Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Enabling Technologies

After listening to Gary Bishop's speech this past Monday, there was one thing that I was left concerned about - funding for enabling technologies.

I feel that all of these technologies that he showed us have the possibility and capability to help many people with disabilities and learning disorders. Even the most basic technological piece of equipment can change the life of someone who needs it to complete and/or understand everyday tasks. These technologies have been found to be extremely helpful in the classroom and the workplace. They are engaging, educational and can help with body and mind stimulation that can be invaluable for future success.

Gary Bishop made the point that in the classroom, students with learning disabilities need one on one attention. The problem is that there is usually only one or two teachers in the classroom at a time. Students suffer from lack of involvement while the teacher is helping another student. If we were able to receive more funding, not only for special education teachers, but for technologies in the classroom, the students would not have to sit there doing practically nothing while they wait to be helped/taught/clarified on a particular topic.

Gary said that these classrooms were like being trapped in a prison because there is nothing to do for the students, but I would go as far as to say that its more like a metaphor for being trapped in their own body. There are so many things that we can do to help people that need it. These technologies can help them come out of their shell and get rid of the restraints that they had in the past - whether physical or mental.

With the low/lowering cost of technology now, I am surprised to find that there is such a lack of funding for enabling technologies. Around 80 percent of organizations that need the support of enabling technologies cannot obtain funding to get it. This funding not only helps in the development and research of enabling technologies, but prevents people that need just a little help and support to learn and develop basic skills from doing so.

What are the solutions to this problem? Should the government get directly involved in the funding issue, or should we rely on Universities and non-profits to help and develop? What other benefits do you see from the help of enabling technologies?


  1. The biggest problem I see concerning the "cost" of enabling technologies does not have to do with the technology, itself, but instead with the availability of teachers. The biggest problem is kids doing nothing in the classroom while waiting to get their special, one-on-one attention and instruction, but this has nothing to do with the cost of technology. I think the real issue here is the lack of good, trained teachers to help implement enabling technology. This is certainly not an issue only pertaining to enabling technologies and students suffering from not being able to participate on equal footing, but more of a national problem of the need for teachers. Funding will always be a problem, especially in this economy, but the root of the problem may not necessarily be with the cost of the technology (although that certainly contributes to it as well).

  2. I understand what you are saying, but there is still a lack of the amount/availability of technology that is available to classrooms as well as teachers.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed Gary Bishop lecture on enabling technologies. One of the first aspects about him that struck me was that he genuinely cares about finding ways to improve the quality of life for disabled people, especially children. I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up being severely disabled and these technologies appear to aid in learning as well as provide some entertainment. I also agree that the university is a great place for developing these enabling technologies, and hopefully the students that are creating new ways for disabled children to learn and play will continue to explore the possibilities later in life.
    One thing I thought was unfortunate was the fact that (at least from what I know) most young adults prefer investing their money in technologies that can entertain themselves. Just look at the number of students who have iPods. Imagine if Apple had created a technology similar to the iPod but was designed for the disabled. I know that is not likely in a capitalist society, but it still is food for thought.
    Another aspect of his lecture that concerned me was that these technologies will never replace specialized teachers. Education in America has been a huge issue for a long time and teachers still do not get paid enough for what they do, especially those that work with the severely disabled. If a family with a disabled child cannot afford to send him or her to a specialized school, then it’s likely that he or she will be sent to a public school. What if that school is extremely small and does not have any sort of enabling technologies? And even if they do that child will most likely be playing one or two games without much personal time with the teacher.
    I am not trying to be pessimistic because I feel that what Gary Bishop has done is great, I just think that enabling technologies are not a panacea. All of the programs that Gary Bishop discussed in his lecture can and have helped children learn more and have more fun. However I think that with the technology available today, there is always room for improvement and expansion in the field of enabling technologies. What do you think?

  4. I agree that the funding for development of these technologies is the main problem they are facing. Dr. Bishop seemed to make it clear that these technologies were quite expensive to create which would therefore make them expensive to purchase as well. Which is where the problem arises, b/c there needs to be a way to lower to production/creation costs of these applications. It seems that there is great potential with these technologies, especially since it incorporates a PC into the childrens' lives (which would not likely occur w/o friendly applications such as those he presented).

    You mention the government becoming involved and just shelling out the cash for research of these technologies. Well, I don't think that would be the best solution considering the lingering debt we are already currently working in, so obviously the $$ needs to come from elsewhere. It needs to come from advocacy groups of these disabled, and parent and teacher networks that see the positive effects that the technologies have on the disabled children. Hopefully there will be more advances in lowering the cost of research and development so that these disabled kids can have a little more "normal" day in school and learn to have an educational fun time playing on the computer like other kids their age...

  5. Regarding the costs of the technologies, I am convinced that the subsidization of research funding by the government will ultimately prove to be a valuable investment, as the production and consumer costs will drop as a result. These technologies must exist in an improved and more affordable fashion, so there does not seem to be much of an option. No disabled person should be deprived of these technologies due to lack of research funding.