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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Assistive Technology and the Mobile Student Body

Good morning!  I'm Jeff N Marquis at the business desk and this weekend I'd like to start a new feature.  One that focuses on the problem that those using assistive technology faces in the world of rapidly evolving technology.  This article is very insightful and interesting and it makes very good reading.
I'm Jeff N. Marquis wishing you a great day and weekend.
Assistive Technology and the Mobile Student Body
By Ofer Chermesh
Laptop penetration and wireless connectivity, two major technological
phenomena of this past decade, could have dramatically affected the
penetration and adoption of assistive technology in educational institutes.
However, the conservative policies of software-based assistive technology
vendors have prevented this promise from being fulfilled.
Laptops have penetrated educational institutions; there is no question about
that. Laptop mobility is very important to students as they can easily carry
their computers around. Some educational institutes encourage their students
to purchase laptops by offering subsidized prices or easy payment terms.
Other colleges and universities have gone as far as to mandate laptop
ownership for all their students.
Wi-Fi technology enables wireless internet access to any computer/laptop
found in the range of the wireless network. It has become quite prevalent in
educational institutes. A September 2008 study, sponsored by the Wi-Fi
alliance, revealed the following facts:
. 90% of college students said that Wi-Fi access is essential to education
. 57% said that without Wi-Fi access, school would be a lot harder for them
. 60% said that a Wi-Fi network on campus indicates that a school cares
about its students
Many educational institutes offer their students software-based assistive
technology products. In many cases the institute reviews a set of such
products, and under the constraints of a limited budget, purchases a limited
number of licenses to be installed at the institute's assistive technology
computer center. In the days of the desktop technology, such an offer was
deemed effective, even forthcoming, but in the context of a mobile student
body, where many students own laptops and the educational institute is
connected in a wireless network, this fixed server model is a grand miss.
This model blocks assistive technology penetration instead of promoting it.
Several technical, licensing and commercial issues need to be resolved in
the learning assistive technology products to enable the mobile student body
to enjoy the benefits of a mobile study environment.
From a technical perspective online connectivity may dramatically reduce the
maintenance of an assistive software package. If online download is enabled,
then the IT Manager is not required to install the software package to each
student requesting the software. The student himself can easily connect to
the site of the Assistive Technology vendor, download the software, and
install it. If an automatic upgrade option is supported, then whenever there
a new software upgrade, the system automatically installs the latest
versions to online users. Automatic installations and upgrades is the only
effective way to manage widespread software installations.
From a commercial, licensing perspective, innovative licensing algorithms
need to be developed to adjust to this mobile world. There are currently
three leading software licenses models being offered today by software
assistive technology vendors:
. Fixed license model: The educational institute buys N fixed licenses. At
every single point of time, there can be only N installed computers.  .
Concurrent license model: The educational institute buys M concurrent
licenses. These licenses can be installed on as many computers as wanted,
but at a single point of time only M users can use this software package
. Site license: The educational institute pays for the (estimated) average
overall usage of the software. Alternatively, there may be a fixed site
license price. The fixed price usually reflects the maximum amount of
dollars that the software vendor believes it can receive from the institute.

All of these licensing models are attuned to well controlled environments,
where the number of computers is well known. However, they are incompatible
with a mobile student body environment. In such a mobile world, the basic
building blocks must change. Assistive technologies must become
network aware, servicing all students on the educational institute's
network. Vendors may offer their assistive technology services for free
within the school grounds. This may serve both social awareness feelings and
commercial interests. IT departments of educational institutes must be open
to accept these new networks and be aware of licensing models being driven
by new technological trends.
Assistive technology prevalence in an educational institute will attract new
students and directly improve the success of students requiring learning
assistive services. These students will be able to easily access learning
assistive technology services from anywhere, be it the classroom, cafeteria
or their campus room. They will easily gain confidence and independence as
their much needed assistive tools are available to them anytime and anywhere
within the school
About the Author
Ofer Chermesh is the founder of Ghotit. Ghotit develops innovative writing
assistant technology for people with dyslexia and ESL. Ghotit services are
developed with the vision of helping people with learning disabilities /
differences gain confidence in their writing. Ghotit offers
it services free to Educational Institutes' networks.


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