Assistive Technology for Learning (ATL) is defined as the devices, media and services used by students with physical, sensory, cognitive, speech, learning or behavioural disabilities to actively engage in learning and to achieve their individual learning goals.
Assistive technology for learning is different from educational or instructional technology. Assistive technology for learning can be distinguished from other types of technology used with students in the classroom. Educational technology is generally used by all students. ATL is more specialized and often more complex technology that allows access to learning for students who have barriers due to their disabilities. However, there is some overlap. ATL can have benefits as an instructional tool for all students. For example, text-to-speech software can benefit all students who are learning to write and keyboard. Likewise, students with special education needs may benefit from educational technology such as reading instruction software programs, but they may also need assistive technology for learning, such as a specialized mouse or keyboard, to access these programs. Without this assistive technology, they would be unable to participate independently in this educational activity.
“For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible …”
– National Council on Disability
Learning Technology Policy Framework
The Learning and Technology Policy Framework (2013) is a major step towards realizing one of the four policy shifts identified by Inspiring Education. Policy Shift 4: Technology to Support the Creation and Sharing of Knowledge is critical to achieving the vision of supporting students to become engaged thinkers and ethical citizens, with an entrepreneurial spirit.
When digital technology first emerged as a classroom resource, it was primarily a tool for teachers to present information and to communicate with students and parents. Policy Shift 4 describes the need to move towards classrooms in which students, themselves, are using technology to support their learning.
As Inspiring Education describes it, “Ultimately, the power of technology should be harnessed to support innovation and discovery, not simply to aid teaching. We need to engage learners to use these new technologies as designers and creators of knowledge.”
The Learning and Technology Policy Framework re-enforces Inspiring Education’s emphasis on putting the student at the centre of decision-making. Some classrooms have already made great strides in adopting a student-centred learning philosophy, while others require more assistance. The updated policy framework provides guidance and rationale for making decisions that support this shift.
For more information on the Learning Technology Policy Framework, please access a copy at: