This post is from December 12, 2012. We had to completely reset our blog in May 2014. Instead of backdating our blog posts, it was decided we would select some of our best posts and get those up over summer. Enjoy!-ParaEducate
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m not better than you at using technology. But at my campus, especially in the special education department, I’m the one figuring out how to implement and direct use of technology from things as complex at AAC to as mundane as “how do hearing aids work?” None of this was why I was hired at my job on my campus.
But here is the truth: you need someone on campus who can sift through all of this and make this possible for your students to function on a daily basis. From the student who is just learning to the student who is well versed in their Assistive Technology needs, they still all need tech support. And not the type of person who will do it for the student (though sometimes it is necessary) , not the person in the department who keeps asking other students to find out how to do other things, and most definitely not the person who falls under the category “I know a little something…” (which almost always results in sending in someone else to fix the simple problem that has spiraled out of control.)
So just a few thoughts on how to make sure the technology keeps all the 1′s and 0′s flowing in the correct direction.
- Your student’s AAC device is to be treated with respect.
This is true no matter who is in charge of the moment to moment use of the device: You, the classmates, and your student all need to be respectful of the device. Whether a ChatPC, iPad/iPod, laptop, all of the devices are invaluable. Your student loses productivity time without the device. And especially in some cases, they probably won’t be able to get the device replaced.
- Have plans in place if the device gets stolen.
This could be making sure “Find iPhone” is on at all times. This could be making sure the device and its accessories is only kept in two places in the entire school. This could also mean that staff help a student keep the device secure. AAC’s in any variation are expensive.
- Know the reason the device is to be used.
The device, whether purchased by the school/county/service provider or parent is intended to help facilitate communication, access to academics, or social skills. Whatever the original purpose, keep that in mind. Try to work the device into as many classes as possible. Sometimes this will mean you have to set the student up academically to get a result but this is a part of trying to teach a student that their voice matters.
- Remember your students are entitled to have fun during down time.
I have worked with students who use iPads for different purposes, but I also know that they work better sometimes with a little break. And if they use their games on the iPad during their break, it does create a moment where the student can be independent. And that is completely all right.
- Never, ever, take a part a device that you do not understand the entire device of. Save that for the professionals!
I was in a meeting and we were discussing the device a student used and someone on staff had a similar (but totally different device for the same purpose). And they were describing how their device worked. It was suggested that we take the device from the student and check its batteries. I had to stop the entire meeting at that point. This device is a highly precise machine. We are not trained in dismantling the device. I think my staff understands now that I am against the potential destruction of any device available.
- Learn how the device works.
This is where things get sticky. I’ve got a just about every Apple product, I’ve had time to learn all of the nuances of Apple. But I haven’t spent a lot of time with a Samsung Tablet or even a ChatPC myself. And all of these devices don’t come cheaply either. Some devices are very specialized and not mainstream at all so you are at the mercy of only working with the device when you see it brought to school. But your comfort level will approach competency when you get time with the device. I do not suggest going out and buying every device as this does get expensive after a while. But if you learn a friend has a device or you see one on display in a store, ask about it. Get familiar with how to get to the ‘home’ screen. And enjoy playing Angry Birds on multiple platforms.
Technology in all it’s variations, high tech and low tech, add to a student’s day and make it possible for them to navigate the world. No matter our age, we should not fear the vast number of blinking lights that a student may come with