ERIC Identifier: ED426517
Publication Date: 1998-08-00
Author: Warger, Cynthia
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Integrating Assistive Technology into the Standard Curriculum.
ERIC/OSEP Digest E568.
Assistive technology (AT) is defined as any item, piece of equipment, or
product, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customized,
that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of
individuals with disabilities. (P.L. 101-407, The Technology Related Assistance
Act of 1988).
The 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) emphasizes the importance of technology and the need to share
cutting-edge information about advances in the field. The law requires that
assistive technology devices and services be considered for all children
identified as having an exceptional education need. These amendments mark a
significant shift in how educators view assistive technology which previously
had been viewed almost exclusively within a rehabilitative or remediative
context. Now, within the context of planning individualized education plans
(IEP), technology is being considered as a viable tool for expanding access to
the general education curriculum. However, there is still much work to be done
to ensure that IEP teams consider the maximum benefits of technology use.
CONSIDERING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY IN THE IEP
requirements in IDEA '97 to consider assistive technology devices and services
for all students with disabilities creates a massive task for school districts.
Already, special educators across the country are reporting an increased number
of referrals for children with mild disabilities in which the issue is access to
the curriculum and productivity once in the curriculum. School-based
professionals are finding that the "fix-it" approach taken with traditional
assistive technology applications is not appropriate for these new types of
technology referrals. More often than not, instructional issues are at the heart
of these referrals--they require educators to start with the curriculum and then
ask how tools might assist students in achieving the outcomes.
Thus, school districts are searching for tools that they can use to ensure
that IEP teams meet the intent and the spirit of the law. To assist school
districts with this goal, Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed have developed the
Education TECH Point system which educators can use as a tool to develop
effective assistive technology delivery systems. The TECH Point system offers
educators a strategy for identifying specific points in the planning process
where AT should be considered. The TECH Points are:
* Initial referral question.
* Evaluation questions.
* Extended assessment questions.
* Plan development questions.
* Implementation questions.
* Periodic review questions.
At each point, questions are posed which reflect issues that must be
addressed. The TECH Point structure provides a way to effectively organize and
monitor AT utilization while enabling programs to tailor activities to match
each student's needs.
STATE LEVEL SUPPORT FOR AT
States can support local
education agencies in meeting these new requirements to consider assistive
technology in each child's IEP. To ensure that technology benefits children with
disabilities, states need to implement policies and practices that support its
effective use. Louis Danielson, Director of the Division of Research to Practice
at OSEP, suggests that state directors of special education put into place a
clear policy on assistive technology that includes:
* A statement of desired AT outcomes.
* Policies for delivering AT services.
* Staff development and technical assistance policies.
* Verification that the technology plan includes research-based practices.
* Mechanisms for interdisciplinary involvement.
* Policies for purchasing, using, and managing equipment.
* Strategies for obtaining adequate funding.
* Strategies for communicating these policies.
PROMOTING ACCESS TO THE CURRICULUM: PROMISING PRACTICES
a result of the new law, technology is increasingly being recommended to help
students with cognitive disabilities achieve in a challenging curriculum.
Technology that supports students in accessing the curriculum does not need to
be expensive or complicated to make a difference in learning. Both low tech and
high tech applications have been used successfully to ensure students' success
in the general education curriculum. What do we know about the positive benefits
of using technology in academic subject areas to help children with disabilities
achieve to high standards? The following research-based applications have been
selected to show how technology is being integrated into curriculum and
instruction to support a wide range of student abilities.
ENHANCING LITERACY GOALS
Michigan State University
researcher Carol Sue Englert has developed a web-based curriculum for elementary
students with mild disabilities that enhances literacy learning, particularly
writing. The web site called TELE-Web (which stands for Technology-Enhanced
Learning Environments on the Web) serves as a literacy development environment.
The web site provides tools that help students develop performance abilities in
reading and writing, in addition to independent learning skills.
TELE-Web is set up in the classroom as four central environments--writing
room, reading room, library, and publishing room. In each environment, students
are able to receive cognitive and social support. The following example shows
how TELE-Web was integrated into a fourth grade unit on castles:
* TELE-Writing Room. A KWL (what I know, want to know, have learned about)
activity on castles; retelling stories in one's own words; creating cognitive
webs play writing; story writing.
