When looking at assistive technology within classrooms, I wanted to find out what was really being used in classrooms today. I thought what better way to find out what is being used than speaking with a teacher themselves and see what they use.
I was heading to Lakehill Elementary School to discuss a gym lesson plan and emailed the teacher I was meeting with to see if I could also speak with her regarding my tech inquiry project. She was very willing to chat and right off the bat noted that she was a wonderful teacher to speak about assistive technology with. I made sure to confirm with her that she was comfortable with me using her name, school, and grade in my blog post, out of common courtesy, copyright, and liability.
Mindy Myttenar is a Grade 4/5 teacher at Lakehill and has been a teacher within the Greater Vicotria District for the last 13 years. I first off asked her what her experiences with assistive technology has been and the conversation went from there. Mindy applied for a SET-BC Grant three years ago. This grant is set up to help students who either have learning disabilities regarding writing or are reluctant writers. Luckily she was able to achieve the grant and now has a class set of Chromebooks that have a speech to text and word prediction software installed on them. Mindy said: “I have found that many students choose to use word-prediction software, especially to aid with spelling. Speech to text has been beneficial for students who have very limited writing abilities”. The Chromebooks have also been able to motivate students to learn math through online resources and students are able to creatively share information using Google Docs. On the other hand, the Chromebooks in her class allow her to not have to worry about booking time in the computer lab. Myself, being a student who struggled with spelling and writing, I think that the speech to text software would have helped my learning. As a visual learner, seeing the words after I have said them is an interesting concept and I wonder how much more of a better of a speller I would be today.
Another assistive technology that is used within Mindy’s classroom, over the last three years has been a speaker system. Though she has not had any students with hearing difficulties, she said: “the speaker system is noted to improve listening and comprehension for all students”. I have never had a speaker system in any class that I have been in. I know that sometimes when a teacher of mine was speaking, I had a difficult time hearing them due to other noises in the room or students talking. I can see how being able to speak on a speaker system can help students clearly hear what is being said during a lesson.
In the end, Mindy explained that while technology is a very important way to support our students there are also other things that can increase their learning too. Alternate seating arrangements that allow students to choose where to sit that will help them focus best. In her class specifically, she has a couple of Hokki Stools (they wobble), tension bands on the desks (students can fidget their feet and not distract other students), standing desks, and Zuma Rockers. I have seen these seats in many classrooms that we have visited since Septemeber and can see how they are able to support a student who has a hard time sitting still.
After speaking with Mindy and gaining a better understanding of a couple of ways to support students in grade 4/5, I am excited to see what other teachers are using in their classrooms. I am now planning on contacting other teachers I know within the community and seeing how they are incorporating assistive technology into their classrooms and how it has benefited their students.