Types of Technology in Education
There are three main categories of technology that might be used in the classroom to support student learning.
- Mainstream technology
- Instructional technology
- Assistive technology
Mainstream Technology – Mainstream technology can be described as consumer products that can be purchased by typical consumers, but are also used in schools to support instruction. Example of mainstream technology products include: laptops , iPads, mp3 players, digital cameras and Smart phones.
Instructional Technology (also referred to as educational technology) refers to technology that facilitates student attainment of learning outcomes through multimedia, online tools, and emerging technologies. For example, almost all BCSD classrooms are equipped with projectors, interactive white boards (i.e. SMART Board) and document cameras and students have access to computers (i.e. Chromebooks) to access online materials and create materials that demonstrate learning.
Assistive technology is a broad field that focuses on facilitating physical or cognitive access to “some thing” for people with disabilities. AT devices range from low-tech battery operated devices to high tech complex computers. Assistive technology solutions help students to participate, communicate and learn in classrooms. AT is customizable to suit the needs of the user. For examples of the Assistive Technology in use in the Bedford Central School District, please visit the Special Educaton Technology page.
Differences - The difference between assistive technology and instructional technology software programs is instructional technology includes content that addresses specific areas of the curriculum and is used to remediate or review concepts introduced in the classroom. Assistive technology software programs may come with sample files with content but the content is fully customizable and allows authoring to generate activities or files that address the specific needs of the student. Assistive technology software programs often address physical access needs for the user and have built in alternative physical access options.
Typically, AT is dedicated for a single task. For example, a speech generating device can be used as a dedicated communication device. However, in recent years, with the development of faster devices capable of multiple functions, AT devices are now frequently used for various tasks. For example, students using speech generating devices for spoken communication are also able to use their devices for taking notes or writing reports, surfing the internet, writing email, and so on.
In recent years, more and more AT developers are developing software and hardware to work seamlessly with mainstream technologies like laptops, iPads, Chromebooks and other portable tablet devices. Mainstream technology developers are also incorporating features that have accessibility in mind which have been popular with more typical users. There remains the need for specialized dedicated devices for users who have complex needs but the trend is a blending of AT and mainstream technologies to the benefit of all users.
Adapted from UDLResource.ca
The video below, with Dr. Therese Willkomm, ATP discusses some of the differences between Assistive Technology and Instructional Technology as well as the benefits of using technology to create a Universal Design for Learning Environment.