Information and Communication Technology has a strong impact on education, enabling a wider reach and promoting literacy in ways that could never be imagined. In fact, technology is proving to be a powerful driving force in the life of those with learning disabilities and difficulties and has introduced innovation in both teaching and learning.
Perhaps the best example is that of the illustrious personality, Stephen Hawking, astrophysicist who is completely paralysed as a result of a group of progressive neurological disorders that include the debilitating condition ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). He cannot speak or move, yet, with the use of ICT devices, has made phenomenal contribution to the field of physics, and continues to do so.
Effective ICT includes the following criteria:
- Novelty in the form of fresh approaches to explore opportunities using open source software and finding ways to leverage existing technologies used by learners
- Creativity in using computer programs in unique ways to engage learners
- Ability to involve learners in the creation process rather than just receivers of knowledge.
However, this is possible only when current limitations are dealt with.
Limitations in ICT use
To a large extent, users of ICT have to develop the confidence to experiment with learners to make it work effectively. Also, the organisation imparting the learning is not fully equipped to guide them in the use of these technologies or provide them with the support they need to maintain the various systems.Even though there is a lot of progress in the development of assistive technology, some limitations continue to exist in the following areas:
- Teacher training for those who offer specialized instruction to students with learning disabilities
- A lack of flexibility in teaching methods
- Constraints in terms of availability of resources
- Limited ICT support structure
- Apathy on the part of the authorities in relation to their involvement in the delivery of learning, policy formation and implementation
In addition to the above there is the ever-present financial constraint.
Overcoming these limitations to enhance the impact of ICT
As a first step a strong impetus is required in improving the networking infrastructure to enable learners to interact online. The standard software in use must be adapted to the needs of these learners, supporting the needs of different types of learners and increasing accessibility. ICT can be integrated at a strategic as well as the operational level and used to monitor learners’ progress.
ICT implies the use of digital technology bringing new hope to those with learning disabilities. It is a powerful tool that makes learning resources accessible to them and allows them to gain knowledge without geographical restraints. The impact of ICT for specialized learning is far reaching as they can put their learning to practice outside the classroom.