grip for writing or as complex as a computer with screen reading software for reading and learning.  It is different from educational or instructional technology. Educational technology is generally used by all students. ATL is more specialized and often more complex technology that allows access to learning for students who have barriers due to their disabilities.

Continuum of Assistive Technology

The term assistive technology represents a continuum of tools ranging from low- to high-tech. Low-tech and many mid-tech tools are often available in office supply stores or electronics stores, and are common in most classrooms. High-tech tools are frequently computer-based solutions that focus on the specialized needs of an individual student, although there are cases in which a high-tech tool provided for one student can benefit other students in the classroom. For example, a sound-field FM amplification system, which uses a classroom speaker system to boost the voices of the teacher and individual students, allows the voices to be clearly heard by all students in the classroom, not only the individual student with hearing difficulties.

Choosing Appropriate Assistive Technology Solutions

Investigating whether or not individual students might benefit from assistive technology, and which solution would be most appropriate in meeting their needs, is an ongoing process that involves working as a team to explore alternatives, gather information and set up opportunities for students to try potential ATL solutions across learning environments.

Evidence shows that ATL plans are more likely to be well-implemented when the student’s entire learning team is involved in the initial decision making. Teachers, parents and the students themselves should all be involved in identifying and selecting ATL solutions. As with any kind of accommodation, the ultimate goal of assistive technology for learning is to help students become more independent, so it is essential that they participate as fully as possible in the selection, implementation and monitoring of ATL solutions.

As the learning team begins to explore ATL solutions, using a set of investigative questions such as the SETT framework developed by Joy Zabala might be appropriate.  The SETT framework uses a set of questions to guide the team in gathering information about the student, the environment, the learning task(s) and the tools.

In Rocky View, to determine what assistive technologies are the best fit for individual students, schools are required to complete a referral for assistance.  Once the referral has been completed and returned to the appropriate person(s), a meeting with the student's IPP (Individualized Program Plan) Planning Team will occur and a plan will be developed.

Software Solutions in Rocky View Schools


bmakerDuring the 2009/10 school year, Rocky View Schools purchased an individual license for Boardmaker Version 6 from Mayer-Johnson for each interested school.  Teachers in these schools will be able to use this software to create and print communication boards and educational materials with Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) and other pictures and graphics.

For more information about this software including tips and links, check out the Boardmaker Resources section of this website.

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