(North Canton, OH – June 26, 2012) E-readers translated into an extra measure of success when 36 Stark State College students were given iPads as part of a recent technology grant.
Students with a variety of disabilities, including learning and visual difficulties, were given the opportunity to use iPads as e-readers for their textbooks. The results were resoundingly positive: students said the iPad was easy to use, helpful with accessibility, useful for reading textbooks, increased frequency of textbook reading and convenient for bringing to classes. The students also were able to download educational apps on their own.
“Without a doubt, this (iPad) has been the most helpful piece of adaptive equipment I’ve ever used,” said Mike Youngman, who has been legally blind for most of his life.
The iPad allowed Youngman and other students with visual impairments to zoom in on text and change contrast for easier readability. “It’s hard for me to look at a regular textbook page,” said Richard Purnell, “but when I can zoom in on it, I have more focus on what I’m trying to read.”
The iPad’s VoiceOver feature, which reads text aloud, was ideal for students with low vision or reading disabilities, said Meredith Soduk, mentor/learning specialist with SSC’s Disability Support Services. Student William Hines, for instance, has struggled with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia, but the iPad’s VoiceOver made a difference in his concentration. When words “aren’t blurring into each other,” he said, “I no longer have to struggle. I no longer feel I need to give up.”
The devices, Soduk said, “free students from the constraints of many other forms of adaptive technology. Students can hang out on campus and listen to their textbooks with headphones, allowing them to read at their leisure just likeeveryone else.” Students borrow the iPad a semester at a time and areresponsible for damage or loss.
Soduk received training from Apple to be able to provide students with one-on-one training and continued support. “The individualized training was key to our students’ success because their needs are all so unique,” she said. Soduk encouraged students to personalize their iPad background and download both educational and recreational apps. “This model proved very effective,” she said. “The more the students were comfortable using their iPads, the more likely, it seemed, they would use them as reading tools. They became the experts in a sense; it was an amazing phenomenon to watch, and I felt I could see their confidence increase before my eyes as aresult of using the iPad.
Because the program – funded by a grant from the Ohio Board of Rehabilitation and the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission – was so successful, Apple asked Soduk to present Stark State’s results at several conferences. The circuit included community college summits in Chicago, Lansing and Columbus, with an encore presentation at Lorain County Community College. The collegeleaders, she said, not only were touched by the stories of the SSC students but also were unaware of the iPad’s accessibility features and enthusiastic about implementing a similar program at their institution.
“With technology,” Soduk said, “sometimes people get so caught up with ‘how it works’ that they forget to ask ‘who is it working for?’ Stark State’s piece showed we are in many ways changing lives.”
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