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Integrating Technology into the Standard Curriculum|
Extending Learning Opportunities for Students with
"It is important to start with the curriculum and do
a standard task analysis. From there, consider how low-tech devices can
provide access to children before looking at more high-tech applications."
Mother of 1st Grader, Elizabeth Garcia
||Current Federal laws require students
with disabilities to have the greatest possible access to the general education
curriculum in the least restrictive environment. According to Judy Heumann,
Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, "Technology is an invaluable
way to achieve access." In fact, 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 (AT) 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 developing
individualized education plans (IEP), technology is being considered as
a viable tool for expanding access to the general education curriculum.
As such, assistive technology has been expanded to include what has been
traditionally thought of as instructional technology.
Denice DeCoste, Director of Assistive Technology for the Montgomery
County Schools in Maryland, concurs that IDEA '97 has caused a shift in
how educators have expanded their thinking about assistive technology.
"We are receiving 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 like DeCoste 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 require us to start with the
curriculum and then ask how tools might assist students in achieving the
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 to ensure students'
success in the general education curriculum.
How are educators meeting the challenge of the new law? How are educators
expanding their use of technology to ensure access to the curriculum? In
some cases, the shift is subtle. For example, let's take a look at an early
childhood teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland, who found that the shift
involved looking at the curriculum and determining how assistive technology
could be a solution to integrating students into the classroom and connecting
them to challenging learning goals.
equipment where instruction and learning are taking place. Technology needs
to be in the classroom and accessible to the child.
low tech applications whenever possible.
the use of technology into lessons in a purposeful and meaningful way.
the same equipment used in the classroom available in the child's home
to promote continuity of learning, if possible.
training and technical support to classroom teachers initially. When the
technology is available in the home, provide training to family members.
the initial fiscal and human resources as an investment that the child
will continue to benefit from in subsequent years.
reinvent the wheel each year-when possible use the technology that is already
Promoting Access to Early Childhood Curriculum
Teachers of young children in Montgomery County, Maryland, are finding
that a little technology goes a long way in helping students achieve curriculum
goals. Take, for example, Robert Gitterman, who is included full-time in
Jacqueline Daye's second grade classroom. "Technology use starts with instructional
objectives-it is a tool for meeting curriculum goals," Robert's mother
To accommodate Robert, who is non-speaking and has fine motor, neurological
difficulties, a word processor, printer, and AlphaSmart (a portable word
processor produced by Intelligent Peripheral Devices) were provided. "I
wanted the technology chosen for Robert to be integrated into the classroom
so that he could fully participate in all learning activities," Daye tells
us. Daye describes an example.
Typically, we have children this age do a lot of drawing and
illustrating-an activity that is very difficult for Robert. When it came
time to illustrate a book report, we considered the instructional objectives.
The activity was modified so that Robert could use clip art to illustrate
his report. This creative use of technology allowed him to participate
with his peers.
According to Robert's mother, it would be impossible for him to learn and
share his knowledge in the classroom without the use of a word processor
and printer. "Robert's ability to think critically and learn higher level
concepts dictated a more sophisticated tool than a simple, low tech communication
device." Accordingly, Ms. Gitterman warns against using technology that
is not matched to instruction. "There is a danger that AT will be too cumbersome
to use...if it becomes too tedious or requires too much involvement by
the child, AT can easily become an expensive problem." [see the sidebar
for her suggestions]
"I don't want my children to miss out
on the general education curriculum when they are with me, and so I am
constantly developing technology applications."
Patti Fredericks, Special Education Teacher
Considering Assistive Technology in the IEP
Assistive technology can be an important tool for improving teaching and
learning results. But while the results appear promising, there is still
much work to be done to ensure that IEP teams consider the maximum benefits
of technology use.
"The new requirements in IDEA '97 to consider assistive technology devices
and services for all students with disabilities creates a massive task
for school districts," reports Gayl Bowser, Coordinator of the Oregon Technology
Access Program and President-Elect of the Technology and Media Division
of the Council for Exceptional Children. "School districts are searching
for tools that they can use to ensure that IEP teams meet the intent and
the spirit of the law."
As part of an OSEP-funded project, Bowser and her colleague Penny Reed
developed the Education TECH Point system which can be used by school districts
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
Initial referral question.
Extended assessment questions.
Plan development questions.
At each point, questions are posed that reflect issues that must be addressed.
Bowser points out that 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."
Periodic review questions.
IDEA also mandates that each student with an individualized transition
plan must have AT considered as part of his or her required services. With
OSEP funding, Bowser and her colleagues are expanding their work into the
area of planning for transition. "There are certain issues-such as self
determination-that make consideration of AT at this stage unique. For example,
individuals should be involved in selecting their own technology, and should
be provided technology that they can use independently."
The potential of technology to improve and enhance the lives of individuals
with disabilities is virtually unlimited. Progress in recent years has
demonstrated the need for intensified support to facilitate technological
development and innovation into the 21st century. In the next section,
we spotlight several researchers who have studied the positive benefits
of using technology in academic subject areas.
Next: Promising Practices in Integrating
Technology into the Curriculum
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