It’s time to “pour it on thick” as Dr. Cassandra Williams of Louisiana State University Shreveport put it, with regards to supporting our pre-service teachers in using iPads as an accessibility tool in the class. She points out that we know how to use iPads as rewards and for breaks, and we know how to use them for games in the classroom. What her goal is with her pre-service teachers is to teach them how to turn them into accessibility tools to enhance their learning and provide access to the grade-level curriculum to all students.
Dr. Williams points out that though her focus is on students with disabilities and students from historically marginalized groups, the accessibility features of the iPad are beneficial for all students. She suggests that iPads in the classroom can provide students with access to Kindle Unlimited and Audible Unlimited so that they are able to download books they want to read. Because of the digital format of the book, students are able to either read the text on their own or use Audible’s text-to-speech function to listen to it.
By providing students with the same text in print and audio, you are able to overcome barriers to learning for so many. She says the true beauty is the relationships that are formed because everyone is able to access the same book. Students who are gifted and students who are struggling readers can now have conversations about the same books. But the assistive technology features of the iPad go beyond just text-to-speech. Dr. Williams highlights that the iPad allows the reader to interact with the text. By simply clicking on a word, the device will provide you with a definition, examples of how it is used, the entomology, and will even pronounce it for you, a great tool for all learners in the classroom.
Dr. Williams suggests two resources for more information on various apps that can be used to support students with disabilities, students from historically marginalized groups, or all students with diverse learning needs. One is the Understood website that highlights various assistive technologies built into the iPad. The other is Apple App Store’s education section, where you can find apps that help turn your iPad into a powerful teaching assistant.
The kitchen warms up as Dr. Williams pulls out the ingredients for her peach dump cake. Why peach dump cake? Cooking hasn’t always been easy for her, Dr. Williams explains; but dump cakes make cooking accessible for her. She continues to explain that opening a can is like opening the syllabus. What do we want to “dump” on our students? As an assistant professor of pre-service teachers, her goal is to set them up for success in the classroom. She says that we must prepare 21st-century teachers for 21st-century learners and “dump” all the resources that assistive technology provides onto them based on their needs.
As an aside, she mentions that classrooms would benefit from having an Alexa. Many individuals use Alexa in their homes. The technology has just as much value in the classroom: it helps you meet timing needs and plays music. It truly is a great asset. For more information on using Alexa as an educational tool, be sure to check out the Cizzle by Dr. Richard Carter, where he discusses Alexa skills designed to help parents and caregivers work with struggling learners.
Dr. Williams’ analogy of dump cakes and teaching pre-service teachers continues as she compares butter to the students in a classroom. We have to analyze the situation. If the butter is the students, we have to get through the barrier of the powdered cake mix to make the dump cake work, just like helping our students overcome the barriers to their learning.
She concludes her Cizzle by stating that we need to make knowledge and information accessible, and we have assistive technology available to do just that. Higher education faculty members can “dump” all the technology and assistive technology onto pre-service teachers so that they, in turn, can pour it onto students with and without disabilities based on their needs. This has the potential to put students in the position to be successful.
Be sure to check out the Cizzle with Dr. Cassandra Williams and rate her by visiting the CIDDL website. For other resources integrating technology and the UDL framework, be sure to stay up-to-date with the CIDDL resources and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!