Back to School: Personalizing the PC so Students Can See, Hear, and Learn More Comfortably

LaDeana Huyler, group communications manager for accessibility, Microsoft

Going back to school means preparing for a new school year full of possibilities. While not on every traditional back-to-school checklist, making sure student technology is prepped and personalized for students is worth remembering.

Whether you are a parent, educator, or both – you understand the challenge of supporting students with differing learning styles. And, if a student has trouble seeing, hearing, or concentrating, personalizing the PC can make it easier for that student to see, hear, and use it more comfortably and effectively.

To help you ensure that your child or student’s PC is personalized to meet their learning needs, we have created a series of how-to articles, each with a video, to show students how to personalize their PCs to make them easier to see, hear, and use.

· Easier to See. Traditionally, students with vision issues sit in the front of the classroom so they can see the chalkboard. Now that students are using PCs to learn, it is worth remembering to adjust PCs to ensure that students can easily read their computer screens. Learn 5 ways to make a PC easier for students to see.

· Easier to Hear. If a child you know is having difficulty hearing you or their classmates speaking, they may also be having trouble hearing their PC. Discover 4 ways to make a PC easier for students to hear.

· Easier to Control the Mouse. To be a kid is to be in constant motion. So when kids are asked to sit quietly at a computer and use a mouse, is it any wonder that some of them have a hard time controlling a handheld device designed for adults? Imagine what it’s like for a child, whose hand is too small for the mouse and whose fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination are still developing, to navigate a PC with a mouse. Here are 4 ways to help students control the mouse.

· Easier to Concentrate. Just like having a desk piled with papers, a messy computer desktop screen can make it difficult to find files and concentrate. You can help students concentrate on learning—especially critical for students who are easily distracted —by creating a simple, uncluttered PC learning environment. And, by reducing the number of screen elements vying for a student’s attention. See 6 ways to adjust the PC to make it easier for students to concentrate.

· Staying Organized. It can be challenging to take good notes and stay organized--especially for students with learning difficulties. Often students report that they don’t take notes, because it’s just too hard. One advantage all note-takers have in the digital age is the opportunity to use tools, such as Microsoft OneNote, that make taking and organizing notes a lot easier. OneNote has many features that help students take notes faster and in different ways, and stay organized. It also helps with literacy challenges such as spelling and grammar. Learn 5 ways Microsoft OneNote can help students with dyslexia stay organized.

For teachers and parents

Consider establishing a Personalization Day when students are introduced to PCs for the year, both at home and at school. Personalization helps students become familiar with their PCs and to make them their own.

· Encourage all students to personalize their PC. Use the personalization tips provided above to personalize the PC to make it easier to see, hear, and use according to a student’s personal learning style and abilities. For students who have varying abilities or learning preferences, this can help educators identify those who need accessibility features without singling them out. Involve all students in selecting personalization options on the PC and take note of how they interact with technology., For example if a student gets particularly close to the screen to see, he or she may benefit from increasing text or objects on screen or other vision options.

· Check online safety settings. The beginning of the school year is a good time to check the online safety settings of the PCs your students will be using. Team up with students to explore online safely, using a mix of guidance and monitoring. Seize the opportunity while students are young to help them establish good digital habits and skills they’ll need to deal with situations, information, and people online. Then, as they demonstrate readiness, help them use new services and tools. See Help protect kids online: 4 things you can do.

Create a network profile. Have students create a personal network profile so their settings are available the next time they log into that PC, or onto a networked PC (if applicable).

More resources for accessibility in education

If a student has a disability or learning challenges, additional accessibility features and products may be necessary to enable that student to use a PC. If you believe a student has an accessibility need, here are some recommended next steps:

1. Visit Microsoft’s Accessibility in the Classroom website for additional information.

2. Download Accessibility: A Guide for Educators to learn about accessibility solutions for students with vision, hearing, and learning disabilities.

3. Find an accessibility center or consultant in your school or community.

LaDeana Huyler, group communications manager for accessibility, Microsoft. Huyler is passionate about increasing awareness about the power of accessibility, especially for children with learning difficulties and disabilities. She co-authored Accessibility: A Guide for Educators and, for more than ten years, has served as editor-in-chief of the Microsoft Accessibility website.

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