Supporting Student Learning
Information Literacy and Assistive Technology Devices
May 3, 2015
What is Information Literacy?
- Determine the extent of information needed;
- Access the needed information effectively and efficiently;
- Evaluate information and its sources critically;
- Incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base and;
- Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose (American Library Association, 1989).
Included in these simple steps are opportunities for students to develop specific skills like learning to synthesize and evaluate complex thoughts and ideas. Students are exposed to an abundance of information on a daily basis. As a result, they must develop information literacy skills in order to function in society. As educators, we have a responsibility to use our resources to ensure that all of our students become information literate, and in turn, prepare them for success in today's information rich environments.
Information Literacy and students with physical and learning disabilities
For students with learning disabilities (LD), technology can be an assistive tool replacing an ability that is either missing or impaired. It provides the support needed to accomplish a task. For example, word processing assists students with LD in improving writing. Computers offer other support to motivate reluctant writers to write by facilitating motor actions, providing spelling assistance, helping with revising and editing, and producing a document that is neat and legible.
- AT for students with LD is defined as any device, piece of equipment or system that helps bypass, work around or compensate for an individual's specific learning deficits. AT does not cure or eliminate learning difficulties, but it can help students reach their potential because by allowing them to capitalize on strengths and bypass areas of difficulty. For example, a student who struggles with reading but who has good listening skills might benefit from listening to audio books.
- In general, AT compensates for a student's skills deficits or area(s) of disability. In fact, research has shown that AT can improve certain skill deficits. For example such literacy skill as reading and spelling.
AT can increase a child's self-reliance and sense of independence. Students who struggle in school are often overly dependent on parents, siblings, friends and teachers for help with assignments. By using AT, students can experience success while working independently.
Image source: Montgomery County Public Schools, High Incidence Accessible Technology http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/uploadedImages/departments/hiat-tech/hp-resources(1).jpg.
Assistive technology can address many types of learning difficulties. A student who has difficulty writing can compose a school report by dictating it and having it converted to text by special software. A child who struggles with math can use a hand-held calculator to keep score while playing a game with a friend. There are AT tools to help students who struggle with the following:
Listening-Certain AT tools can help students who have difficulty processing and remembering spoken language. Such devices can be used in various settings (e.g., a class lesson, participating in group work, or observing a peer's presentation).
Organization and memory-AT tools can help a person plan, organize, and keep track of his calendar, schedule, task list, contact information, and miscellaneous notes. These tools allow him to manage, store, and retrieve such information with the help of special software and hand-held devices.
Reading-There is a wide range of AT tools available to help individuals who struggle with reading. While each type of tool works a little differently, all of these tools help by presenting text as speech. These tools help facilitate decoding, reading fluency, and comprehension.
- Writing-There is a wide range of AT tools available to help students who struggle with writing. Some of these tools help students circumvent the actual physical task of writing, while others facilitate proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, word usage, and organization. (Stanberry & Raskind, 2009)
Types of assistive technology devices
- Enlarged print-text magnified via copy machine
- Magnifier bars
- To do lists
- Hard copies of notes provided by the instructor or other student
- Outlines, double spaced, with keywords provided by the teacher or note taker
- Printed materials double-spaced and with larger print
- Tape recorders
- Calculators with voice synthesizer
- Recorded books with accompanying books
- Sentence template cards to isolate one line at a time
- Word walls or words commonly misspelled on cards
- Print dictionaries
- Laptop computer for note taking
- Electronic spelling masters or dictionary with voice output
- Online reference material with text to speech capability
- Word prediction software
- Outline reading websites and subscription software
- Reading and scanning software
- Voice recognition software
- Electronic reading pens to read single word
- Books on CD/Electronic book
- Leveled text paired with text readers
- Text converted using virtual printer
- Writing software that cues misspellings
- Automatic correction features in word processors
- Spell checking tools on computers
- Electronic text to speech dictionaries
*Please note: the lists are not exhaustive; they simply serve as an example of what technology is available to help facilitate information literacy skills instruction.
Evaluating Assistive Technology Devices
- Determine the individual Student's abilities and needs.
- Determine the Environment in which the student needs help.
- Determine if the Tasks are difficult for the student to accomplish.
- Identify the Tools that may be useful for accomplishing the identified task.
American Library Association. (1989). Presidential committee on information literacy: Final report. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/publications/whitepapers/presidential.
Erickson, K.A., Hatch, P., & Clendon, S. (2010). Literacy, assistive technology, and students with significant disabilities. Focus on Exceptional Children, 42(5), 1-16.
King-Sears, M.E., Swanson, C., & Mainzer, L. (2011). Technology and literacy for
adolescents with disabilities. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 54(8), 569-578.
Maryland State Department of Education. (October 2010). School library media state curriculum prek-12 [PDF]. Retrieved from
Montgomery County Public Schools. (2015). High Incidence Accessible Technology. Accessed at: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/hiat-tech/
Stanberry, K. & Raskin, M.H. (2009). Assistive technology for kids with learning disabilities: An overview. WETA Public Broadcasting. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education. (2004). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Accessed April 20, 2015 http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cstatute%2CI%2CA%2C602%2C1%2C