Student Engagement and Assistive Technology Use

Student Engagement and Assistive Technology Use

As an assistive technology professional, I see what a student should use to make schoolwork easier. As a parent, I know what my kids should be doing to be better students. I've also learned that unless they genuinely want to improve and understand why and how it will benefit them, they will be less willing to try it.

How Do We Get a Student On-Board with Using Assistive Technology?

The student needs to understand what assistive technology (AT) is and isn't and how it can help. The AT user also needs to know they are in control, and they get to make decisions about what they like and don't like. As an expert in the field, my knowledge and opinion on an AT user's best fit are trumped by the user's view. Why?

If the AT user doesn't like the solution, they won't use it, leading to technology abandonment. But, what can we do? We can't force a person to use a device or a piece of software, no matter how great a fit we think it is for them.

We need to take a step back and ask the student their opinion and willingness to use a technology solution. When I conduct my AT assessments, I speak with the student because it's essential to listen to their concerns and views. I talk to them about some of the AT solutions that may be useful, then ask them how they feel about trying them. I let them know they are the most important decision-maker in the process because if they don't like it or aren't comfortable with using it in the classroom, they won't use it.

Questions I ask (vary wording as needed):

Keep in mind some of the questions are very similar – this is intentional to get the student thinking and often helps them identify various areas of strengths and needs. 

  1. What are your strengths? (Alternatively – What is the easiest thing for you to do in school?)
  2. What are your needs? (Alternatively – What is hard to do in class (or school)?)
  3. What is your favorite thing to do in school? Why?
  4. What is your least favorite thing to do in school? Why?
  5. What do you want me to know about you and your classes?
  6. If I recommend that you use ‘XYZ’ (explain solution), will you be willing to try it? (I explain they get to decide whether they like to use it because if they don’t like it or feel self-conscious using it, they ultimately won’t use it).
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