"When combined with appropriate instruction, technology can turn struggling
students into successful students."
Lynne Anderson-Inman, University of Oregon
||States have traditionally been concerned
with identifying effective practices that improve educational results for
children. With the 1997 Reauthorization of IDEA, and in many cases the implementation
of statewide academic standards, states are beginning to explore how technology
can help children meet their curriculum standards.
Supporting Assistive Technology at the State Level
To ensure that technology benefits children with disabilities, states need
to implement policies and practices that support its effective use. "States
are very busy meeting the challenges set forth in IDEA '97," Martha J. Fields,
Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Special
Education (NASDSE) tells us. "States are involved in a wide range of activities,
including making professional development available, identifying multiple
funding sources, disseminating information to local districts, and developing
creative ways to ensure access to technology for children and their families."
Writing in Counterpoint (a publication of NASDSE), Louis Danielson,
Director of the Division of Research to Practice at OSEP, suggested that
state directors of special education also 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.
Technology Supports Maine Standards
In 1997, the Maine legislature passed a law requiring all students to achieve
specific learning outcomes. In Maine, assistive technology is considered
one of the supports for aiding access to the curriculum and other activities
in traditional learning environments.
"Ideally, IEP teams should consider a full range of assistive technology
devices and services that are available to address the developmental,
instructional, and access needs of students," asserts Kathleen Powers,
Director of the Maine Consumer Information Technology and Training Exchange
(MaineCITE) Project in the Maine Department of Education. "The key to
effective technology use is the technical skills and comfort level of
teachers, parents, and administrators." The goal of MaineCITE Project
is to build the capacity within the state for using technology to help
children meet their IEP goals.
According to Kathleen Fries, Coordinator of the Project, it is a challenge
to think about assistive technology as supporting achievement in the curriculum
"First and foremost we must move beyond thinking of AT as a limited set
of tools that solve a limited set of problems to seeing it as presenting
an unlimited array of options and possibilities that can be applied to
a multitude of situations." Such shifts in thinking have practical implications-for
example, one of the most basic will be making assistive technology part
of district planning and budgeting processes.
The Maine project is undertaking several efforts to support this shift
in thinking. Examples include
- Identifying national models.
- Creating a cadre of in-state experts.
- Developing a network of professionals who have expertise using technology
to support students with special needs.
- Collecting research and evaluation data that deepens knowledge about
how technology is being used to enhance student results, preferred approaches
to personnel preparation, and district policies that support technology
"By combining local creativity, knowledge, and expertise with the goal of
high academic achievement for all students, we are able to share best practices
around the state," reports Powers.
- Encouraging partnerships among school districts, parents, and higher