ICT and AT
Supporting Teaching and Learning through ICT and AT (Assistive Technology)
In line with the guidance provided by the National Council for Technology in Education (NCTE), the approach in Sandymount School is to emphasize the integration of digital technologies and Assistive Technology across the curriculum, in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Therefore digital technologies are not a subject or a curriculum in its own right. They are a tool that can add value to the teaching and learning process when it is used appropriately. The purpose of computer literacy is the same as all teaching and learning, to awaken and to support the development of intellectual curiosity.
We aim to educate children who live in a technological age (digital natives) and so our teaching and learning must reflect that reality. Pedagogically, a digital learning framework can be highly motivating for the learner and particularly for those children who have special needs. In that light, we will strive to maximize the potential for children’s learning using digital technologies, where appropriate.
Students are introduced to digital technologies in the junior classes and where required, their means of accessing the computer is assessed by O.T. Department and suitable Assistive technologies availed of. The student then needs to be taught how to use the technology, i.e. a switch and gain an understanding of the relationship between hitting the switch and the action on the computer screen and developing an understanding of cause and effect.
Many of our students have multiple learning disabilities and digital technologies are a valuable tool in allowing opportunities for communication and access to learning and to the curriculum. It enables the student to have control over his or her environment where they can make real choices, for collaborative work, and for communication in a verbal or non-verbal manner. It also can enable students to become active learners where successful learning outcomes can lead to raised self-image and self-esteem.
Our vision for a digital learning framework is about trying to ensure that the children begin to develop a critical appreciation of the role of digital technologies in society and develop habits which reflect an ethical and responsible use of such technologies.
ICT has the potential to transform the educational opportunities and life skills of people whose special educational needs might otherwise marginalise them. Many pupils with a Learning/ Physical Disability often rely on technology to enable them to access many areas of the curriculum. Assistive or adaptive technologies (AT) facilitate access to learning and communication for students with disabilities.
ICT and AT is most effective with students when it supports:
- Active involvement in learning
- Interest and engagement in learning
- Differentiated learning
- Access to the curriculum
- Assessment of and for learning
Benefits of Using ICT and AT
The ways in which ICT and AT may benefit students is dependent on each student’s individual learning needs and abilities:
- provides motivating and stimulating learning experiences and gives instant feedback to student’s responses
- enables students to learn fundamental cognitive skills such as contingency awareness (cause and effect) and early problem solving
- facilitates pupils to develop fundamental communication skills (both receptive and expressive); for some students, technology may be the only way to communicate with the world around them
- Software programmes can provide exciting and stimulating repetition – often required to consolidate learning
- can provide a means for pupils to work independently and therefore not continually having to rely on others
- facilitates the development of motor skills, eye tracking and hand-eye co-ordination.
- facilitates social interaction and turn taking skills
- can be used to introduce simple concepts such as choosing, matching and sorting
Examples of ICT used in our school include:
- All classes have access to wired and wireless internet
- Wired Computers are networked to Enable Ireland’s server and it is protected by a firewall and antivirus.
- Wireless connections are monitored and protected with a firewall by the PDST
- The use of personalised websites (Weebly) is available to classes to record news, work and homework
- All classes have access to their own digital camera
- School is currently developing a website that will allow better communication with parents
- Use of the electronic school roll Aladdin
- Use of Text-a-parent system and e-mail to communicate with parents
- Screen Magnification Systems - to increase the size of the text or image displayed on the monitor
- Interactive Touch Screens
- Switch Accessible Software - that allows pupils to input information into the computer using switches or use as a simple means of communication
- Adapted keyboards
- Big Keys
- Big Mack
- Augmentative devices: e.g. Dynavox
- Battery operated activities
- Laptops / Desktops / Tablets
- Face-to-Face Communication Aids – This refers to communication displays and voice output.
- Written Communication/Education Aids – this includes the full range of hardware and software required for written/graphic output and educational access (e.g. from pencil grip to alternative keyboard access).
- Each class has a digital camera.
Software content should be appropriate to students’ ability, preference and age, bearing in mind any additional sensory impairment the student may have. Software should be motivating and rewarding, varying from images of simple colourful shapes and patterns to everyday objects and simple stories with a good sound output. Software should have options for type of switch access, colour choice, timing and number of activities and rewards.
Examples of software used in our school:
- Cause and Effect – SwitchIt Patterns, Farm, People, Hygiene, Touch Balloons
- Choosing – ChooseIt Maker Series, Jigsaw Maker, Choose and Tell Nursery Rhymes
- Personalised Programmes – SwitchIt Maker, Clicker 7, The Grid 3, RM Maths