Teachers, Technology

Making the most of assisstive technology!

In the following blog post, Myles Pilling an ICT SEN Advisor with over 30 years’ experience, explores a wide range of assistive tools, such as spelling, grid selection and word prediction, which can help learners with additional needs. He also discusses the importance of using assistive technology with mainstream software.

We are fortunate to live in age of multiple choice! Now, we have many alternative methods of recording information than simply handwriting, though this will always be an essential skill. I liken this to having a toolbox in which the ICT tools we have are text, sound, image, video and drawing.

I remember the time that we first had a digital camera in class. That will date me, but we thought it was brilliant at the time!  The only drawback was that we had to share the camera with other teachers. Now we all have cameras on our mobile phones.

Of course, there are many restrictions in place to limit the use of mobiles in class, but tablets and other devices can prove extremely useful when supervised and given a purpose in the classroom. In other words, we as teachers and parents should demonstrate the best practise and use of these devices, they can then be used to their full potential in the classroom.

For dyslexic learners, new technology can help greatly when it comes to overcoming learning barriers, assistive tools can help with recording information and making content more accessible. If learning is accessible for children with additional needs, it’s accessible for all!

However, in many schools getting good ICT provision in place is a struggle. Usually, this comes down to funding and the time it takes for staff to understand technology and embed it into the classroom. Both are valid reasons, but even with no funding available schools can make the most of many free assistive tools.

Typing Assistant is a free word prediction tool. Talk Typer is a speech recognition programme. There are also a few very useful and interesting apps available at a small cost. AppWriter provides lost of assistive tools, covering both word prediction and speech recognition. When using AppWriter, students can also write on PDFs, making the tool useful during examination practice, where allowed. LightKey, which is an AI driven word prediction tool, is also useful for fluency.

Finally, the last tool on the progression ladder is speech recognition. It’s great that we have this available through mainstream software, such as Office 365, Office 2016 & 2019.  I liken it to being a “mini” compared to the” Rolls Royce”package in Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking Professional Individual 15 . Both have there place in the grand scheme of things. The mini option is good for getting people use to using speech recognition, but for more complex editing tasks you need the Rolls Royce. For the dyslexic learner using Microsoft Office, I recommend using a combination of speech recognition tools for input and assistive keyboard tools for editing. Speech recognition is good for those pupils who have good ideas but cannot get them down on paper. One of the only drawbacks to such tools are that they are reliant on WIFI, in schools, where wifi isn’t always available, this can be a problem.

Here are the links to some of the apps mentioned in this article

Typing Assistant – https://www.download82.com/download/windows/typing-assistant/

Talktyper – https://talktyper.com/

AppWriter – https://www.wizkids.co.uk/private/appwriter/

Lightkey – https://www.lightkey.io/

You can find out more about assistive classroom and home technology by watching a recorded version of Myles’ Lexplore Analytics Webinar, which is available within our Shop.

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