Full disclosure: The author of this reference guide sent me an unsolicited complimentary copy in 2010. There was never any discussion of me mentioning it on my blog, nor did I receive any compensation for the following post.
Assistive technology (AT) can be a daunting topic for some educators to wrap their collective heads around. The word “technology” itself can strike fear into the hearts of some, and assistive technology* (as traditionally defined in the educational world, anyway) has a reputation for being prohibitively expensive. What I like about Dr. Brian Friedlander‘s reference guide Assistive Technology: What Every Educator Needs to Know is that it provides a basic overview of assistive technology – what it is, how it helps – as well as solutions, organized by category, making it a very accessible entree into AT.
One component I think educators will appreciate is the section entitled, “Low-Tech Options”. Dr. Friedlander reminds the reader that “technology” need not be shiny things that beep; “pencil grips, highlighting tape, and tape recorders” (Friedlander, 2010, p. 1) are just some examples of easily overlooked technology options that may help students. My own observations and experience with tools such as whisperphones support this; “technology” is a very large umbrella under which many different tools fall.
Beyond that, Dr. Friedlander explains the federal definition of “assistive technology” and provides overviews of AT evaluations and the theory of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), as well as how that ties in to AT. He goes on to provide several examples of technology solutions that may help students in the areas of accessibility (e.g., keyboard, mouse, dictation, text-to-speech, general OS accessibility settings), writing, math, reading, and organization. Pricing information for these resources is not included in the guide, but some of the resources he mentions are already built in to Windows and Mac operating systems, and others I know run the gamut from free to… well, not-free, I suppose, but at least there are options.
The four-page laminated guide concludes with a list of online resources for further information/support with assistive technology, including free access to audiobooks, more information on UDL, and links to “evidence-based practices for integrating instructional technology to support the achievement of all students” (Friedlander, 2010, p. 4).
While I think every educator could benefit from this overview of assistive technology, I imagine it would be of particular interest to special education teachers, Child Study Team members, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and administrators who may want to implement AT solutions with their students, but aren’t quite sure where to start. This is not an exhaustive tome on AT, nor is it meant to be – it gives the reader some jumping-off points for further exploration, which is sometimes all that is needed in order to move in the right direction.
Assistive Technology: What Every Educator Needs to Know is available from National Professional Resources, Inc., and starts at $12.95 apiece for the first 1-10 copies (discounts are available for bulk purchases).
*Really, don’t we all use assistive technology every day? How did you get to work? How did your meals get cooked? How did you record your thoughts on paper or in digital form?
Friedlander, B. (2010). Assistive Technology: What Every Educator Needs to Know. Port Chester, NY: National Professional Resources, Inc.