Assessment of Needs
Inclusive technologies provide a number of opportunities for individuals to participate as fully as possible in order to achieve a range of learning, training and work related outcomes at all levels of education and training.
Participation is the key. Equity and empowerment are the goals to help realise independence and self reliant determination. The technologies chosen need to be carefully selected in the first instance to ensure that the person is able to access and use the technologies with degrees of competence, developing skills and understanding over time.
Assessment of needs is paramount in initially determining the required devices and software that will accrue maximum benefit over a prescribed period of time. Prerequisite skills and understanding, capacities and abilities must be taken into account as well as disabilities or impairments.
Intangibles such as attitude, maturity, prior exposure and success to technologies, age, gender and cognitive capacity of the person will also need to be considered. Levels of literacy and numeracy and capacity to read, write and understand English as the fundamental first language in Australia also needs to be taken into account.
Reports, recommendations and tests will form a basis given that people’s performance can change over time and be often unreliable in formal assessments. Observation and input from multiple perspectives and professional disciplines will build a useful profile.
Abilities and Capacities
The person’s capacities, abilities, prior knowledge and skills and even their desires and dreams need to be accounted for and determined. It is not just about disability and disadvantage. Questions that need to be considered and given due reference to the person being supported may include:
- What are the person’s current abilities?
- What are the person’s individual current and or future needs?
- What are the functional areas of concern?
- What are the other people doing that this person needs to be able to do, achieve and accomplish?
- What does the person need to be able to do that is difficult or impossible to accomplish independently?
Within the contexts of education and schooling, what daily educational tasks or activities is the student not able to do or participate in because of his or her disability need to be raised and identified. A team supporting the student or client with a disability needs to consider carefully what they want the person to be able to do and achieve over time, within the educational or training program. They also need to determine what the person is not able to do because of the identified disability, disadvantage or impairment.
Will inclusive technology of some kind enable the person to meet one or more goals? The team should answer this question keeping short-term as well as long-term goals in mind. The team could potentially consist of classroom or homeroom/welfare teachers, school support staff personnel, Student Services Coordinator, Educational Consultant, ICT Consultant, Inclusive Technology Consultant, IT technician, Learning Disability (LD) Specialists, Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, parents, guardian or advocate.
Areas to consider include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Levels of independence
- Cognitive, auditory and visual processing
- Written expression
- Note taking and recording
- Maths and numeracy
- Daily organization and planning
- Seeing and hearing
- Mobility, seating/positioning and ergonomics
Once the area of educational or training need(s) has been identified, the team should review what has been tried in the past to address the need of the student. This may include a variety of interventions achieved through strategies or modifications not typically considered inclusive technology. These may be no tech, low or mid tech in nature.
There may already have been previous mid to high-tech inclusive technology devices or software in place. In some instances, abandonment may have occurred due to poor initial research and decision making and choice of equipment, damage or poor maintenance of equipment, poor or untimely implementation, obsolescence, user’s refusal, lack of training, lack of IT and/or technical support or incompatibility issues.
After identifying the funding regimes, strategies, adaption or modifications and equipment, devices, Apps and software necessary to meet the educational or training needs of the person, the technology team determines if they are effective.
Issues that will require scrutiny and determination might include:
- Are the strategies, adaption/modifications, equipment, devices, Apps and software meeting the person’s specific need in the environments he or she needs to complete the task?
- Do the strategies, adaption/modifications, equipment, devices, Apps and software encourage the level of desired independence, allowing the person to remain in the least restrictive environment where he or she is able to receive appropriate educational services and training?
If the team agrees the specified educational needs are being met and the person’s programming is appropriate with the strategies, modifications, equipment, Apps software and/or devices in place to the level of independence desired there should be evidence to support the effectiveness and appropriateness of the interventions.
The evidence may be in the form of:
- Work samples
- Classroom and/or training exams and tests
- Formal internal or external testing
- Recorded observations
- Video and/or audio recording
- Any other form appropriate to the person
The use of successful interventions may be documented within the broader educational or work related or training reports. These would be clearly documented and stated within goal statements as components of the objective or as related services.
What was the technology solution set that was tried? If there was more than one, the team needs to deal with each technology separately.
- Determine and document the timeframe or time period that was tried
- Indicate if there were any breaks in service that may have affected the outcome or progress. E.g. was there a change in human resources, damage, repairs, holiday periods or other disruptions etc.
