Utah organizations seek to aid students with technology

Utah organizations seek to aid students with technology

(Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services)


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Estimated read time: 8-9 minutes

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UTAH — The Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) and other organizations are working to make sure that all students in the state are able to use technology to succeed in school.

Approximately 10 percent of the K-12 student population in Utah has an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to assist with disabilities or other learning difficulties.

These students are supported by 28 educator teams across the state that help parents, teachers and others at the local level provide the best learning experience for the students. Part of that support is ensuring that students can utilize technology.

That work is coordinated across the state by two trained professionals at UCAT: Julia Pearce and Kent Remund.

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

"We need to think about individual student learning when we look at technology in schools,” Pearce said.

As the state’s digital teaching and learning program is implemented across the state, there will be more technology in the classroom. Pearce notes that adjusting for students' needs has been “a learning curve for some purchasing departments in schools" since different students need different things.

Remund shared his experience with a student who struggled using the Chromebook he was given in class, yet excelled when given a device with a touchscreen interface.

“He hated to punch the keys,” Remund said. “Finding that individual’s point of access takes trying different devices along the way.”

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

The 28 Utah Assistive Technology Teams (UATT) around the state help with that process. They work on the ground level with the students and utilize SETT, a framework that helps determine the best tools for that individual student.

The UATT and UCAT teams utilize both high and low technology to help students, and operate a lending library out of their office that school districts can take advantage of. Some of these low tech devices include keyguards, pencil grips and even just laminated papers with picture symbols.

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

High tech is where companies have focused, however. In recent years there has been a growth in assistive technology tools.

One such tool that has been implemented district-wide in Kanab is Google’s Read&Write. This Chrome extension can read text back, use images to help with reading, and assist with writing through predictive text.

Technology has also aided students with their communication skills.

"Communication is its own really big discussion when we’re looking at having technology for every student…communication is so customized and what works for one student doesn’t work for another student,” Pearce said.

Software like Cough Drop, Prologuo2go and Alexicom use images to help students speak.

Companies have built-in, basic features for accessibility, but, according to Remund and Pearce, it can be “hit and miss” when it comes to parents' and educators' knowledge of the device.

"The device is only half of the equation, the other half is understanding the device and having service and training to fully understand what the technology can do for a particular disability,” said UCAT's director, Mike Wollenzien.

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

As more technology is implemented in classrooms, this need for understanding and training becomes more important, and evaluating technology each year is part of this work.

"We have lots of options when working with a student, but it takes a good team and asking the right questions," Pearce said. "As technology changes, so do the students."


Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

About the Author: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is a the CEO founder of Digital Respons-Ability. She is a TEDx speaker and instructor at Salt Lake Community College and regularly trains on subjects such as information science, STEAM, communication and digital literacy. In addition, she is the co-creator of Wizarding Dayz coming up at the South Towne Expo Center Feb. 24-25, 2017.

UTAH — The Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) and other organizations are working to make sure that all students in the state are able to use technology to succeed in school.

Approximately 10 percent of the K-12 student population in Utah has an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to assist with disabilities or other learning difficulties.

These students are supported by 28 educator teams across the state that help parents, teachers and others at the local level provide the best learning experience for the students. Part of that support is ensuring that students can utilize technology.

That work is coordinated across the state by two trained professionals at UCAT: Julia Pearce and Kent Remund.

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

"We need to think about individual student learning when we look at technology in schools,” Pearce said.

As the state’s digital teaching and learning program is implemented across the state, there will be more technology in the classroom. Pearce notes that adjusting for students' needs has been “a learning curve for some purchasing departments in schools" since different students need different things.

Remund shared his experience with a student who struggled using the Chromebook he was given in class, yet excelled when given a device with a touchscreen interface.

“He hated to punch the keys,” Remund said. “Finding that individual’s point of access takes trying different devices along the way.”

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

The 28 Utah Assistive Technology Teams (UATT) around the state help with that process. They work on the ground level with the students and utilize SETT, a framework that helps determine the best tools for that individual student.

The UATT and UCAT teams utilize both high and low technology to help students, and operate a lending library out of their office that school districts can take advantage of. Some of these low tech devices include keyguards, pencil grips and even just laminated papers with picture symbols.

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

High tech is where companies have focused, however. In recent years there has been a growth in assistive technology tools.

One such tool that has been implemented district-wide in Kanab is Google’s Read&Write. This Chrome extension can read text back, use images to help with reading, and assist with writing through predictive text.

Technology has also aided students with their communication skills.

"Communication is its own really big discussion when we’re looking at having technology for every student…communication is so customized and what works for one student doesn’t work for another student,” Pearce said.

Software like Cough Drop, Prologuo2go and Alexicom use images to help students speak.

Companies have built-in, basic features for accessibility, but, according to Remund and Pearce, it can be “hit and miss” when it comes to parents' and educators' knowledge of the device.

"The device is only half of the equation, the other half is understanding the device and having service and training to fully understand what the technology can do for a particular disability,” said UCAT's director, Mike Wollenzien.

Jordan Gibby, Department of Workforce Services

As more technology is implemented in classrooms, this need for understanding and training becomes more important, and evaluating technology each year is part of this work.

"We have lots of options when working with a student, but it takes a good team and asking the right questions," Pearce said. "As technology changes, so do the students."


![Carrie Rogers-Whitehead](http://img.ksl.com/slc/2585/258536/25853698\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead -----------------------------------------

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is a the CEO founder of Digital Respons-Ability. She is a TEDx speaker and instructor at Salt Lake Community College and regularly trains on subjects such as information science, STEAM, communication and digital literacy. In addition, she is the co-creator of Wizarding Dayz coming up at the South Towne Expo Center Feb. 24-25, 2017.

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