For teachers of the visually impaired, assistive technology has transformed the classroom, opening up exciting new methods of learning for students of all ages and abilities.
It’s also presented a challenge: keeping up-to-date with dozens of new devices, apps and software programs, none of which stay “new” for long.
A website from Perkins eLearning, Paths to Technology, now addresses that challenge, and provides educators and parents with a wealth of information about assistive technology for people who are blind.
Visitors can search the website for information about specific devices, like how to use accessibility features on a ChromeBook. Teachers can browse lesson ideas and learn new ways of incorporating technology into classroom activities. Parents can help their son or daughter learn keyboard commands for their braille notetaker.
“It’s a resource for everybody,” said consultant Diane Brauner, who worked with Perkins eLearning to create the site. “You can look up whatever you’re interested in and find articles, manuals, teacher handouts, activities, all different kinds of things – all in one place.”
Paths to Technology encourages teachers to interact with one another, by asking advice of their peers in the Q&A section or sharing activities and lessons that worked in their classrooms. For educators who teach in rural areas or are the only teachers of the visually impaired in their schools, these connections are crucial to their professional development, said Brauner.
“They need to have that community of practice to be able to share and grab information on the fly,” she said. “That’s what Paths to Technology is all about. It’s kind of like crowdsourcing – the more people use it the better it will be.”
There’s also a student section, where kids can share their favorite apps, upload homemade video tutorials and discuss topics like 3-D printing. A group of student bloggers shares posts reviewing new devices and discussing the types of accommodations they use to read textbooks and complete homework assignments.
“It’s a really cool opportunity for them to blog, ask questions and develop their own community in a safe environment on the web,” said Brauner. “This is a fabulous site for both students and adults.”
Paths to Technology was built with support from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.