Benefits of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

I have always believed in making use of technology in the classroom. I love how technology simplifies the tasks we need to do and how we are able to do things beyond our capacities with technology.

(Picture: Edmen Leong with his tudents who love assistive technology in their classroom.)

Since the beginning of term 3 this year, some of our DAS centres have started an Assistive Technology (AT) pilot study. I was one of the Educational Therapists who were equipped with a smart board and laptops, together with some educational software for the purpose of this study. My first hand experience with using these resources during my lessons reinforced my support for technology in the classroom. I was amazed to witness the help and breakthrough my students experienced using these resources. There are limitless ways to creatively make use of these to teach. I am delighted to share my experiences on how AT helped my students in many ways.

I used programs such as Nessy Learning Programme and Word Shark as a tool for introducing new ph o n o g r a ms , tea c h i n g reading, and spelling. These programs come with many pictures, animated videos, and games that are very engaging. This stimulates the student’s learning process by giving them a form of visual and auditory reinforcement that can easily trigger a child’s recollection of what he has learnt. I recalled a particular incident when a student needed to spell a particular word. He shouted excitedly when he realized he knew how to spell! “Oh! I know how to spell this word! It’s the word I spelled on that shark game!”

While it is important that our students are taught strategies to read and write, it is equally important that they are able to comprehend passages. I am frequently encouraged by how much effort my students put in when blending and reading words. However, the time and effort taken to focus on reading a sentence accurately often distracts a child from understanding the context of the sentence.

I was able to overcome these potential difficulties by using the ClaroRead program. The ClaroRead program converts written texts to speech. When I want to focus on teaching a child comprehension strategies, I need the child to grasp the contents of the passage fast. ClaroRead was used in my class for this purpose and I was able to get my students to go through and understand much longer passages than they could before. I also used ClaroRead on passages written by my students. After their own assignments were read to them, they were able to correct mistakes in their passages independently.

Other programs, such as Mind Genius, make it so much easier and fun to plan writing activities. My students were able to use this program to brainstorm ideas they had for writing activities. Ideas can be put in a mind map quickly. After which they can be easily organized into appropriate sequences simply by dragging. Writing became so much easier after the introduction of this mind-mapping program.

The most important and obvious advantage of AT is how it brings fun into the classroom. My students are excited to come for class and learn because they get to use these programs on the laptops and smart board. I have a student who was a reluctant speller. He often gives up on his spelling tasks easily and gets very frustrated with himself knowing he has so much difficulty spelling. When introduced to the spelling games in Word Shark, this was what he said to me: “Mr Edmen this game is so fun! Can I spell more?”

My experiences clearly reflect how beneficial AT is in a classroom. I will definitely encourage teachers and parents to make use of AT in teaching.

About the Author:
Edmen Leong
Senior Manager (Academic Programmes)
Lead Educational Therapist
Rex House Learning Centre
Learn more about Edmen

This article was first published in FACETS