Technology can often be seen as a distraction in the classroom, a toy to divert students away from education.
While for some that may be true, technology can also be used as an assistive tool for others.
Robyn Young, second-year psychology student at St. Thomas University, is doing just that by using an electronic pen that not only takes notes, but also records lectures and allows playback of certain parts of the recording by touching the connected notepad.
“It kind of gives you that sense of independence and the ability of knowing I can do this myself. I don’t have to wait for someone else to send me my notes. You’re not in class, thinking, ‘Is my note-taker going to get this down?’”
Young has a type of dyslexia that is auditory based, which makes it harder for her to process things she hears. She says the pen allows her to listen to it again.
“It gives me a chance to really pay attention and not have to worry about missing something because I didn’t get it down. It’s in my pen, so I can go back and listen to it later.”
Before Young purchased the Livescribe smartpen, she used a note-taker from the student accessibility services at STU.
Rick Sharpe is an advisor for student accessibility services. Sharpe says more students are using their services as they start identifying as having a disability and realize they can attend university, despite it.
“The help is in place now, the tools are in place. We can give them an even playing field where they have the opportunity, just like the person sitting next to them, to fail or pass that class.”
SAS has been its own separate unit since 2005. That’s when Marina Nedashkivska was brought in as coordinator.
She hopes that students will discover new ways to use technology through their services.
“The goal is that students wouldn’t be afraid to use it [technology] and that they will find the assistive technology changes how they study and how they think.”
They have technology for blind or deaf students, students with lesser hearing or visual impairments, as well as those with mental health issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or dyslexia.
Some of this technology includes the same pen Young uses, a computer program that scans textbooks and reads it out loud, a program that increases the font size on a screen and dictating technology for students to write essays without needing to type.
They also organize note-takers, alternate exam rooms and other accommodations for those in need.
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