Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why Won't the School Give my Child an iPad!?!?!

One of the most common requests I hear these days is "Billy needs an iPad".  I am confident every person could "benefit" from an iPad or laptop, but the question I ask as an Assistive Technology Professional is "does the student need one to access his curriculum, and why?"  Before we offer a solution, we need to know what the question is!

When a parent or teacher says "an iPad will make Billy more independent",  I don't know what Billy's school issues are.  As an Assistive Technology Professional my goal is to be goal driven.  So I ask questions such as: "what is it Billy is struggling to do in school?"... "What academic tasks do we want him to be able to achieve?"... and "What has been tried already?"  First the problems need to be identified.  Then the team can create a goal. The goal will then drive the solution.

Goal Driven or showy?
The newest, latest, greatest technology may not be the best intervention.  Horrible to say I know, because I love technology!  But the best intervention for Billy may be a teaching modality using traditional tools (paper and pencil). If a student can learn to write without requiring special technology, he is less restricted.  For example: if Billy is dependent on a specific word prediction program to write, when he arrives at a library and the computers don't have the program he uses, he may be in trouble.  If however, if he can learn to type on a standard word processor, using strategies such as spell check or grammar check, he will more likely find computers equipped with the same or similar software.  Technology can make the impossible possible, but we need to exhaust simpler solutions first.  

Layers of technology can become problematic.  Every piece of software or hardware a student becomes dependent on can act as a solution, but the same solution can also be a layer of restriction.  For example, back to the word prediction software, on the plus side: such software can help a writer generate text, with proper spelling, and reduce the amount of typing needed. However, word prediction programs often inhibit the acquisition of touch-typing skills, and are not readily available on community computers.  In addition, the added cognitive task of switching back-and-forth from a word window to the writing product can slow some students down.  Sometimes less is more.

At the end of your student's academic career, our hope is that he progressed to the best of his ability and that he is prepared for his next adventure.  An iPad may or may not have been a part of the equation. If so, hopefully this was determined through careful analysis of his academic barriers, the creation of achievable and measurable goals, and the least restrictive interventions.  

I welcome your thoughts!


  1. very interesting angle - the ways that dependence on too much technology acts to restrict ultimate independence. that's - this helps me think about my son's needs more carefully.

    1. Thanks ekee! Technology may be the key for your son, but it's good to consider all options - after you've clearly defined the dilemma! Good luck.


  2. For me it is more a question of what apps are available that are proven to be effective or at least research based in their development? Many see the iPad as a saviour for students with a disability but i have seen few apps that are designed well enough to be of any greater use than the computer is already.

    1. SCWoody, I agree with you that there needs to be sound clinical or educational reasoning behind using an iPad, or else it simply becomes a gimmick. My colleague Ruth Morgan does a terrific job using Angry Birds in a Speech Therapy activity... This is an app I would have said has no therapeutic relevancy, I only wish I'd have thought of this myself! Ruth makes a great lesson with this seemingly inane game. She states: "I've decided to join the Angry Birds fad, and came up with my very own printable book to target the prepositions OVER and BETWEEN." Check it out at: