In K-12 school districts, one-to-one laptop or mobile device programs are growing exponentially. These programs are creating richer, multi-media learning environments across the continuum of student learning (Project Red, 2012). All students are potentially able to accelerate or support their learning using devices in one-to-one settings. Theoretically, teachers can differentiate for and accommodate seamlessly all students regardless of whether they have an IEP, 504 Plan or no documented need for a specialized learning plan. Administrators can invigorate their educational programs with one-to-one technology and provide an increasing number of resources to the fingertips of their teaching staff.
In this new world of technology-rich classrooms, are we differentiating, accelerating, and accommodating effectively?
There are many benefits and complications related to students with learning differences in one-to-one iPad or Chromebook districts. Looking back at the AT story offered on NTFE, the one-to-one iPad implementation would be tremendously beneficial to him provided his team knows of the specialized supports available on his iPad and how to teach him to use them. In order to increase accommodations in his educational program, a student needs to master such accessibility features in iOS as text-to-speech using VoiceOver and Speak Screen and Zoom (Apple, 2017). What fell apart in his iPad implementation that resulted in both his and the team’s abandonment of his iPad as AT?
Special Education teams do not know enough about the accessibility features on iPads in order to fill his toolbox and/or feel that they are not "techy" or technology accommodations are "not their job." Teams only work directly with students using iPads as AT for short bursts during the initial implementation and then drop it. Further, teams take a fragmented approach to iPads being used as AT, maybe putting in place one or two supports, with little evidence of collaboration across team members in general education or other service providers. One of the primary distinctions between learning technology and AT is that the latter must include structured steps and collaborative planning with implementation. That is a primary distinction between providing scaffolding or classroom-wide supports and using technology as AT to differentiate for a student's unique needs. For example, a student using his/her iPad as a learning tool may be able to access the eBook and teacher website with little instruction apart from what is traditionally provided. In order for a student being served in special education to complete the very same task, the IEP team would need to ensure that a structured, weekly approach is in place for access to eBooks, websites, and assigned work tasks, so that all the work for a student in special education requiring this AT accommodation can be completed independently using his/her technology. It is a much more comprehensive and complex process to ensure access, differentiation and UDL.