Module 4: Adapting your classroom and teaching for ATTraining

4.1 Where do I start?

When you first learn that a student will receive AT, preparation is key to success. The following diagram offers some questions to help you think about how you will implement AT in your classroom. Even if you don’t have all the answers to these questions, they may be a good way for you to start the conversation with your principal or resource teacher.

4.2 Normalizing the experience for students

In the previous module, we established that you, the teacher, were the most important element in helping to normalize the experience for both the student using AT and the rest of the class. It is important to remember, above all, that each student is unique and may react differently to the introduction of AT. It is common for students to feel overwhelmed, anxious or even annoyed at the idea of having to learn something new, especially if they have had negative learning experiences in the past. As well, the student may fear the reactions of his or her peers.

Your approach needs to be flexible to adapt to the student’s needs. The main goals are to promote the student’s ability to access the curriculum, and to increase his or her independence and ability to actively participate in class. The following mind map offers some concrete ways to address the student’s self-doubt and possible concerns about peer reactions.

4.3 Incorporating AT into your lessons

There are many different types of AT to serve a wide variety of needs. In general, these can be grouped into seven functions. Our student videos are arranged according to these functions and we encourage you to watch the videos to get an understanding of the basic applications and how students can make use of them.

That said, doing a task is not the same as teaching it. Some tools lend themselves well to teaching in a group setting, while others are better suited for individual use. We organized the AT into these two categories, and prepared a reference page with some ideas for teaching strategies using each.

Because AT serves as an umbrella term for so many different tools and technologies, and teaching itself can involve a wide variety of subject-matter and age groups, there is no one best approach.

We prepared the following tips and ideas to help you explore options for various subject areas. You are the pedagogical experts and we hope that these ideas will help you become more confident in applying your own creativity to the use of ATs.

Ideas for implementing AT in your classroom by curriculum:

Social Sciences:

Create mind maps of whole chapters with your students using an interactive whiteboard. This can serve to review and identify the most important aspects of the lesson. Students can be further engaged by choosing the images to add. When finished, the map can be printed.

Ask students to use software such as “Photostory” to create a project for their history lesson by using images they’ve found on the Canadian Archives website.

Language:
Help students use mind mapping to brainstorm and organize their ideas before starting to compose paragraphs.
Ask students to practice their creative thinking by creating a blog written from the perspective of a favourite character (this will also allow students who use word prediction software or speech-to-text to use these tools)

Science:

Present the carbon cycle in a mind map format, asking students to recreate it and add images found online. Alternatively, ask students to recreate it in a storyboard format. (One example of storyboard software is called Comic Life and it offers teachers more ideas on using storyboarding in their lessons.)

A research project can begin by asking students to find the relevant information from an article by first listening to it being read out loud using text-to-speech software. Important points can be identified using functions such as the highlighters and sticky notes. The final project can be presented in a website format.

Math:

Mind mapping can serve to illustrate math lessons, including the basics such as addition and subtraction, and show relationships represented in Venn Diagrams. (For more ideas on using mind mapping in math and other academic areas, explore templates created by other teachers.)

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Please send your contributions and ideas to:

Lee-Ann Scott
Director, Ottawa Volunteers in Education, Ottawa Network for Education
900 Morrison Drive, Suite 205
Ottawa, Ontario K2H 8K7
Tel: 613-366-3085 ext. 253
lscott@onfe-rope.ca