Speaking in Calculator Terms

To further delineate some of the more closely related “tech terms” from the last post, it may help to think in terms of a calculator:

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A teacher using a calculator in her room to tabulate students’ grades is an example of Educational Technology.

This same teacher can use the same calculator to teach her students to find the average from a set of numbers, and that calculator falls under the category of Instructional Technology.  Or … if some of the students have a visual impairment, the teacher may decide to give those students (or the whole class) a different kind of calculator as part of the instructional process.  She could, for example, choose one like this to try:

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This is called The Giant Calculator, a large button and large print calculator designed for use by individuals with fine motor disabilities or low vision. This calculator has large rubber keys and an LCD display with large numbers and an adjustable tilt screen.  If this calculator is put into place as part of the instructional materials in the classroom based on the idea that this group of students may need something other than the standard type of calculator, that is Instructional Technology.

If the teacher finds that a specific student continues to struggle with calculator skills, that’s when the use of Assistive Technology comes into play.  A professional with training and experience with Assistive Technology materials and strategies may look at the student’s specific needs in that situation and, give consideration to factors including –

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In this example, possible barriers could be glare from florescent lighting overhead and/or lack of visual delineation or definition seen between the surface of the keys and the rest of the face of the calculator.  Other alternatives to consider would include adjusting the lighting in the classroom, having the student sit in another location within the classroom to reduce glare, adjusting the tilt of the LCD display screen, placing a slightly tinted screen overlay over the LCD display screen, setting up the calculator on a slant on the desktop, using brightly colored stickers and using Puff Paint or liquid paper to create a tactile and/or visual barrier around the keys on the calculator.  In addition, issuing a different type of calculator – such as one that offers even larger keys, keys that are of a different color, a larger LCD display, and/or voice output such as The Jumbo Talking Calculator:

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The professional(s) involved in this example may cull the research, read product reviews, and call on past experience of himself/herself as well as of others in the field before making a final recommendation for a product to use.  Once that determination had been made, a plan for training the student and others involved in the use of the device would need to be developed and implemented.  The final piece of the puzzle is for a system to be put into place in order for the effectiveness of the product recommended to be determined after a set period of time: for example, the team may agree that the student will complete classroom assignments in a timely manner with the use of the new calculator with fewer prompts and fewer errors, after a practice period of two weeks of daily use with the device.

So the difference, as seen in this example, is that Instructional Technology is often issued on a whole-class or large-group basis, as a general method of teaching.  Assistive Technology involves assessment of one’s performance levels as well as the environment and equipment with specific regard to the individual; in addition, it involves research and strategy with the outcome goal being clearly defined.

Thanks for reading

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