Yesterday, I attended a conference. It was hosted by our local special education cooperative. The title was “Assistive Techology for the Struggling Reader.” I was a little hesitant about going. Let’s face it, I teach in a very low socio-economic district. Most conferences with “technology” in it are things that this district just can’t afford. However, when the director tells me it would be good for me to go, I go.
I’m so glad I went. The presenter was personable and very knowledgeable. She was a teacher for many years and decided to start this company that focuses on ways to help students read. To keep herself in tune with the educational system, she does extensive consultation in Connecticut. She told stories to illustrate her points and she gave scientifically based research.
What I think I like best is that she spent a large portion of the day talking about “low tech” stuff – things that didn’t require batteries, a computer, or training. These are things that we as teachers may already have or could easily obtain at little to no cost. And not all of them were offered by her company. She was quick to show us how to utilize parts of computer programs we already use and to point out free software we could get from the internet. She spent a portion of time talking about “mid tech” stuff – things that require batteries or some other power source. These were interesting and she reminded us that these are electric devices that often have little “bugs” about them. Anyway, she ended with a short discussion on “high tech” – computer programs that do everything but think for you and that cost a small fortune.
My favorite part of the day was early on when she talked about color. Apparently, in northern Europe, education is really focusing on the use of color to enhance learning. Research shows that many people find it hard to read black print on white paper. Some students even talk about letters “moving” or not seeing spaces between words. Merely by changing the paper color or using a colored overlay, they can be more successful. In addition, certain groups of disabilities have a tendancy towards certain colors. For example, students diagnosed with ADHD find it easier to focus when there are colors like lime green and hot pink while students with visual impairments do better with a dark background, such as navy or black, with yellow text.
Today I have spent a good deal of time finding more information about it. She gave some excellent sources and I’m learning so much. I’m so glad I went.