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Integrating Technology into the Standard Curriculum
Integrating Technology: Promising Practices
"When combined with appropriate instruction, technology
can turn struggling students into successful students."
Lynne Anderson-Inman, University of Oregon
Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
has a long history-spanning nearly three decades-of supporting research
and development related to assistive technology. From supporting research
that produced closed captioned television and the Kurzweil reading machines
in the early years, to research that brought us eye-gaze technology and
chemistry laboratory instruments in the 1980s, to research that is using
virtual reality applications to help children navigate wheelchairs in the
present, OSEP has been an innovator in validating tools that increase independence,
enhance individualized instruction, and support teachers in ensuring students'
Technology as a tool for meeting curriculum goals is an important area
of focus for OSEP, and one that is showing great promise. Researchers are
exploring how students can use technology to act on information and thereby
learn. As such, technology is emerging as a cognitive tool or "partner,"
that supports the learning process.
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
How can a web site enhance literacy? Ask students from Mary Lou Krausey's
resource room at Post Oak Elementary School in Lansing, Michigan, and they
will tell you the following:
"I liked using computers to write personal stories."
"You could learn how to read and write by writing on chatroom."
Students in Krausey's class were part of an OSEP-funded research study
being conducted by Michigan State University researcher, Carol Sue Englert.
"We have developed and are now evaluating a web-based curriculum for elementary
students with mild disabilities that enhances literacy learning, particularly
The web site called TELE-Web
(which stands for Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments on the Web),
serves as a literacy development environment. It offers teachers and students
a set of integrated, multifunctional tools, consisting of server-side software
and client-side plug-ins that work with a web server and database applications.
It enables teachers to adopt, develop, manage, and share multimedia literacy
materials, as well as to initiate, conduct and manage collaborative learning
projects. Students' reading and writing responses also can be archived.
"Within the web site environment, students explore, experiment, and
experience independently and collaboratively with their peers from the
same school or from a school afar," Englert describes. "We have also included
tools that help students develop performance abilities in reading and writing,
in addition to the metacognitive skills related to becoming goal-oriented,
self-regulatory, independent learners."
"TELE-Web increases and enhances academic skills of
students with special needs. What's more, because students teach others
as they learn, they build self-confidence and self-esteem."
Patricia A. Rose, Principal, Post Oak Elementary School
TELE-Web in the Classroom
Englert set up TELE-Web in Krausey's classroom as four central environments-writing
room, reading room, library, and publishing room. Each environment has
teacher and student interfaces which allows
Teachers and students to create assignments.
Students to create, revise, and complete assignments.
Teachers and students to add on or to comment on other students' work.
"In each environment, students are able to receive cognitive and social
support," Krausey tells us. "TELE-Web supports instruction by building
in opportunities for discourse-which is an important instructional medium
for helping students develop understanding of concepts." She offers the
following examples of how TELE-Web was integrated into a unit on castles.
Students to read other students' stories.
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 and 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.
Englert and her colleagues are currently analyzing data from three classrooms
where TELE-Web has been integrated. Preliminary analysis suggests that
children are more motivated to write, and that they are writing longer
and more descriptive stories.
TELE-Publishing Room. Stories for editing and comments; journal of castle
can access a selection of lessons on Woodward's
for Understanding: A Resource Guide for Extending Mathematical Understanding
in Secondary Schools.
Improving Access to the Science Curriculum
Judy Zorfass, Associate Center Director at Education Development Center,
Inc., in Massachusetts, is finding that technology tools can be integrated
into science curriculum and instruction to
Help students develop understandings about important science concepts.
Ensure access to instructional activities, allowing students to participate
more fully as inquirers.
Zorfass' OSEP-funded Project ASSIST
(All Students in Supported Inquiry-Based Science with Technology) brings
together teachers, science specialists, special educators, and technology
specialists regularly to plan, act, and reflect upon technology and how
to support student learning in inclusive classrooms. "One person cannot
do this alone," Zorfass stresses. "Involving specialists in the curriculum
planning allows them to bring their expertise to the teacher in a deeply
contextualized and coordinated manner."
