Advice Column, Assisted Learning, Education

Assistive technology in the classroom for neurodiverse learners

  • Glenoaks Remedial and Special Needs School
  • Category Advice Column, Assisted Learning, Education

At Glenoaks Remedial and Vocational school in Johannesburg, we have seen the real benefits of using technology in our classrooms. The use of technology boosts and extends students but is also incredibly useful for removing many of the barriers to learning that our students face. 

There are endless apps, extensions, add-ins, and widgets, but rather than trying to use every tool available, mastering just a few equips our students to cope with schoolwork, and removes many of the barriers to learning they face.

#1 Voice-to-Text (on any iPad, tablet, or smartphone). Instead of writing by hand or typing, this tool allows students to express their thoughts verbally without being hindered by the physical mechanics of writing. Suitable for learners with physical disabilities, dyslexia, and slow pace.

#2 Text-to-speech enables students to highlight what they have written or what they are reading, and the device reads the content back to them. The speed of the speech and the voice used can be changed to suit the student’s individual pace or processing speed. 

#3 The C-Pen / Exam Reader is a tool that enables students to scan over a sentence, and have it read back to them. This is useful when content is in printed format and not digitised. 

#4 Digitising is a way for students to scan in a printed worksheet or piece of writing and turn it into an electronic version. When content is electronic, students can use other tools like text-to-speech or answering questions on the electronic version. 

#5 Predictive spelling, the correction of grammar and asking Siri
reduces the amount of teacher input required, which is particularly useful for students with dyslexia. 

#6 Fonts and colours can be adjusted, especially for students in younger grades. For dyslexic students, the Dyslexia font is an option – the font is more heavily weighted towards the bottom of each letter, and shaped slightly differently, which makes it easier for dyslexic learners to read.

#7 Google Classroom provides a diverse range of tools.

  • Multiple tools which interact with each other – Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Drive.
  • Real-time editing and teaching with multiple students at the same time.
  • Work can be extended and differentiated easily and in real-time.  
  • Collaborative documents – teachers and students can work on 1 document simultaneously.
  • Preset Google Documents can often be edited and used offline, helpful during load shedding.

Everything in life is a balance, and the balance of technology with book learning is one we all need to manage carefully. At the end of the day, we are all driven to help our students achieve all that they absolutely can. 

Written by Brad Johnson (HOD at Glenoaks School) and Heather Francis (Academic & Learning Support Therapist)

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