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AV Goes Accessible

(Image credit: iStock)

While software systems and accessible and assistive tech often focuses on specific programs to help special needs students, the world of AV is making learning inclusive through innovative uses of existing features that benefit all students.

Leveling the Viewing Field

Not only do new tech features even the playing field when it comes to students being able to view and enjoy class materials, they can create a new learning space when used in out-of-the-box ways. One benefit of short throw or ultra short throw projectors like the Casio LampFree Laser/LED is the ability to ceiling mount the tech. When viewed on a wall or whiteboard, the educator can remain at the front of the class to ensure students are following the material, without distracting shadows marring the image. Expanded input/output and included WiFi adaptor allows educators to share materials without the need for students to leave their desks.

Reimagining the focus from the wall onto a table allows students with mobility, vision and attention issues to enjoy the lesson with their peers directly in their own workspace. Add an interactive projector to the mix during a geography or history lesson and you’ve given them the world, literally at their fingertips. The tech’s ability to project onto anything means other benefits. It eliminates the need for an additional special whiteboard that would eat up classroom space and resources. The ceiling mounted projector displayed on a tabletop and ideal for children in wheelchairs and those with other physical disabilities, letting teachers avoid disruptive and upsetting transitions to a computer room.

Projectable books, like those from Reading A to Z, can be viewed on the table or workspace and dissected. This allows group work for students of varying levels and abilities; while some circle nouns, others can underline sentences, or choose which type of writing is displayed (tall tale, nonfiction, cultural legend).  Subjects and pronouns and adjectives can be identified, or the book can simply be enjoyed as a story.

This Panel Votes “Yay”

Jeff Terry, Chief Information Officer at Roanoke County Public Schools, feels very fortunate for a supportive school board that replaced their aging tech with new Promethean ActivPanels with ActivConnect and mobile stands for flexibility. The tech also keeps the classroom inclusive. Special needs students who had issues with writing on paper use the panel to visualize and learn to form letters, then transfer that muscle memory back to the pencil and paper.

“There is so much you can do with the panels,” says Terry. “With Connect they become an android device with access to endless instructional apps, but on a 75 inch panel. We had one student physically unable to use the previous board technology, but can now work with touchscreen. These are cases you don’t see every day, but our goal is to give all students every opportunity that others have, and we have definitely achieved that.”

Special Projectors for Special Students

Brooke Turk was impressed by the impact on her autistic students when she began using the Epson BrightLink Interactive Projector in January. “It definitely allows me to see what they’re capable of,” says Turk, who teaches special ed in Beach Park School District 3 in Illinois. “The keyboard gives them a reason to write, because it’s technology. I’ve gotten a greater feel for their abilities, because they are willing to work hard for this incentive.”

Turk has seen heightened levels of excitement and engagement, and through the system, one largely nonverbal student has even started to talk more and interact. “We’ve done a lot with PowerPoint, sorting site words, sharing, taking turns—which is huge. They have to sit and wait and pay attention to what the others are doing.”