Assistive Technology for Students with Special Needs (PSYC 476)

A brand-new AU psychology course, Assistive Technology for Students with Special Needs (PSYC 476), just opened two weeks ago! This course is a must for anyone interested in learning about technology available for individuals with disabilities. Assistive technology is defined as “equipment that improves the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities”; this course will empower you with knowledge about assistive technology, and give you concrete knowledge about maximizing available technology to aid those with special needs. It is a 3-credit course in the Social Sciences, with no pre-requisites. It is divided into 4 main sections, each of which explores a unique topic related to assistive technology.

The first part consists of 5 units introducing you to the basic concepts in assistive technology. Not only will you become familiar with current issues related to assistive technology, but you will also learn how to assess various technologies for their usefulness to disabled people using 2 types of assessment: SETT (Student, Environment, Tasks, Tools) and WATI (Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative). Other units in the first part of PSYC 476 include learning about working with families of disabled individuals, in addition to developing “technology plans.”

PSYC 476’s second part explores the assistive technology that can be used for students with disabilities. This includes not only discussing technology for those with reading disabilities, but also for students with writing, manipulation, and math disabilities.

The third part which consists of 4 units, discusses in detail various types of disabilities and the assistive technology available to complement these. Not only will you explore the needs of students with learning disabilities, but also you will have the opportunity to discuss the needs of other disabled individuals including communication needs, as well as physical disabilities.

PSYC 476 concludes its final part with several in-depth units on recent technological advances and how those with disabilities can use these to their advantage. For instance, you will discuss computer access, which “refers to a group of devices that allow students with disabilities to operate computers, who would normally not be able to do so in a standard way.” These include alternatives for mouse and keyboard (including touch screens), as well as other aid devices. You will also focus on internet options, as well as special requirements for the very young.

Your assessment in PSYC 476 consists of 4 items. Twenty-two percent of the final course mark results from participation in online discussions with peers, monitored by tutors. These discussions are easily accessible through PSYC 476’s webpage. Two essay-based reports total 48% of the final mark: the first, worth 22%, consists of a review of assistive technology, and the second, worth 26%, summarizes your personal strengths. Lastly, the remaining 30% of the course mark is derived from a 15-page course project that enables students to transform their recently acquired assistive technology knowledge into the practical by discussing “a case where assistive technology could support a child with learning difficulties.”

In addition to the above assessment Assistive Technology for Students with Special Needs also offers a Digital Reading Room with articles for students to peruse, video clips related to the subject, discussion forums and online discussions, and an online assignment drop-box!

For more information on Assistive Technology for Students with Special Needs (PSYC 476), visit the course syllabus at: http://www.athabascau.ca/html/syllabi/pysc/psyc476.htm. The course website can also be visited at: http://psych.athabascau.ca/html/Psych476

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