We are living in a technical era. It is an era of accelerated technological progress characterised by new innovations whose rapid application and diffusion typically cause an abrupt change in society, education being no exception. As teachers in this technical era, we must embrace the current emerging technology, accepting its sophisticated nature, and be able to use more avenues for innovative online teaching. The online environment is becoming more conducive to teaching and learning due to our devices becoming more connected and multimedia capable, and the shift from the web being a static content environment where end users are the recipients of information to one where they are active content creators.

The use of emerging technology in ODFL Communications

For some instructors, integrating technology into their teaching can be an overwhelming task. Although technology is constantly changing, it has the ability to:

  • manipulate streams of meaningless data.
  • repeat itself endlessly.
  • help make learning more efficient by controlling large amounts of data quickly.
  • make learning effective by providing a wealth of resources and allowing students choices.
  • operate in environments where humans cannot.
  • connect people who could not otherwise connect cheaply or easily.
  • provide means to improve students’ acquisition of basic skills and content knowledge.
  • motivate students.
  • work quickly and objectively.
  • strengthen and complement teachers’ preferred instructional approaches.
  • help to change the vision of a classroom as a room with four walls that depends solely on the teacher for information.

Using technology for instructional goals

The illustration below shows a few ways in which we can integrate new, emerging technology in our ODFL ecosystem for communicating our instructional goals.

Use of Assistive Technology in ODFL

When planning to integrate technology in your teaching, one vital aspect to consider is the use of assistive technology. Your proactive approach in incorporating assistive technology will make your content accessible to all your learners by default including those who:

  • have a learning disability
  • are in a location where they cannot play or hear audio
  • are not native English speakers and need written-word formats to support understanding
  • have a physical disability
  • are blind or have low vision
  • have poor contrast vision
  • are deaf or hard of hearing
  • are colour blind and cannot differentiate between certain colours
  • are using a device with monochrome display
  • have a form of cognitive disability

Assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customised, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of someone with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted or the replacement of such a device.

The benefits of access to technology for students with disabilities include:

  • being able to bridge ideas
  • sequential practice to master concepts step by step
  • control over their environment
  • timely feedback
  • access to multimodal (visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic) and multi-intelligence materials

Teachers need to understand why and how to use assistive technologies to help students effectively. For example, access is an important issue for students who are visually impaired or physically challenged. Simple solutions to access problems range from making the text in the web browser bigger so that sight-impaired students can see it to providing a special large mouse that needs only a light touch to work. Here is a list of few assistive technology ideas and their functions.

Assistive Technologies and their Functions



Sample Uses


Accessibility testers

Test whether a website is as accessible as possible

For all teacher- and student-made web pages

Bobby software (Watchfire)

Closed- captioned TV

Shows the TV audio in text

For students who are hearing-impaired

Every TV sold in the U.S. since 1993 must have closed- captioning capability

Touch screen

Students touch the monitor screen to give instructions to the computer, e.g., to click on links

Can be used instead of a mouse for students who cannot control a mouse well. Touch screens are often used with young children

Other “mouse emulators” include special keyboards, laser or infrared pointers, keyboard overlays, trackballs, and a variety of devices that can be tailored to students’ needs

Screen magnifiers and screen readers

To make screen text bigger and/or to have the text read aloud

Helps sight-impaired users

Usually part of the operating system on computers; there are also free magnifiers that can be downloaded from internet sites

Signing avatars

Animated characters who use sign language

For students who use sign language

TheSigning Science Dictionary

Voice recognition software

Turns oral language into text on a computer screen

For students who cannot physically enter data other ways

Dragon Naturally Speaking and IBM’s ViaVoice

Universally designed software

Features include spoken voice, visual highlighting, and document or page navigation

Makes software accessible to readers and students with disabilities and enables them to read the same books as their peers

eReader (CAST; www.cast.org/our-work/learning-tools.html) and Thinking Reader software (Tom Snyder Productions/Scholastic)

Different tools have different accessibility standards that often evolve as technology changes. The best thing you can do is search for accessibility guidelines for the tool you wish to use. Also keep in mind the tools that your learners might use, such as screen readers. A screen reader is an assistive device that attempts to convey what is on screen to people with various sight and reading issues. Different screen reading devices have different abilities to convey what is on the screen, so try to keep tools like that in mind when designing course materials.

Here are a few places to start further learning about accessibility:

Media for communication in the online environment

The use of technology in enabling communication in the online teaching and learning context classifies it as media. Media can be in the form of broadcast or communicative; single or rich; and synchronous or asynchronous. The role it plays in online teaching essentially depends on its function in helping teachers and learners connect and collaborate in an online environment. Media also plays an important role in providing learners with a sense of community, thus minimising isolation, and making the learning experience more meaningful. It helps in bonding and sharing information, while allowing learners to be heard and understood. Learning Management System (LMS) messaging function, email, text and phone calls are some accessible avenues that can be utilised in communicating with online learners. Social media is also becoming increasingly popular in ODFL communication as a valuable pedagogical medium. For example, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other sites are structured to encourage collaborative discussion and creative thinking beyond the confines of the classroom.

Watch the video below for insights into how some teachers have managed to utilise social media to communicate and connect their students to the course content and the world.

By Carleton University

Once you have gained knowledge on the media and technological tools that are available to you, you can begin to plan your ODFL communication. Your plan will begin with analysing the features of the different media and looking at the pros and cons of using each. This will assist you in selecting suitable tools for your teaching context.