Assitive Technology

In the world of IT, which is fast pace and constantly changing, it is an unfortunate occurrence that many groups of users are often left out, one of those groups in particular are those who are faced with learning disabilities, physical handicaps or both. One tool that I found to be helpful when utilizing the web with this particular group is Cynthia Says. Cynthia Says is a web database offered by HiSoftware and is used to analyze how handicap accessible a website is. To utilize the database, simply follow the link below and upon reaching the page, type in the URL of the website in question, check the boxes corresponding to what it is that you would like tested and click the Test My Site. The database will then generate a report that will inform you on the strengths and weaknesses of the site in mind. Enjoy!

iPads in Education

The integration of technology into education is a hot topic. Today’s student are considered Millennial learners, which typically refers to the fact that they incorporate some form of technology into everything they do. This can create a gap between the students and the teachers due to the fact that many teachers do not incorporate technology into their teaching and lesson plans. In turn, students are suffering and not performing their best because of the communication gap, poor presentation and general lack of interest. Knowing this, I have outlined a 5 phase process that can be used to incorporate technology into education: to incorporate the iPad. Enjoy!

Phase 1: Determine Relative Advantage:

When determining a relative advantage one should explore what will be gained from implementing said technology into the classroom. Generally, a good investment can be determined by deciding if the rewards outweigh the risks. In this phase of the integration certain questions will be asked including but not limited to: What problems am I addressing? And, does this method offer a solution with sufficient relative advantages? In this case, one problem that would be addressed for virtually any group of students would be capturing and retaining their attention, and delivering the material in a manner in which they will be captivated while they are learning. Advantages of incorporating the iPad include higher levels of interaction between the student and his/her peers as well as the instructor and allowing students the ability to access course materials cheaper and more conveniently. The iPad will allow the instructor to access learning materials that may not have been available to students while engaging them into the lesson in more ways than one. Applications are allowed at a level of creativity that will address any learning style.

Phase 2: Decide on Objectives:

In this phase of the integration plan the objectives should be determined. While determining objectives the instructor should set goals that he/she would like to see the students meet. Setting objectives early on will help in deciding if the technology is being implemented to the degree in which you would like to see it implemented. These objectives will later aid in assessing how well the technology was implemented. The ultimate goal of integrating the iPad in the classroom is to enhance student performance but it is imperative to determine how. My objective would be to get students to a level in which they are able to utilize the various apps on the iPad to make their educational experience greater. Upon a successful integration, students should be able to use the apps on the iPad, either independently or in a group, to expound on what has been taught in the classroom. While being used in class, the student should be able to participate in either educational games initiated by the instructor or, use the iPad to find information to answer questions or elaborate on discussions taking place in the class. Outside of the classroom, students should learn how to utilize the app store to search and install applications on the device that will aid in their understanding of the material as well as use the device to bring in information to add to the lesson.

Phase 3: Design Integration Strategies:

 Once phases one and two have been completed, the next step is determining how the plan will be executed, which is why phase 3 involves designing integration strategies. To integrate the iPad into the classroom, I would first conduct a pre assessment of the students to determine how technologically savvy they are. Upon completing the assessment, I would then conduct an open forum survey to discuss whether or not the students felt comfortable with the new technology and allow them to voice reasons why they felt either way. Once a consensus has been reached, assuming the students are in favor of the integration, I would then compose a list of websites and applications that would be used in the class and make the information available via handouts and a wiki page. Immediately following each lesson, there would be notes and discussion questions available on an open forum for students to follow with what was covered in class as well as present questions that they may have come up with after the session has ended.

Phase 4: Prepare the Instructional Environment:

Once it has been determined how the technology will be implemented, the next thing to do, in effort to be proactive rather than reactive, is to prepare the instructional environment. One advantage of the iPad is its battery life; the iPad can hold power for up to 10 hours which helps tremendously in terms of electrical outlets. As long as the students have charged the device, hazardous cords that can cause tripping are not needed. Aside from setting up the physical classroom, the next phase of preparing the instructional environment is prepping the iPads for use. To do so, I would make sure that all iPads are running on the same software version and are pre-loaded with the same apps that will be needed to effectively participate in the course and following discussions.

Phase 5: Evaluate and Revise Integration Strategies:

The final phase of the technology integration plan is to evaluate and if necessary, revise the integration strategy. To determine whether or not the iPad was successfully integrated into the course, I would challenge the students to research a topic independently and deliver their findings to the class; I would also assign groups and have them present various functionalities and information on the apps being used in the class. Finally, students would have to use the apps to complete all assignments in order to receive full credit. If the students are able to successfully completed the above mentioned tasks I will know if the integration was successful. In addition to the tasks, I would conduct a post assessment to note what were some of the strengths and weaknesses of using the iPad in the lesson, find out if students preferred using the iPad in oppose to the traditional lecture style and lastly, I would hold an open discussion to get insight on how comfortable the students felt with the technology. Upon receiving the results, I would make adjustments as needed and proceed with the course.