Photograph of Joy ZabalaTools

At last we arrive at where most people want to begin! However, I think that it is quite likely that we arrive here as people whose thoughts about tools have changed from what they were at the beginning! What a difference to begin seeking tools with a clear idea of who is going to use them, where, and for what!

Remember that Tools are not just things! They are both devices and services! They are no-tech strategies as well as low-tech and high-tech devices and supports. They are SYSTEMS designed to include all that is needed for a student to move forward on tasks in customary environments. More often than we would like to think - even when ongoing training has been provided - for want of a simple extension cord, a laptop computer fails to meet expectations! In a well-thought-out system, the extension cord would have been included!

What no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech options should be considered when developing a system for a student with these needs and abilities doing these tasks in these environments? To me, this is the critical question of the SETT Framework. What we have been doing to this point is just finding out what we need to know in order to begin to seek answers to this question!

It's rather funny, but if you'll recall the "hardware store story" from the SETT article, you'll see that what we have to be led to do as we consider assistive technology, comes quite naturally for ALL of us in a common hardware store! Ironic, isn't it! We have known it all along!

What strategies might be used to invite increased student performance? Without inviting strategies that invite a student to see himself as being capable and able in using the tools for purposes important to HIM, tools have little positive effect unless just HAVING the tools is some sort of achievement or status symbol! I have many such tools around me as I sit here and work... unfortunately, there is little they are doing to maintain or improve my performance, as they were not acquired with that in mind. I just WANTED them. There is nothing wrong with that, if that's how I want to spend my money, but it has little if anything to do with what is REQUIRED for me to have in order to make progress in my work (MY identified tasks!).

How might these tools be tried out with the student in the customary environments in which they will be used? Whenever possible, before tools are purchased, they should be tried out by the student in customary environments while doing naturally occurring tasks. In order to be useful, the tool system must be student-centered, task focused and environmentally useful.

There are increasingly varied resources for trying out tools. some might be: 1) rental programs through manufacturer; 2) loans from a district's tool library; 3) short-term loans from centralized sources such as Regional Service Centers, Intermediate Units, or any number of private sources.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998.

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.