It’s common in schools to see students in the computer lab, working on DanceMat typing, MathPlayground, and Phonics Games Online. It’s also common to refer to these as assistive technologys in the classroom, which is wrong; these are examples of educational technology .

      Assistive Technology is not simply anything kids use in school. Assistive technology is defined as technology that circumvents and compensates for specific difficulties in learning.

For example, a student who struggles with letter formation can use text to speech to participate in written expression without having to write. The printing skills are bypassed by assistive technology.

In contrast, Education Technology provides remediation and practice. Any technology that is used to help teach a skill is considered an education technology. Education technology is very common in schools, and part of good teaching practice. Using an overhead projector, playing math games, and practicing typing are all forms of education technology. If the technology is providing a learning opportunity, it’s an education technology, and if it’s providing access to a learning opportunity, it’s an assistive technology. Educational technology often works well alongside assistive technology, as often using an assistive tech, such as a text to speech program (an AT), requires digital worksheets (an ET) to be useful.

The difference may seem arbitrary, but it’s extremely important because the type of technology also sets what sorts of outcomes should be expected. With education technology, learning is the goal, and if it’s working properly, the student should eventually grow out of it once they’ve mastered the skills it teaches. With assistive technology, compensation is the goal, and if it’s working properly, the student will not grow out of it, but rather learn to use it in more and more parts of their life through to adulthood. The common misconception that education technology and assistive technology are the same has led to the belief that like education technology, students will grow out of their assistive technology.

Think of assistive technology like a wheelchair for a quadriplegic person, or a replacement hip; it’s a piece of support intended to stay with them and compensate for a weakness that isn’t going to improve on its own. Educational technology is more like rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy after coming back from an injury, something that, once the skills are in place will be left behind. Keeping the two separate helps maintain realistic goals.


Some examples of education technology…

-Promethean boards

-A tablet with all the write type

-A pencil grip (read more about low vs high tech here)


Some examples of assistive technology…

-A personal day planner

-A tablet with optical character recognition

-A hearing aid

This article was originally written by Francis Wall for Reading Rockets 

Assistive  vs  Educational  Technology