On Thursday February 8th, I completed the survey about assistive technology with my grade 5/6 class to obtain feedback on their feelings around being given or using assitive technology in the classroom. We completed the survey online using Google Classoom. To honest…it was a little ironic…a little frustrating…and a little heartwarming? Can it be all of those things at once? With my class being full of INCREDIBLY diverse kiddos I received a very wide range of answers. They included those of kids that don’t really care to participate and just wanted to use their computer time for something else, to kids who were really interested in understanding why they had certain tools in the class, to having to sit with kids to read them the questions, re-explain them and help them answer even with their assistive technology…hence the irony. Overall however, I was intrigued by the information I received. Grab the popcorn, folks and settle in for the fun!
Below are the questions I asked. I don’t intend to share all of the answers, but a summary of either the most popular answers, or answers that hold pertinent information to the study. I should also preface this by saying that for the majority of my students, this amount of writing is a daunting task so any response, short or not, was appreciated and celebrated…except for the first one…I was hoping we could all nail that one! 😉 Unfortunately, I actually received the dreaded “idk” for that one too.
1.What is your name?
2. Assitive Technology is anything you use to help you learn! Your own computer, a pencil grip, a different chair, a fidget, quiet headphones, etc. Do you use any of these things to help you learn? If so, what?
3. If you didn’t have those things, do you think you would be as successful?
4. What do you like about our class adaptations? (How do they help you)
5. Have you ever felt uncomfortable using these adaptations?
6. If you answered yes or sometimes on the last question, what was uncomfortable? (Did you feel like you stuck out? Did you feel like it was so too primary? etc.)
7. What do you like most about our classroom? (how it’s set up? etc.)
8. What is the worst part of our classroom? (the set up, the structure, etc.)
9. What can I do to make the classroom a more comfortable place for you? What adaptations would you like to see? What would you like taken away?
Question 2: On account of the conversation we had prior to the survey, the kiddos had a pretty good idea of the things that could be considered Assitive Technology. The majority of the answers included their personal computer (11/25 have assitive technology assigned from our division), wobble chairs or alternative seating, fidgets and talk to text through the use of headphones. They also had the option of including anything else they thought aided their learning. I didn’t have anything extra typed into the survey but a student added, “teacher help” which I thought was interested. Can a teacher be considered assistive technology? They said it was because, “they needed our help to finish work.” I thought this was an interesting concept that I hadn’t considered in the past.
Question 3: This is the one that really, really surprised me. 52.4% of students that answered said that they would be just as successful without the assitive technology. 2 students whom I was essentially having to spell every word as they typed as well as read the questions, said they would be as successful without it. This told me that kiddos in my room are struggling to understand what helps them learn. This tells me that I should potentially spend some time working on learning style and the importance of advocating for yourself in a building that wasn’t necessarily designed with Universal Design for Learning woven in.
Question 4: Responses varied from, “it’s nice I guess”, “they help me learn” to “i don’t know” to thoughtful answers that addressed the specific adaptations children are using in the room. Some of the responses included, “Fidgets help me focus”, “They (wobble chairs) Make It so I Can Move In My Seat”, “Blue paper helps me read, before I had the chair I used to lean back really far, my computer helps me with multiple things- the voice to text helps with writing”.
Questions 5 and 6:
I had high hopes for this question as I was really interested in how my practice was affecting my students. I love this job so much and only want to do right by my kids. One female student who uses alternative seating shared, “Sometimes The swivel Makes Your Back Hurt Because It Has No Back Soport”. She took the question literally, however, it is something to consider when asking your students to use adaptations long term that could be more focused on short term corrections. I had only really ever considered whatever I was trying to correct, I hadn’t given much thought to the effects that these adaptations had on other parts of their schooling. I had one student who is new to Connaught this year, sum it up for me in my current context. This student is dyslexic, has no peripheral vision and has diagnosed but untreated ADHD. He uses Google Read and Write as well as all his paper work is photocopied on blue paper as he reads/sees best on blue. He said, “Not as much at this school because lots of kids have computers but at my old school kids would question why I had it. I feel weird using blue paper because other kids don’t use it.” My classroom has so many needs, that students who have adaptations do not feel as though they stick out because they are part of the majority. Although I am glad to read this, I am so saddened because it brings to light the amount of kids that require support in a variety of ways, and the truth of the matter that these resources are becoming harder and harder to obtain for students full time. M’s blue paper made him feel isolated because he’s the only one.
Looking into this theory, his comments backed up what I thought might be the case – if you have a classroom of students with average ability and only a couple students requiring adaptation, it can be an isolating experience even though they require it. Often times too, students don’t have the language skills to explain why they need the adaptation and it makes them feel worse. I know this student doesn’t want to share about his dyslexia so I always just say, “M needs this the same way you need ______. Don’t worry about it. I will make sure you always have what you need.” (glasses, your computer, a pencil grip, etc.) My next goal is to sit down with the 28.5% of kids who responded “yes” or “sometimes” and see what made them feel uncomfortable that they were unable to share in the survey.
I am glad I did this activity even though some of the participation wasn’t where I was hoping. There is a lot to be gained by what students say…and honestly, by what they don’t too. My goal moving forward is to be mindful of when and what I am giving students as adaptations, but also, to be cognizant of how I set up my classroom and lessons to move more towards the idea of Universal Design for Learning. By doing so I would hope that the 28.5% of kids who even sometimes felt uncomfortable with adaptations in the classroom wouldn’t even be able to distinguish that they had them in comparison to someone else.
Thanks for reading,
“Educating the mind without educating the heart,
is no education at all.” – Aristotle