John Landrum looks at a variety of ways in which new technology can open doors for students with disabilities and provide a more level playing field for all learners.
8 technology tools for students with disabilities that affect learning
Technology has undoubtedly transformed the way we learn. Not only have technological advances made it easier to access educational resources but it has greatly reduced many of the costs traditionally associated with education. At the same time, technology tools have made it easier for disabled students to benefit from educational resources. Conditions such as autism, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, and blindness have traditionally excluded many from getting an effective education in main stream schools. Today, however, assistive technology in the classroom has made it easier for learners with these disabilities to learn in the same environment as able students.
Here is a list of 8 technology tools that have helped students with cognitive or physical impairment to participate in traditional classroom settings, as well as achieve educational achievements that were traditionally unavailable to them.
1. Text-To-Speech Software (TTS)
Perhaps the greatest technological innovations that helps students overcome disabilities that would otherwise curtail their learning efforts involve text-to-speech (TTS) assistive tools.
The software works by converting text into speech, thereby allowing students with disabilities to consume volumes of books by listening, helping learners affected by dyslexia, blindness, or other visually impairing condition. The TTS software scans the text then reads it back to the student through a synthesized voice.
The advancements in the computer speech synthesis make the technology quite accurate in many education fields. One of the greatest academic minds to benefit from text-to-speech software was Stephen Hawking whose iconic synthesized speech still echoes the halls of scientific achievements.
The Intel Reader is an example of an advanced TTS software. Through its high-resolution camera, it scans printed texts, digitizes the text, and reads it to the user. The user can pause the software during the reading sequence and even rewind the audio output from the software.
2. Assistive Learning Systems
Assistive learning systems now help students with hearing impairments to overcome their disability.
The systems build on the core technology used in hearing aids and cochlear implants. They come equipped with a microphone used by the teacher which is layered to a transmission technology that transfers sound waves and vibrations to the ear of a learner.
FM Systems are an example of one of the leading assistive listening systems that are making life easier for students with hearing impediments. The technology, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, offers the best solution for learners with sensorineural hearing loss. The radio broadcast technology used in FM systems help overcome the nerve damage between the inner ear and the brain regardless of the distance http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Hearing-Assistive-Technology-for-Children/ between the listener and the speaker.
3. Proofreading Technology
Most people are familiar with proofreading tools that come bundled with popular text editing programs. There are now new variants of proofreading tools that use predictive technologies to help learners with dyslexia correct their text more effectively.
These proofreaders help develop the student’s sentence structure and English writing skills by checking complex grammar syntax to spot structural problems in sentences. They also predict the next best-suited word to help students learn how to construct their sentences, and some even come with TTS functionalities.
“Ginger” is one example of proofreading software that makes it easier for students with dyslexia to improve their English writing skills. The software is freely available on the internet, and it features a complex suit for identifying spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The software includes a software trainer that helps students work over areas in which they previously made mistakes.
4. Math Tools
Students who have had trouble with mathematical concepts now have access to mathematical assistive software that opens up the world of numbers. For students with dyscalculia math tools such as MathTalk are an invaluable learning resource. The software uses text and speech recognition software to help students perform mathematical problems by speaking into a microphone. As a side-effect, MathTalk is also a valuable tool for students who have trouble coordinating motor movements which prevent them from writing.
5. Communication Tools
These software programs help students who experience difficulty in expressing their ideas to fellow students and teachers. With software such as MyTalkTools Mobile, learners who are unable to express themselves effectively are significantly supported. The software uses a sequence of words, sounds, and images to help students effectively communicate their point.
6. Collaboration Tools
Collaboration, of course, is necessary for any classroom setting, enabling students get to participate in group learning activities that enable academic progress. However, students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or blindness might have a problem collaborating with their able counterparts. To bridge this gap, collaboration software such as Dyslexia Toolbox provides the student with all the communication and cognitive tools to help him/her communicate with other class members.
7. Augmented Reality Learning Tools
Another type of software that helps students with a disability involves the use of augmented reality, which creates virtual interactive learning environments. The biggest advantages of augmented reality tools are that they free the user from a physical location. Therefore, a student with a disability that challenges his or her mobility can greatly benefit from these tools by bringing the classroom to the user.
8. Artificial Intelligence Learning Tools
Although AI is an emerging field, considerable headway has been made in developing teaching aids that provide access to education in accordance with the student’s learning capabilities. Through the use of AI, it is hoped that in the future, students will have an education tailored to their strengths, and in a manner to overcome a broad range of disabilities.
John Landrum is a freelance writer and education consultant based in Florida and Taiwan. He is a big believer in Louis Pasteur’s motto ‘chance favors the prepared.’ He helps students actualize their academic writing dreams despite all the problems they may face. He now focuses on educating and writing, so he has more time to widen his knowledge and share it with others. For more about John’s work see https://tinyurl.com/y97skn22[