assistivetech · dyslexia · dyslexiatech · education · learning disabilities · technology

#atia16 Everyday #edtech can be #assistivetech #OGtech #LDtech

My friend and colleague Theresa Collins, Director of Language Instruction @EHSSouthport and I presented at the ATIA (Assistive Technology International Association) annual conference last week.  Our focus was on utilizing educational technology as part of multi-linguistic language instruction. (Orton-Gillingham approach meets edtech!)  Theresa and I have been working on this idea for quite a few months. She came from a school where this approach was in a 1-1 environment, so flashcards, a commonly used tool for these types of lessons,  were easy to organize and use with students. Our school’s model, while some 1-1’s, is mainly small group instruction.  This makes it challenging to organize the words and sentences needed for each student in this type setting while ensuring the differentiation needed to address learning needs.



This is just a small portion of all the paper based tools I use in instruction.  There are many more boxes of flashcards and sentence strips, along with workbooks for review.


(Eagle Hill Southport is a 1+1 environment for teachers, along with many of the classrooms having interactive whiteboards or document cameras with projectors.  For the students, a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model is supported, with most of the students bringing an iPad.)

Theresa, myself, and of course the amazing Tutorial teachers at our school, have been working with our focused linguistic instruction, and how we can make it work in the classroom setting with and without technology.  While many of the pathways we found in using edtech were simply at the substitution level of the SAMR model, this was a key factor in making the lesson preparation and work flow more efficient.

In the layout of our presentation, Theresa explained each component of the OG lesson, the what and why, while I shared the how of the educational technology tools that are utilized in various ways by ourselves, and other teachers in our building. (Hello UDL!)  These edtech tools, however, did not address the areas and needs typically talked about at an assistive technology conference.  We did not talk about text-to-speech, speech-to-text, or ways to access content. (All of which are very important and exist in our school as key tools for students) To the surprise of our attendees, as expressed to me by a few after the session, was that we focused on everyday technology tools.

Replacing flashcards for words and sentences in decoding exercises with tools like Keynote or other slide show tools, whiteboard software, or edtech like Nearpod or Pear Deck makes planning for each students needs much more efficient, as well as enables the teacher to present in a small group setting  with greater ease. Harnessing student work for cursive, spelling, and/or other parts of the lesson with Explain Everything or ClassKick engages each student at the same time, allowing the teacher to maintain the work being done.  Students can practice individualized spelling and vocabulary patterns or lists with tools like Spelling City or Simplex Spelling apps . For content reading, Newsela allows for easy differentiation of the same article in the hands of the teacher and/or the student without losing the main idea. A favorite of students everywhere for reviewing any content is Kahoot! Theresa and I both use Kahoot to review syllable types, prefixes/roots/suffixes meanings, vocabulary, and grammar.  These are all tools commonly used in today’s educational landscape.

The takeaway is that to engage those with learning disabilities in traditional multi-linguistic instruction can be engaging and easily adapted to the small group setting through tools that are being used in as everyday educational technology.  Differentiation is possible through the order of slides, the individual expectations for completion, and many other ways depending on the tool used.  So while there are some great apps that are specific to addressing learning disabilities, it is the instruction that we know is important and how it is delivered that given the learner, the teacher, and the learning environment, and this can be accomplished in all aspects of a multi-linguistic language lesson.

Example of Explain Everything lesson : This is the beginning part of a lesson reviewing chameleon prefixes with my students.  The pre-created file was shared to students via Google Classroom to individually complete and then resubmit back through Classroom.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 10.58.40 AM

This is an example of a slide in Pear Deck.  Students gain access to this through a code.  It is web-based.  They complete the task using a pen tool in the site.  As the teacher, I control the pacing of the slides and can see their individual work live to address errors; however, with slow workers, those speedy students might get antsy as they wait. Nearpod is a similar tool.


IMG_2018With ClassKick, the slides can contain audio, text, or writing and the lesson is shared via a code through the iOS app.  The teacher can see the student work live, and jump right to a student’s slide to correct or provide support.  The teacher does not control the pacing at which students move through the slides. This can be beneficial for slower processing students as they may only need to complete a few slides, while fast pacers can be engaged through the same time with more slides.

2 thoughts on “#atia16 Everyday #edtech can be #assistivetech #OGtech #LDtech

  1. Thank you for this post…and your work. I began using apps, working with non-verbal students with autism, when the iPad first came out. I knew absolutely nothing about adaptive technology; adaptive meaning the learning leveled up or down based on user response. The first adaptive app I used was Native Numbers by — I was blown away by the differentiated learning apps like this provided my students.

    I am a firm believer in the power of adaptive/mastery based software!! Some disagree because they view that the software knows best. No software will ever replace the need for teachers, but for sure adaptive/mastery programs allow differentiated progression and the “space” for teachers to provide individualized feedback and support. There are two other problems I see: 1) not all apps/software that claim to be adaptive actually ARE adaptive; and 2) the time needed to find these apps. I use a free review service to help with these issues: Balefire Labs. They look at apps and use objective measures based on elements the learning sciences tell us are needed for deep learning. Their highest rated apps are those that are adaptive, mastery based, and provide both learner and teacher support and feedback. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use an app that doesn’t contain these elements; but at least you know what you will need to provide as support when using an app. Check them out and see what you think:

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