Technology in School

The Intersection of Assistive Technology (AT), Educational Technology (ET or Ed Tech), and Information Technology (IT)

Assistive Technology (AT): Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. (Source: IDEA 2004)

Educational Technology (ET or Ed Tech): The study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. (Source: Association for Educational Communications & Technology [AECT])

Information Technology (IT): The technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data. (Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Watch this video to learn more about these technologies and how they intersect and influence each other.

How does AT fit within Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

Many schools are adopting the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, which guides how learning environments are set up to be accessible and challenging for all students. This framework aims to change the environment rather than changing the learner by intentionally providing a variety of resources and options to students. If your classroom makes these tools available to all students, how does this impact the need for AT for some students?

Engaging in UDL practices does not eliminate the need for AT. The tools and strategies are available to all students, but when a student needs a specific tool or software in order to be successful, the AT is required to exist within the environment.

For more information on UDL, refer to the Universal Design for Learning guidelines or visit the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) website at

How AT Fits in 1:1 and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Environments

School districts carry the financial responsibility of providing enough devices, wifi, and tech support for their staff and students, which can become expensive when technology is constantly updating.

In some 1:1 schools, each student is provided with a device (e.g., computer or tablet). In this setup, all learners work on their devices at the same time, which provides flexibility in how they access the curriculum. It also encourages teachers to vary how they provide content.

Many students own or have access to their own smartphone, tablet, and/or computer. In a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom, students use their personal devices to access and take part in digital learning.

Even in a 1:1 or BYOD environment, some students will need AT to access and participate in the curriculum. Watch this video to learn more about 1:1 and BYOD classrooms and how AT fits for students who need it.

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