Provide students with the tools they need to observe the world around them,
gather data, document what they find, and communicate their findings to
To support educators in talking about children's science learning, Zorfass
and Project Director, Lori DiGisi, created an action/reflection process.
The team cycles-and then re-cycles-through these phases:
During the planning phase the classroom teacher and the specialists develop
a lesson containing clear science learning goals. The lesson is related
to science standards, includes modifications for students with disabilities,
and is supported by technology where appropriate. Teams are encouraged
to select a student with disabilities, along with two other children, as
a focus for planning and reflection.
After the plan is completed, the teacher implements the lesson. Typically,
some of the team members also participate. Their role is to closely observe
the focus children and gather data on their responses to the lesson. Observers
also interact with these children, questioning or probing them to explain
their thinking. In some cases, team members try different teaching methods
to see what works with a particular child. An important task for team members
is recording what children say as they engage in an inquiry. Such information
is of critical importance during the reflection phase.
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. According to DiGisi,
"This conversation gives every member of the team feedback on how their
suggestions worked within the context of the science lesson; but it also
provides a time to generalize beyond the targeted students to the class
as whole and to plan for the next action/reflection cycle."
School District Teams
Educators in Cambridge Public Schools, Massachusetts, have been piloting
the ASSIST model. According to Zorfass, "Educators started with a strong
standards-based curriculum, made a commitment to include students with
disabilities, and supported the students with a variety of tools."
Special Needs Technologist Alan Field, who has been working with numerous
ASSIST groups in Cambridge, Massachusetts, notes the importance of starting
with curriculum. "This is not a fix-it type of approach. With a grounding
in curriculum and instruction, technology applications are much easier
to integrate." This has been an important distinction for teachers, according
to Field, who, he says, view their participation as "satisfying the needs
of all students, rather than just using technology for technology's sake."
While data and analysis are yet forthcoming, project staff and practitioners
are learning a great deal. "One thing is very clear-it definitely calls
for someone to undertake a new role of curriculum/technology specialist,"
Field says. "Unlike traditional technology specialists who troubleshoot
problems and help write technology plans, I actually work in classrooms
with teachers to support and promote technology in the curriculum-something
I could not do very well without a deep understanding of science."
Improving Concept Development in Mathematics
What do spreadsheets, French fries, and the odds of one's surviving on
the Titanic have in common? Math, if you are in Cindy Bush's junior high
school class. With the help of an LCD panel, one classroom computer, and
spreadsheet software, students who have a history of math failure are learning
how to pose questions of mathematical data and analyze the results. "We
start with real life problems that students are interested in-like the
odds of surviving on each of the Titanic's cabin levels, or the odds of
getting 16 French fries in a package rather than the standard 15 (and what
that costs the restaurant)-and discover how math can help us find solutions,"
Unlike traditional math story problem lessons where students read a
problem in text and are expected to calculate answers, Bush takes the data
from real-life problems and enters it into a spreadsheet program. No longer
hampered by reading difficulties and laborious calculations, students begin
manipulating the data and formulating answers-activities, Bush points out
that, "typically are not thought possible for students with cognitive disabilities."
Bush has been working with researcher John Woodward of the University
of Puget Sound in Washington. With the support of OSEP and Microsoft Corporation,
Woodward has been studying how technology can be integrated into mathematical
problem solving activities to provide access to students with cognitive
disabilities. "Essentially, technology enables us to engage students with
disabilities in challenging curriculum-which is a major accomplishment
given that many experts believe that students who do not possess basic
math skills cannot learn higher level math skills."
Spreadsheets are an excellent tool because they model or provide visual
representations of the problem, crunch the calculations (which Woodward
points out is a tedious turn-off for many youngsters, but especially the
case for students with disabilities), and thereby focus the students' attention
on understanding the mathematical operations in a real-life context. "We
are finding that 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-kids are really thinking through what mathematical
problem solving really means." One of Woodward's most promising findings
is that when computer-generated visual representations are tied to concepts
rather than to answers, the student's ability to think mathematically is
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