Redemption Technology

My mother is proud of her cooking style, something she calls redemption cooking. She takes lot of different fully cooked meals that she has previously made and she concocts some master recipe out of them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it is always interesting and you could never really call the results “leftovers.” Because she creates something new with them, she transforms what these foods were into what they can be.

I hadn’t thought about “technology leftovers” until the other day. In a conversation around assistive technologies, I heard the phrase “technology leftovers” a couple of times referring to the castoff computers that have been in the building for over 5 years.

As it turns out, many times special-education and the high needs classrooms do not get the first crack at school technology purchasing. A lot of times they have to take what they can get, the technological leftovers. These teachers are so resourceful, though, they redeem the leftovers much like my mother with her cooking and they make sure their students have the access and the tools they need in order to learn.

In their “redemption” of this technology, they cater to the very specific needs of individual students. In my conversation the leader of the assistive technology services department, Sue Loeffler, I heard stories of what it means to accommodate all children within the learning environment. She spoke about her goal of giving teachers who work with special needs students the right tools for the right purpose. And, I was impressed with her ability to take leftovers and attach new peripherals like joysticks instead of mice or eye tracking devices for students who have difficulty with arm movement.

I think it says something about just how resourceful people with specific needs can be when they have to be. But, we would rather they not always have to “redeem the leftovers.” We should advocate for them getting new ingredients to cook with as well. It is in this overall resourcefulness that they understand both the realistic aspect of school technology funding and the ideal. Sue, and the people she works with, advocate for their kids, promoting special use for special students.

This is essential. It is essential that we meet these kids where they are. It is essential that we match the student need to the right tool. And I believe we need more people like Sue who can do redemption technology. We need more people who are able to see the true capacity within the tools and within the students and can bring the best out of both. We have to be able to leverage the tools that we have and look into our classrooms and see what is possible.

When we do this, we are advocating for all of the students in our classrooms, and not just the “mainstream” ones. Then we can measure just how well we redeem our leftovers. We can not only look at the technology usage and appropriation, but how well teachers are leveraging  the technology for specific use. When teachers advocate for their classrooms and redeem the technology within it, they truly are making their classrooms inclusive.

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