How Technology Levels the Playing Field

Mark Coppin

Mark Coppin is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

One of the driving forces in my life and something that I am very passionate about is accessibility. To me, it means more than accessibility; it is accessing abilities. It is finding the tools that allow diverse learners the opportunity to access their education, their world, and their dreams. Today’s technologies are opening up a world of possibilities for students with diverse learning needs. Technology is leveling the playing field and providing students with opportunities that were difficult or impossible to provide only a few years ago. It allows us to look beyond the disability and focus on the ability. I am honored to be selected as a White House Champion of Change as it will provide me with a broader platform to spread the word on how providing equal opportunities for all learners can transform lives.

I have been the Director of Assistive Technology at the Anne Carlsen Center for over 25 years. The Anne Carlsen Center is a private non-profit center located in North Dakota that serves persons of all abilities throughout the state and region. I started out as a teacher at the center, and early on I realized the power of assistive technologies in providing opportunities for students with special needs. Throughout my professional career, I have looked for various ways to provide opportunities for people to realize their full potential. I helped host a summer technology camp during which kids from across the state who wouldn’t typically be accepted into a traditional camp are provided with access to all types of assistive technologies. Once they are able to utilize the devices, we provide them with opportunities to explore music, art, photography, and videography. We also give them the chance to experience typical camping activities such as campfires, pontoon rides, and swimming in a lake.

As an Apple Distinguished Educator of 2009, I speak to professionals throughout the world about the impact technology has to help people access their abilities, transform lives, and provide limitless opportunities. I believe that we can create meaningful change by educating people on inclusive design and working with software and hardware developers to include universal design features in their products. This will create an environment and culture that provides equal access for all learners. By creating learning environments where people of all abilities have equal access to tools, no matter what their ability, we can maximize learning and provide opportunities for students to realize their full potential. The motto at the Anne Carlsen Center is: “Nurturing Abilities and Changing Lives.” This is the approach that I take with everything I do.

I believe that technology can help level the playing field and provide opportunities for all persons. When everyone is given the same opportunity this can change attitudes, perceptions, and culture. We are putting tools into the hands of our students and allowing them to become, not only productive participants in our future workforce, but also mentors, future leaders, and role models. They will be able to change attitudes and affect change. Every day I am inspired by individuals who have overcome barriers; today’s technologies allow them more opportunities to do so.

Mark Coppin is the Director of Assistive Technology at the Anne Carlsen Center, a non-profit center serving persons with disabilities located in Jamestown, ND. He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator.

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