I had the chance recently to sit in on a CSE meeting. The Assistive Technology Specialist sat in on the meeting, and one of the topics discussed was acquiring Bookshare for the student. This particular student has difficulty with writing, which translates to his reading abilities. He has some other technologies that he uses at home to help him, but in this meeting the committee talked about implementing them more in his school day.
I heard a little bit about what Bookshare was about, but I wanted to know what it could do for students with disabilities. So I went to the website.
Bookshare is free to students with disabilities. It provides students with the ability to download books so that they can read them in the ways that are suited to their needs, including choosing from voices to read it to them (similar to text-to-speech). It helps students to create outlines, highlight important passages, make notes on their thoughts or questions they may have. I thought this last point was especially helpful since this particular student’s class is learning about metacognition. Writing down thoughts or questions would give the student a chance to see metacognition in action. Various forms of Bookshare technology are available on different platforms, including laptops, desktops, mobile devices (including phones and iPads), and other assistive technology devices.
Back to the meeting. (For simplification purposes, I have given the parent and teacher aliases. Basically, it was just easier to type Mrs. P and Mrs. T, rather than typing “the parent” and “the teacher” every time.) The parent (Mrs. P) asked the teacher (Mrs. T) how the technology would be used in the classroom. Mrs. T responded that, with Mrs. P’s permission, she’d like to have a discussion with the class about how everybody has different needs. Mrs. T thought it would be a great opportunity for the student to talk to classmates about the cool stuff he got to use, thus hopefully helping his self-esteem. Since the school might be placing a desktop in the classroom for the student’s use, Mrs. T pointed out that it could also give him an opportunity to teach the other students something about computers, since he would be something of an expert.
I thought about what a great approach that could be for any student. Oftentimes, having to rely on something different can ostracize a student. If you turn that around, though, and turn it into an opportunity to talk about how everybody is different, I think it provides the students with an important lesson on diversity. It could also give a student the chance to boost self-confidence by being an expert on something. While this particular student is quite sociable, for a student who isn’t as good at making friends, it could be an opportunity to connect with classmates.
I hope I get the chance to see this new technology incorporated into the classroom. I want to see what sort of form it takes for the student and for the rest of the class.