The 2009 NCTI Technology Innovators Conference focuses on how learning and assistive technologies can supercharge education for all students. At the start of the morning session, here are five trends that will unleash the power of assistive technology in the classroom:
1. Convergence. The transformation of a variety of devices onto a single platform or device, like the iPhone. The Speaking Pad is an app with more than a half-million downloads. Students with speech and hearing impairments can use the app to enter data into their cell phone and make the information available through speech output.
2. Customizability. Designed to be configured to meet the needs of invididuals. A perfect example is video games, which are altered for people with disabilities and includes features such as captioned dialogue, text-to-speech, screen magnification, and customized colors for colorblindness.
3. Evidence-based Research. Supported by evidence of effectiveness, research shows that technology should be measured by its features, usage and population — not by individual products. The Kindle, for example, is widely used and should be redesigned to make it more useful for people with vision impairments. A company should not, instead, design a Kindle just for the blind. And, let’s keep up with the technology evolution, please. Many AAC devices are the size of T.V.s! Is this necessary?
4. Portability. Moves with the user, “in the least restrictive environment,” — and this is actually a 2004 IDEA requirement. This helps nurture students’ independence, and with portable technologies like netbooks costing under $400, the choice is clear. Even better, open source assistive technology, which can be used by everyone regardless of their device or location (typically with a jump drive) — so students can take the assistive technology home with them.
5. Interoperability. Two or more devices can exchange information, which is part of an overall trend towards software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing. This continues the trend of portability — with programs being accessed through the Internet and the ability to create customized, Web-based student profiles. Check out TeachTown, a software program for autistic students that provides clinical services and coordinates data for parents.