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What is assistive technology (AT)?

Young student using Mountbatten braillerAssistive technologies are tools (devices, software, or computer equipment) that can help students with special needs to achieve their educational goals. These tools may be as simple as a wireless mouse or as complex as a refreshable braille display. Many of the technology tools that once were considered ‘assistive’ are now used to support learning for all students. For example, Kurzweil 3000 began as a tool for students with low vision but is now used by students all over as a reading and writing support tool. The term ‘assistive technology’ is now used more when referring to very specific piece of equipment, software or app that is needed by individual students to participate and communicate in the classroom setting.

How do BC schools provide assistive technology for students with special or diverse needs?

BC school districts provide a wide range of educational programs and support for students with special or diverse needs. Most students who require technology as part of their individual education plans (IEPs) receive this support within their own district. Districts may request additional assistive technology services for school teams working with students who have more complex needs through the annual SET-BC District Request for Service process.

What is SET-BC?

SET-BC is a BC Ministry of Education program that works in partnership with all BC school districts and Group I and II Independent Schools. SET-BC provides district and school teams with professional development and training on the use of technology and also loans technology tools to school teams for use in the classroom and with specific students. Our consultants provide consultation, training, and resources on the educational use of these technologies.

How do districts determine which students will be provided additional technology support through SET-BC?

Student sitting at table using laptopEach school district has its own process for determining which school teams will be provided with SET-BC services to help support a specific student with complex needs. The district Student Support Services team receives applications from those school teams that are supporting students with complex needs. If the team feels assistive technology is required for their student, the team will submit an application to the district screening committee – this committee then determines which teams will be supported with district resources and which will require SET-BC support.

In the past, SET-BC was limited, by its Ministry of Education mandate, to providing service for teams working with identified students in specific funding categories. Districts can now make their own determination of which students have complex needs and which teams of their teams require SET-BC services. While services are equitably distributed to districts across the province, the numbers of requests that can be supported are limited by the available funding for that school year.

Who do I ask about accessing assistive technology for my child?

You can contact your child’s school team to discuss his or her educational program and need for assistive technology. SET-BC services, if they are to be provided to the team, are determined by late spring or very early fall for the coming school year. The earlier you discuss your child’s needs with the school team, the better. This will give the team time to access district resources or to apply to the district team for SET-BC services.

What if my child has a technology assessment by a health or community agency?

Assessments or reports on your child’s strengths and needs can be very helpful when identifying appropriate technology solutions. They should be discussed with the school team to help the team access the most suitable technology-based resources, whether through the district or SET-BC.

What types of technology loans does SET-BC provide for students?

Group of students posing around student using AAC deviceSET-BC loans technology to BC school districts for use with all students in a classroom setting or for use with a specific student in a classroom setting. Technology loans for general classroom use are referred to as Tier 2 classroom-based solutions. These are typically desktop, laptop, or tablet computing devices with learning support software or apps. Technology loans for specific students with more complex needs are referred to as Tier 3 student-based solutions. These are typically speech generating devices, braille and low vision devices, and alternate physical access tools (like switches). For any computing type of device loaned, the school district provides the appropriate educational, productivity and virus protection software and also arranges access to printers, school networks and the internet as required.

How will my child learn how to use the technology loaned from SET-BC?

School teams can take part in a wide variety of SET-BC facilitated workshops and presentations. Team members learn technology skills and strategies and acquire resources that will help the team support their student’s use of technology in the classroom. Students learn how to use their technology as part of their ongoing educational program, with instruction and support from school team members.

SET-BC also provides online access to training and resources through our website. Our site contains useful audio presentations, software demonstrations, student videos, and tutorials as well as collections of adapted curricular resources.

Can my child take the SET-BC loaned technology home?

SET-BC loans its technology to BC school districts. Therefore district policies on appropriate technology use apply to SET-BC loans. District and school administrators make decisions about whether or not SET-BC loaned technology can be taken and used at home or out in the community. Parents interested in supporting the use of the technology in the home setting should discuss the possibility with their child’s school team.

Who provides technical support for SET-BC technologies if they need repair?

School teams who need technical support or repair for equipment on loan from SET-BC can contact the SET-BC Support Desk at 1-866-738-3375 or 604-269-2222. Teams can also access technical support through email to support@setbc.org. It’s important to note that if a piece of SET-BC loaned technology is being used in the home setting and requires repair, parents will need to contact the school team to coordinate the repair request. Parents calling the SET-BC Support Desk will be redirected to the school team as we will only ship technology to a district or school site during the school year.