This week I was given an assignment to explore a special learning need. I have found this assignment somewhat frustrating on two fronts.
First of all, I was expected to research a need that I feel has relevance to my teaching context. However, in my situation I do not encounter students with identified special needs. My impression is that this is largely because these students are either identified but streamed away from university or not identified and therefore don’t receive support. In the latter case it is probably common that they underachieve at earlier stages of education and subsequently don’t try to attend university. However, given the severe demographic pressures on enrollment at Japanese universities, I do think that some students with learning disorders are being admitted. However, they seem to be unidentified, and not provided with any specific institutional support. I did think that my research could possibly help me be at least aware of who those learners might be, and since I teach a lot of reading I decided to focus on reading disorders.
Secondly, an element of this assignment is to experiment with assistive technology to help with this special need. While I was able to identify through web searching quite a number of possibilities, and was already familiar with some text-to-speech applications as well as audio-books, getting hands on experience with some of the more promising technologies was not possible because they are commercial products which I don’t have the funds to purchase.With an understanding of those frustrations, please have a look at this short paper for more information on this topic.
Below you can also see a short presentation of what happened when I was looking for technology to experiment with.