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Meeting Students' Needs with UDL and Technology

Meeting Students' Needs with UDL and Technology

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, you will learn about the differences between low tech, mid tech, and high tech options that enhance student learning, along with some important points to consider about how technology relates to UDL.

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In this tutorial, we'll discuss how we can use technology to meet students' needs in the context of Universal Design for Learning. We'll begin by defining low tech, mid tech, and high tech, terms used to describe varying levels of assistive technology. And then we'll take a detailed look at how technology might fit into the process of universal design for learning. Let's get started.

First, the term low tech refers to the most basic level of assistive technology. Low tech devices are simple and non-electronic. They require little or no training in order to be used. Some examples of low tech devices include pencil grips for students who have challenges with fine motor activities, using eyeglasses or a magnifying device, or a cane used for assistance in walking.

While at first glance, one of these tools may not even seem to be technology at all, it's important to consider that one of these low tech devices may be all that is necessary to meet a particular need. In that case, there may be no need to consider any mid tech or high tech options. On the other hand, a low tech device can serve as a backup, in case there are problems with a more advanced device. For example, if a student usually uses a tool in conjunction with a computer screen in order to magnify text, but on a particular day the technology fails to work as expected, a handheld magnifying tool may meet that student's needs in the short term.

Next, let's examine the category of mid tech. These mid-level technological devices are more complex and potentially more expensive than the low tech devices. They may require some level of training in order to be used effectively. And they may or may not be electronic or battery operated. Examples of mid tech devices include audio books and alternate keyboard or a mouse to be used with a computer, the use of a special light that is activated when a doorbell or phone rings to alert someone who is hearing impaired, or a remote control or switch that can be used to control light.

These mid tech devices can be a nice middle ground or a compromise between the two ends of the spectrum. They can still facilitate the user's independence in a way similar to a high tech option, while remaining more cost effective and less complex.

Finally, the term high tech refers to a device or piece of equipment that is complex and typically electronic. As such, these devices tend to be more expensive. And extensive training may be necessary in order to use them effectively. Some examples of high tech devices include digital hearing aids, voice activated phones, power wheelchairs, and communication devices that involve the voice. These options aim to promote maximum independence for individuals who may have significant challenges, or who have limited capabilities for movement.

So how can these types of assistive technology impact the use of universal design for learning in your classroom? We've witnessed how digital technology has advanced in recent years at an exponential rate. Incorporating these technologies into the classroom is a great way to provide customization for students.

Furthermore, many of these options may offer built in supports for students right within the technology itself. It's important that teachers know how to use these assistive technology devices at the low tech, mid tech, and high tech levels. Appropriate use of these technologies requires meaningful planning and careful decision making in order to maximize the assistance that these devices provide in achieving goals. It's important to note that simply incorporating technology without this meaningful planning and decision making does not qualify as using universal design for learning.

And finally, teachers also need to be mindful of students who are going to need access to these personal assistive technologies at all times, even if other students don't have access to technology at that given time. Any student who uses a device such as hearing aids, eyeglasses, or an electric wheelchair that is essential for basic access to the learning environment should not be denied access to that use of technology.

In this tutorial, we examined three different levels of assistive technology, low level tech, mid tech, and high tech. We also discussed some ways in which technology can impact the Universal Design for Learning process. Now it's your turn to stop and reflect. Do you currently have students who use assistive technology devices? If so, would you categorize those devices as low tech, mid tech, or high tech?

Are you confident in your ability to help students who may need to use assistive technology in your classroom? As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Meeting Students' Needs with UDL and Technology"

(00:00 - 00:26) Introduction

(00:27 - 01:27) Low Tech

(01:28 - 02:13) Mid Tech

(02:14 - 02:45) High Tech

(02:46 - 04:01) UDL and Technology

(04:02 - 04:15) Review

(04:16 - 04:54) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Georgia Tech: What is Assistive Technology

This site provides an overview of assistive technology. In particular, there is a clear explanation of the differences between high tech and low tech assistive technology.

South Carolina Assistive Technology Program: SC Curriculum Access through AT

This is a great overview of assistive technology and how it is used in schools. Particular attention is given to how assistive technology can provide students with access to the core curriculum.