- Provide information and descriptions about how each component in the technology solution was used and indicate the initially anticipated outcome
- If there were specific procedures, devices or assigned responsibilities, these should be clearly indicated.
Actual outcomes or results should be documented. An indication of what actually worked and what did not work needs to be documented and recorded. Considerations of implications regarding further strategies or modifications or devices that should be considered to achieve the student’s goals must be discussed and explored. Information and/or data collected from this step should be used in considering alternative interventions, if required or deemed necessary.
It is helpful to be as specific as possible about what did and did not work and what may have been
- Procedurally ineffective
- Equipment or device-specific ineffective
- Software or App specific ineffective
- Individually ineffective.
Consideration is an Ongoing Process
Having assessed a person’s needs and attending to the recommendations and findings in reports and trialling the technology and implementing it, factors which may influence the process during or after inclusive technologies have been provided may include:
- A change in one or more environments
- Change in the person’s needs,
- Change in a person’ skills or expectations or work/training requirements
- New or updated technologies
It is important to remember that considering inclusive technology and evaluating its role in the educational or training program of a person is an ongoing process. While there may be a beginning, there could quite possibly be no end. As the person’s environments change, as the tasks required of the person change, and as abilities change the person’s needs will likely change as well. The process of consideration is required to be a part of every review. In best practice, the evaluation process will be ongoing, with those around the person continuing to check and deliberate as to whether that person’s needs are being adequately met.
The SETT Framework
Employing the SETT Framework process will be a definite advantage. There are six inter-related components to address when considering, selecting and using AT with people with disabilities. Always begin with the student or worker by documenting strengths and needs within the learning or work place environment(s).
In the SETT Framework, the student is the person who is the central focus of the educational process and for whom everyone involved in any part of the educational program is an advocate. It looks at all facets of the student’s educational life and includes every factor and need. The technology includes everything from no use of technology, through low to high tech devices, systems and software.
“Relying on outside experts rather than developing internal expertise with the IEP team and other teachers creates and inefficient system.” [G. Bowser, 2003]
Each individual has abilities that need to be recognised in the context of realising their potential in future pathways. By employing inclusive technologies, educators, trainers, therapists and other allied professionals can harness the prevailing best practices and provide opportunities for engagement and success.
The SETT Framework developed by Joy Zabala (2005) is an organisational instrument to help collaborative teams create student-centered, environmentally useful and tasks-focused tool systems that foster the educational success of students with disabilities. SETT is an acronym for Student, Environment, Task and Tools.
Key questions are asked in each area to in order to guide teams in gathering data and information to support the consideration and implementation of appropriate inclusive technologies. These questions provide a framework and not a protocol, as they guide the discussion and provide a vehicle for the team to collaborate and form a consensus on ‘where to from here’.
Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone, not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs. UDL is necessary as individuals bring a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning.
School, training centres and institutes of higher learning have employed sophisticated e-learning platforms, encourage and promote the use of mobile and portable devices, as well as Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 tools including virtual classrooms and collaborative online tools such as wikis, nings and blogs. People require meaningful and appropriate access to curriculum and training content. Everyone should be able to participate in learning and training programs and to be socially connected.
The convergence of these technologies with the principles of universally designed learning has the potential to provide environments where equity and diversity are celebrated. These places of learning must be inclusive of all students and trainees or workers. The challenge for people of all ages, as well as educators and trainers and facilitators is to take advantage of these mainstream and inclusive technologies to ensure successful learning and meaningful and sustainable participation.
Inclusive technologies are available and can provide so many different options and opportunities. The principles of universal design for learning include providing multiple ways that:
- information is presented
- understanding is expressed
- students are engaged
Support and technologies that allow for differentiated learning material need to be sourced and utilised so that every person can engage and succeed.
Determining the Solution
By combining commercial products, Apps, mobile devices, e-learning systems, Web 2.0 and 3.0 tools virtual online tools, devices as well as Freeware and Open Source software, together with any necessary input or output devices, a suite of tools can accommodate study, learning and research needs across curriculum, training and workplace settings.
People with disabilities can then cope with tasks according to their capabilities without undue restriction and impediment. Evidence of increased effort and success over time and demonstration skills and understandings can be measured and quantified. Rather than being excluded and alienated, these students, trainees and workers are included in purposeful pursuits in education and training and workplace environments.
Last Updated ( Monday, 14 May 2012 12:54 )