Integrating Assistive Technology Tools into School, Work, and Home

What is "integration", and how is it different from "training"?

Training teaches one how to operate the technology's various features -- what are a device's or software's capabilities, how to invoke them, etc.  Integration involves how to apply those features to a particular task to achieve the desired results, and fitting the tools into one's school, work, and home life.  Think of integration as application strategies plus implementation.

I like to differentiate between training and integration to highlight the importance of addressing both.  It’s one thing to know how to "use" technology -- how to operate it.  It's quite another to know how to "make use of" the technology -- how to apply it to become a better reader, a more effective writer, a successful learner.  

For example, how might one apply the highlighting, annotation, and text extraction features of literacy support software (Kurzweil 3000, Read&Write, many others) to increase comprehension and retention?  How can a student use a graphic organizer program like Inspiration to plan and compose a large writing project?  How can one leverage the features of a Livescribe smartpen to become a better notetaker?  Without knowing how to apply the tools effectively, technology features become interesting but unhelpful bells and whistles.

Integration also includes fitting use of the device or software into the learning environment (classroom, home) and blending it with accessible educational materials and instruction to produce the desired outcomes and avoid creating new problems.

Develop application strategies collaboratively and in context

Strategies work best when they address the needs of all involved.  I find that students often prefer to learn new tools and application strategies in the context of an actual assignment rather than abstract examples.  As teachers, tutors, or specialists model how to apply the tools, students can more easily see the potential benefits (e.g., reduced time spent, less frustration, greater independence) as well as formulate relevant questions.  In this way, the technology solution – tools plus strategies – is personalized to meet the student's needs, learning preferences, and instructional environment; and students are more likely to "buy in" to using the tools and taking ownership of the solution.

Making Your Assistive Technology "Work"

Does your assistive technology "work" -- that is, does it give you the results you want?  Assistive technology (AT) is more than just the tangible devices and software -- it's also the proper selection, skills training, application strategies, and technical support necessary to produce results.  If your technology tools are falling short of expectations, you may be missing one of more of the following services.  Read more here...

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Rachael M. Haven, ATP, RET
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