Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended assistive technology training for educators.
Assistive Technology Training for Educators
Accessible computer hardware and software give people with various disabilities improved access to information and communication. For example, equipment and programs on computers or mobile devices help students with disabilities to:
- Access learning resources, such as:
- Presentations or lecture materials
- Communicate with teachers and peers, including for:
- Submitting assignments digitally, instead of in hard-copy print
- Group work
However, students must first receive lessons on how to use this technology. Therefore, special education teachers need to know how to use it. In addition, all other staff should be aware of the different types of assistive technology that their students may use. This awareness will help staff recognize the different ways students can learn, and provide needed accommodations.
Therefore, the Committee recommends that school boards create and implement training for educators in assistive technology. Most educators should receive basic training about the different types of technology there are, how people use it, and how it can support Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In contrast, educators who work more directly with students who have disabilities should receive more advanced training. For example, elementary-school classroom teachers may need to know more if students in their classes use assistive technology. Likewise, educational assistants who work closely with students using assistive technology should also know more about it.
This advanced training should teach educators how to procure and use various forms of technology, so that they can impart this learning to their students. Both these types of training should take place in-person, rather than online, so that teachers gain hands-on experience with the devices and programs.
Developing Assistive Technology Training Programs
To develop these levels of training, school boards should consult:
- Students, and their families
Furthermore, the Ministry of Education should also implement programs to support school boards as they train their staff. These programs, involving exposure to case studies and training modules, should be created in consultation with many stakeholders, including:
- Adaptive technology experts
- Students with disabilities
- Teachers’ unions and colleges
Each school board should also employ a “digital accessibility lead”, to provide assistance to staff as they obtain and learn to use this technology. The digital accessibility lead should also oversee the accessibility of online information that schools and the school board produce.
In addition, school boards should have processes to determine how successfully this training supports students’ ability to use assistive technology. As students become more proficient, this success should be noted in their individual education plans.
Students’ skills in using this technology will impact the rest of their lives. Students will grow up to use assistive technology at work, in social situations, or for every-day tasks like online shopping. As a result, programs to instruct both teachers and students need to be as effective as possible, to give students the skills they will need as adults.