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Assistive Technology Interview
Transcript of Assistive Technology Interview
Deborah Kay Woody
EDU 620 Meeting Individual Student Needs With Technology
Professor Deborah Moerland, Ed.D.
September 2nd, 2013
In this presentation, I will apply my knowledge of assistive technology and its benefits to individuals with special needs through an interview that I conducted with Assistive Technology Specialist and Reading and Resource Instructor, Tiffany Carwell. Tiffany works with Anderson County Cooperative for Westwood Independent School District and serves on the IEP Team.
Though my interview with Ms. Carwell, I will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the school’s current support system for students with disabilities in relation to AT. I will give recommendations for the school to make continuous improvements in integrating students with disabilities using technology. This presentation will end with an evaluation of the interview with a description of how I can apply what I have learned in my career to support working with students with disabilities.
Woody: What is your favorite choice of assistive technology?
Carwell: The Reading Helper.
Woody: What exactly is The Reading Helper?
Carwell: The Reading Helper is device about the size of a six to seven inch book-marker that is made out of colored film, that helps children with reading difficulties read better.
Woody: How is the technology implemented?
Carwell: The student uses the reading guides to follow along while reading in class or while reading independently, by placing the film over the text and moving it along as they read.
Woody: Did you receive grants for the purchase of this AT? If not, where did the funds come from or how were they allocated?
Carwell: Reading Helpers were purchases with allocated Special Education funds that are supposed to be spent on annual supplies that are purchased to meet student needs.
Woody: What population is served by this AT?
Carwell: It helps any student that are having difficulty with reading. We suggest it for students that have many different issues. We even make this suggestion for some that do not fall under a 504 plan or an IEP. It can help early readers keep their place and eye tracking, children who complain of headaches when they read, students who tend to skip words or lines of words, students with reading comprehension problems, as well as students who are noticeably squinting, tearing, or rubbing their eyes a lot when reading. There are a lot of different reading issues that it helps correct, so my suggestion to my fellow co-workers is if they have a student that seems to be having issues, just try them, what does it hurt? Of course, if the student is not in the SpEd program then funding for the purchase of additional Reading Helpers has to come from their supply budget, but the office generally keeps these on hand or can order them as part of general supplies.
Woody: Who is impacted? Is there a universal impact, or does it affect one student?
Carwell: Generally those with reading problems are the ones that are impacted, but you could use them universally in a classroom I suppose. It would hurt anything. They could be used as reading guides, bookmarks, and helps to take the harsh glare off of white paper under fluorescent lighting.
Woody: How do you suggest incorporating them into the curriculum?
Carwell: It’s relatively simple. All you have do is utilize them anytime students are reading. Make them as available as you would a writing instrument. Students should have them available to use in their other classes, in the library, and at home as well.
Woody: How is training offered for the device?
Carwell: They are very simple to use and there is really no training necessary. I think the most difficult part of utilizing them, if finding the color that is the most appropriate for each student. They come in multiple colors and it seems that different students benefit from different colors. Making sure that you find the one that benefits them versus their favorite color, can be challenging and time consuming. But many of the issues that they were previously experiencing will be more pronounced when utilizing some colors over others. Its simply a process of weeding out the colors that don’t work well with each student.
Woody: How are the technology devices maintained? What happens if one breaks?
Carwell: As with anything, things wear out, but for the most part there is no real maintenance. I just have the children keep them in their desk, or tucked in their book. The ones that I buy are flexible so I’ve yet to have a problem with them breaking. They can be wiped off if something gets on the film, but that does not prove to be an everyday problem.
Woody: So tell me your likes and dislikes of this AT device?
Carwell: I like pretty much everything about them. Being a reading resource teacher, anything that helps students read better is a great technology. I particularly like that it helps the students focus on the line they are reading. I can’t really think of a dislike, but if I had to come up with an inconvenience, then I would say going through different colors until you find the one that works the best for each student can take a little bit of time and patience.
Woody: Do they have any way to track whether it is beneficial to student learning? If so, how? If not, why not and how could they?
Carwell: The easiest way to see positive results is by measuring reading comprehension activities and test results. It generally pretty obvious as you witness your students reading better as well as visual proof that it increases their focus on what is being read when reading aloud. Students that used to claim that they did not like to read, generally become more eager to do so. Reading comprehension skills generally trend upward as well....how quickly? That depends on the student and the situation of course.
Many other programs were recommended by Edyburn, targeted at emergent and beginning readers such as:
Soliloquy Reading Assistant
Start to Finish Books
Tar Heel Reader
(Edyburn, D. L., 2013, Ch.6, Table 6.6)
Based on the responses of Ms. Carwell and through my own analysis of the school’s application of assistive technology, I feel that this technology is well worth the cost. At approximately $2.00 a piece (available at http://www.thereadinghelper.com/) and having almost immediate measurable results, it is an incredibly small price to pay. I did find other similar technology devices and a supporting video that explains why these devices work.
My concerns after the interview, which I did not approach during the interview was the transition that the school will be going through this year as they move to tablets. Currently, they will not be moving their textbooks to electronic copies, but they are slowly purchasing and promoting the electronic library. With this transition, I wonder if there is something similar that can be utilized with a tablet? While I could not find any scholarly examples stating that they could or could not be utilized with a tablet, what I did find was optional resources for computers/tablets to help with reading. There are text readers available and have been for quite some time, specifically one that is being utilized by the Kentucky Department of Education called Read &Write Gold, that offer the ability to use “…synthetic speech to read text aloud while the same text is highlighted on a computer screen” (Hasselbring, T.S. & Baush, M.E., 2005). One might question the effectiveness of such devices since colored transparencies have not been replaced to date.
What I have learned throughout this course has opened my mind and my world to a plethora of opportunities to include AT into the classroom, specifically one that includes Universal Design for all students. At times it may be a little more tricky to effectively pull this off, and other times devices are made or provided specifically for an individual, but with the tools that we have explored, we should be able to effective include students with disabilites into the classroom and have them engaged at a deeper level than was once available to them.
Craft, Dianne, M.A., C.N.H.P. (June 23, 2012). Color reading transparencies. Retrieved on
September 1st, 2013 from: youtube.com/watch?v=eV8u1apmmrA
Edyburn, D. L. (2013). Inclusive technologies: Tools for helping diverse learners achieve
academic success. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Hasselbring, T.S. & Baush, M.E. (December, 2005). Educational leadership: Assistive
technologies for reading. Retrieved on September 1st, 2013 from: http://
Woody, D.K. (August 27th, 2013). Interview with Tiffany Carwell: Assitive technology –
favorite device. Interview conducted in person at Westwood, Junior High School.