* TELE-Reading Room. Castle spelling words; castle chat.
* TELE-Library. Internet search on castles; castle word-sort; email to people
knowledgeable about castles in Poland and Scotland.
* TELE-Publishing Room. Stories for editing and comments; journal of castle
Preliminary research suggests that with TELE-Web children are more motivated
to write, and that they are writing longer and more descriptive stories.
IMPROVING ACCESS TO THE SCIENCE CURRICULUM
Judy Zorfass at
the Education Development Center, Inc., in Massachusetts is finding that
technology tools can be integrated into challenging science curriculum and
instruction to ensure access for students with disabilities. Zorfass' Project
ASSIST (All Students in Supported Inquiry-Based Science with Technology) brings
together teachers, science specialists, special educators, and technology
specialists on a regular basis to plan, act, and reflect upon student learning
in science, in inclusive classrooms, supported by technology.
To support educators in talking about children's science learning, Zorfass
and her colleagues created an action reflection process. The team cycles and
then re-cycles through these phases:
* Plan activities. During the planning phase the classroom teacher and the
specialists develop a lesson containing clear science learning goals. The lesson
is related to the science standards, includes modifications for students with
disabilities, and is supported by technology where appropriate.
* Implement instruction. The teacher implements the lesson, however, some of
the team members also participate. Their role is to closely observe and gather
data on children's responses to the lesson, as well as assist with instruction
* Reflect on progress. The reflection phase occurs soon after the lesson.
Each team member shares the data he or she has gathered regarding student
learning. The teacher and the specialists describe, interpret, and reflect on
the students' work as it relates to the criteria that have been set. For more
information about Project ASSIST, check out Zorfass's web site at:
IMPROVING CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT IN MATHEMATICS
of the University of Puget Sound in Washington has been studying how technology
can be integrated into mathematical problem-solving activities to provide access
to students with cognitive disabilities.
Unlike traditional math story problem lessons where students read a problem
in text and are expected to calculate answers, Woodward uses computer-based
spreadsheet programs in conjunction with real-life problems. Spreadsheets are an
excellent tool because they model or provide visual representations of the
problem, crunch the calculations--which is a tedious turn-off for many
youngsters, but especially true for students with disabilities--and thereby
focus the students' attention on understanding the mathematical operations in a
real-life context. Spreadsheets free students, who heretofore had difficulty
with math, to keep asking questions, to continue analyzing the visual
representations of the data, and eventually to use their higher level thinking
skills to formulate conclusions.
Woodward has successfully field tested numerous lessons using his
research-based approach. For a look at selected lessons, check out his web site
ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER IN IMPLEMENTING TECHNOLOGY
equipment where instruction and learning are taking place.
* Technology needs to be in the classroom and accessible to the child.
* Select low tech applications whenever possible.
* Integrate the use of technology into lessons in a purposeful and meaningful
* Have the same equipment used in the classroom available in the child's home
to promote continuity of learning, if possible.
* Offer training and technical support to classroom teachers initially.
* When the technology is available in the home, provide training to family
* View the initial fiscal and human resources as an investment that the child
will continue to benefit from in subsequent years.
* Don't reinvent the wheel each year--when possible use the technology that
is already in place.
The potential of assistive technology to improve
and enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities is virtually unlimited.
Now, with the help of current Federal laws, assistive technology will provide
more children with the opportunity to maximize their learning in a challenging
Behrmann, M. (January 1995). Assistive technology
for students with mild disabilities. ERIC Digest E529.
Readings on the use of technology for individuals with disabilities. ERIC
Mini-Bib EB16. (July 1996).
Resources on the use of technology for individuals with disabilities. ERIC
Mini-Bib EB17. (July 1996).
Woodward, J. (in press). Redoing the numbers: Using technology to enhance
mathematical literacy in secondary classrooms. TEACHING Exceptional Children.
Woodward, J., & Baxter, J. (1997). The effects of an innovative approach
to mathematics on academically low achieving students in inclusive settings.
Exceptional Children, 63(3), 373-388.
Zorfass, J. (1998). Successful Science for Every Student: How Technology
Helps (video-based professional development package). Newton, MA: Education
Development Center, Inc.