Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cooperation between Special Educators and Regular Education Technology Coordinators is Vital!

In many school districts, there is a disconnect between special education departments, responsible for overseeing assistive technology, and the educational technology and IT support departments, within the domain of regular education. Since most students who receive special education and related services receive most of their instruction in regular education classes, a high level of collaboration, communication, and coordination between regular education and special education is essential.

These issues are discussed in detail in an article written by Michelle R. Davis, in Education Week's Digital Directions: Technology Cooperation Vital in Special Education

"New software, advanced technology, and computerized devices can help special education students talk to their teachers, write out their thoughts and feelings, and understand a printed page. But schools are finding that many of the high-tech devices can’t open those doors for students without direct and ongoing assistance from information-technology specialists."

Some thoughts:

With the movement towards technology integration in regular education classrooms that supports Universal Design for Learning, RTI (Response to Intervention), and "21st Century Schools", the need for professional development related to technology is fundamental. Continued professional development that focuses on skills related to collaboration, communication, and data-driven decision making is also important.

With new technologies and applications come additional questions that might not have been previously anticipated. Solutions vary between classrooms, schools, districts, regions, and states, as evidence by the lively discussions and information shared online at Classroom 2.0. and information available on websites sites such as Edutopia, CAST, CITEd, and NCTCI.

There are many questions that need to be asked, now, and in anticipation of future technology innovations.

The questions we ask, and the answers we receive, are influenced by many factors, such as our personal level of technological knowledge and expertise, the "technology IQ" of key decision-makers within our school districts, state departments of education, and influential university researchers, and support from our schools receive from our respective communities.\

How do we prepare ourselves for new technologies?

For example, there has been an increase in the number of classrooms that have interactive whiteboards. In the future, teachers might find themselves figuring out how to create co-operative group lessons for use on interactive tables, such as Microsoft's
Surface or the TouchTable. These tables are WiFi and BlueTooth enabled, so they can interact with mobile and handheld devices. They can support applications that track student interaction and progress, and most likely can support activities that are consistent with the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

How do we measure the effectiveness of educational practices and interventions that involve technology?

Do the data systems in place, or planned for the near future, support and integrate all of the tasks required to plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate evidence-based education and prevention/intervention "best practices"?

  • Some school districts still rely on DOS-based student data management systems, or use systems that do not allow for much flexibility.
How do we track educational materials? Software? Hardware? Assistive technology devices and applications?

Some educational software programs generate a vast amount of data. How is this data integrated electronically in a way that is meaningful to all "stakeholders"?

What is the quality of the data? Who has access to this data?
Is the database management system in place useful and easy-to-use?

How is this data shared between regular education and special education departments, for those students who require additional specialized support?

Who is responsible for ensuring the privacy and security of data obtained during progress monitoring for students who are involved in the RTI process? What do school leaders know about trends towards "educational data mining"?

What are the responsibilities of the local school district regarding technology integration, implementation, staff development, and evaluation, and what are the responsibilities of the universities and state departments of education?

How do we share information about technology grant opportunities? How do we learn and share "what works" - within and beyond our own school districts? How do we ensure that everyone is on board?

Short List of Resources

(I've posted about most of these resources in the past. For additional information, do a "search" on this blog, as well as on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.)

Classroom 2.0 is a social network for educators using collaborative technologies, with an related Wiki for sharing resources and strategies. Members can also join smaller groups, according to their interests. For example, there is a Classroom 2.0 group of educators who discuss how technology supports inclusion.

Edutopia is an organization funded by the George Lucas Foundation
"We publish the stories of innovative teaching and learning through a variety of media -- a magazine, e-newsletters, DVDs, books, and this Web site. Here, you'll find detailed articles, in-depth case studies, research summaries, short documentary segments, expert interviews, and links to hundreds of relevant resources. You'll also be able to participate as a member of an online community of people actively working to reinvent schools for the twenty-first century."

"The National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) advances learning opportunities for all students, with a special focus on individuals with disabilities. Funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education, NCTI offers technical guidance to facilitate growth and sustainability of assistive and learning tools by fostering innovative technology solutions."

(Resources for Universal Design for Learning)

Center for Implementing Technology In Education
CITEd Online WebTour

Tool for finding assistive and learning technology products for students with special needs.

Data Quality Campaign:
The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a national, collaborative effort to encourage and support state policymakers to
  • improve the collection, availability, and use of high-quality education data, and
  • implement state longitudinal data systems to improve student achievement.

UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education

If you need a good opener for a technology workshop, take a look at this thought-provoking video that was originally used for a staff development activity at a high school:


Shift Happens WikiSpace

Karl Fichs's Fischbowl

If you are working on a team that is focused on coordinating technology efforts between special education and regular education, please leave a comment, as well as links to information and resources you've found to be helpful.

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