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Assistive technology is redefining student success


Published: 09/24/2015

by Marcus Johnson

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 Technology has revolutionized how today's students are learning. With the digital world at their fingertips, it's easier for teachers to provide accessible and specialized learning to empower students with special needs to realize their full potential.

According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than 600,000 Canadians aged 15 and older reported having a learning disability. Of those, one-third reported their highest level of education as being less than high school. But today's education technology tools can provide specialized learning to help students of all abilities to learn and succeed.

Angie Scarano-Iuorio, the assistive technology central coordinator for the Toronto District School Board, understands the potential that technology has to enable learning.

With a mandate to ensure students with special needs are able to work to their full potential, she used the Ontario Ministry of Education's Special Equipment Amount (SEA) to access technology from vocal devices to Windows tablets and apps to support learning and success at school.

“We recognize that each individual has different ways of learning,” says Scarano-Iuorio. “We decided to use Windows tablets to help students with learning disabilities and those on the autism spectrum to increase their organization and independence skills.”

The team is now two years into utilizing Microsoft OneNote on these devices to help students with learning disabilities prepare for their transition to high school.

“Using OneNote is helping these students de-stress and focus on learning,” the coordinator continues. “For example, if you're a student who has difficulty taking notes from a chalkboard, you can simply take a photo, upload it and learn the lesson at your own pace, eliminating a lot of anxiety.”

Ongoing professional development and in-class coaching sessions are offered by the assistive technology team throughout the year. Teachers are brought together in learning communities that help educators make the most of available tools.

“Students with special needs no longer feel so singled out – the use of technology, such as Microsoft's OneNote, allows them to learn more independently and get ready for the next stage of their education,” Scarano-Iuorio adds.

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