By Becky Korinek is a 5th Grade Teacher at Neihardt Elementary in Millard Public Schools
As a NETA member, I love technology. Technology can enhance content, change a learning situation, and motivate students. The technological advancements in the realm of education over the past five to 10 years have truly been monumental.
If we open up the definition of ‘technology’ to something a bit broader, though, we can see the true impact of technology on the lives of students. When most people hear the word ‘tech’, they envision iPads, tablets, apps, and the like. They consider how technology can make a lesson more fun and engaging for the learner.
The average student’s engagement increases when the teacher employs technology in a vocabulary game or a social studies lesson. But the end game of technology isn’t simply to enhance lessons and make students want to learn.
For some students, technology doesn’t just make it fun for them to learn, technology makes it possible for them to learn. Assistive technology can transform lives in and out of the classroom. The following real-life examples (names have been changed) make me very thankful for the inventors and innovators in our world.
Assistive Technology for Vision
An amazing reader, writer and artist, Mandie demonstrated her work ethic daily in fifth grade. Dropped right in the middle of one of my more ‘energetic’ classes, Mandie was a serious student who loved language and was very sensitive to the feelings of others. She was also legally blind.
Mandie came with her own vision specialist, who visited the classroom weekly. The specialist, Miss Sandy, made adjustments and recommendations to Mandie and me, and encouraged Mandie to be independent and to advocate for her needs.
Besides the vision specialist, Mandie brought along her own computer, tools for magnification, and various additional bells and whistles which allowed her to meet and exceed the expectations set for her.
Hearing about Mandie’s compromised vision might give you pause or cause you to pity her, but Mandie has no time for that. She beat out every other student in my class on her standardized tests, earned superior grades, and, despite her disability, was the best artist in the room. Look out world – here comes Mandie!
Assistive Technology for Physical Disabilities
An artist, pizza delivery guy, and Tik-Tok famous twenty-year old, Jake is the life of the party. He’s pretty sure you’re glad to see him, even if you’re not sure yourself. As a studio art major, Jake explores his creativity daily in a variety of ways.
Unfortunately, his hands don’t always do what his brain wants them to. Because of some mysterious ligament issue (doctors are baffled), Jake suffered mobility issues and pain in both wrists. Obviously, for an artist, this is a deal breaker.
One day Jake came upon an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil package on eBay. He thought it might help him to communicate his art while reducing the stress on his wrists. Several hundred dollars later, Jake is thrilled with the results of his new purchase.
Enabling him to freely use his creativity once again has given Jake a renewed love for art and has encouraged him to keep going, despite the barriers he might face.
Thirty years ago, neither of these students would have had the advantages afforded to them by these advancements. What inventions and improvements are waiting around the corner? I, for one, can’t wait to see how technology will continue to change the world for all of us and the students in our classroom from K-12, college, and beyond!