What’s AT?

Following on from last week’s post about resources from TechAbility around built in productivity options I thought I’d share a great piece of work that was done in a college about 4 or 5 years’ ago.  The person that did it is no longer there so it may not even be available any longer.  That doesn’t change the fact that it is a great way of promoting effective and efficient use of different technologies for learning.
The college was taking part in one of the various iterations of the Jisc funded DART project.  The DART assistive technologist asked the college a simple question – ‘How do you know which of your students would benefit from using assistive technology?  With over 7,000 students it was impossible to answer.
So instead of sitting back the head of learning support worked with her team to create a small online resource that took students through the various options that might be beneficial for them.  This produced the What’s AT (What’s Assistive Technology) package.
It included ways to use technology to improve their:
  • Organisation,
  • Reading,
  • Writing,
  • Vision,
  • Planning and
  • Concentration.

The resource sat on the college’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and was on the student home page. Each of the headings offered a following page with a range of simply worded options that led to existing resources on how to use their phone, laptop or tablet more efficiently and to personalise their own experience.

Whats AT writing2
Writing options from the What’s AT resource.

The heading Writing has the following options and my suggestions for possible solutions are added below.

  • I struggle to plan, – using mind maps,
  • I struggle to spell, – online dictionaries and pronunciation guides,
  • I need to broaden my vocabulary, – using a thesaurus,
  • I prefer to say what I want to write, – using speech recognition,
  • I can’t keep up with notes in classes. – recording the lesson/lecture.

Students were able to go through the resources and then check out the options that could be helpful for them.

I’m currently working on some resources for a Universities workshop. As part of my research I looked at a number of university sites. Some have some great resources on study skills, some have advice to staff on inclusive teaching and others have no specific advice that is visible. Of course they may have some amazing resources that are hidden in the VLE or staff intranet. I have not looked at the website of every university or college in the country but so far I have seen nothing that provides easy to access guidance on using existing technology effectively.

Students are expected to be able to use their own technology but unless they have been told, they are unlikely to be aware of many of the options available – even on their own phones.

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