Assistive technology integration in Mathematics
Below are some general suggestions and technology applications for using assistive and instructional technologies for students with special needs.
(1) Students with Cognitive Difficulties
- For students with mild cognitive challenges we can help them better visualise and understand concepts by using graphing software such as Desmos.com (See image below). This easy to use graphing calculator works on all devices and can allow students to quickly draw a function and determine the dynamics of what is required. It could be used to then quickly snapshot the graph for notes or to use multiple graphs to solve for points of intersection and aide problem solving.
- For individuals with more moderate to severe cognitive disabilities then tutorial videos or recorded videos of the lessons using Doceri (See image below), particularly in Mathematics can help with acquisition of new knowledge. It allows the individual to revisit the lesson by watching it again at home or repeating a section over an over until the concept is understood.
(2) Students with Physical Difficulties
- For a motor-related physical disability that prevents a student from writing coherently or taking lesson notes at the usual speed a simple photo or note recording application on a mobile device, like Evernote or OneNote, can be a game changer. The individual can type notes directly in to the app in a easy to file digital notebook and use the device's camera to capture boardwork or lesson slides from a presentation. The images fit directly in to the flow of the student's notes so they are at no disadvantage to the able student next to them using pen and paper.
- For a student with a physical impairment that places them in a wheel chair they may never have the opportunity to write on the whiteboard like every other student. In this case technology such as a mobile or iPad coupled with a project or Apple TV using AirPlay and a handwriting app such as Notability the student can answer a question on the whiteboard. That is, it can be wirelessly beamed to the board so everyone can see their solution. Whilst this may not have a directed improvement on their acquisition of knowledge it would make them feel included and hopefully an increased level of confidence with the demonstration of their solution.
(3) Students with Sensory Difficulties
- For individuals who are visually impaired being able to provide digital typed class notes (in advance from the teacher) delivered either via email or a learning management platform directly to a students device is transformational for them. They can remain integrated in the regular classroom environment and simply use the pinch to zoom functionality on their touch device (eg. iPad) to enable them to copy notes in their book. If the teacher is presenting the exact same notes on a projector out the front of the class the student's impairment does not become a disability.
- For a more serious visual impairment , eg. blindness, the speak screen on iPad functionality can be turned on as an accessibility feature. This would enable class notes, or any typed interface, to be read aloud to the student. If the student had headphones in they could listen to the class whilst being integrated in the class and then ask questions at similar times to the students.
(4) At-Risk Students
- Students at risk in Mathematics could be classified a number of different ways, with one way being at risk of "switching-off" in terms of engagement and interest in Mathematics, particularly in early high school. One approach to re-engaging students in this category is to remove the pressure of marks and create a game-based points and reward or badge system. An instructional technology resource such as MangaHigh.com (see popular maths games below). does this very well and balances the direct instruction and drill and practice of skills with game-based multi-player game environments that draw in disengaged learners.
- The second key category of students at-risk are those at risk of complete failure to graduate or receive their diploma. With this in mind, serious intervention is obviously needed to quickly identify gaps in knowledge, deliver remedial assistance one-on-one to the individual and then implement a program to get back on track. The ability of an online digital platform to accurately track and record a student's work is a huge advantage over a traditional paper-based system. The digital one can be accessed by parents, the student, teachers and administrators at any time. It could allow student to submit work at any time not just during a regular lesson or when they meet with the teacher. It also allows for direct communication between teacher-student-parent to quickly address issues with work submitted that doesn't meet a the required standard . In addition an online quiz system would provide immediate feedback that the instructor could then give further qualitative feedback on. Any learning management system (LMS) should have the previous mentioned features built in to enable a "back on track" strategy to be implement for an individual learner. The image below (on the right) shows a Canvas (LMS by Instructure) course of mine where students can see their marks, access course material, videos, the upcoming schedule etc. Messages can be sent to the group or 1 on 1 to address specific issues.
(5) Gifted and Talented Students
- To extend or enrich gifted learners who already display some self-directed or independence in their learning the use of an online learning platform with a self-directed course of extension materials is invaluable. This enables students to access theses materials at any time, from home, from the library or even during another class when they have finished the task at hand. It is a must have for differentiation as well, not just gifted and talented students.
- For some highly gifted students who may have been accelerated in Mathematics often their literacy or written form of Mathematics can be quite a bit behind their functioning level of mathematical thinking. For example a 7 or 8 year old may have age-level writing ability but is operating at a mathematical level of a teenager. As such, games or apps that enable and engage at that level of mathematics without requiring written formats can be most successful. (Eg. Dragon box or Slice Fractions - see below).