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Integrating Technology into the Standard Curriculum
Research Connections
Fall 1998

State Initiatives Support Technology Use in the Curriculum

"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 use.
  • Encouraging partnerships among school districts, parents, and higher education. 
"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.


Federally Funded Assistive Technology Projects

Assistive Technology Projects in 50 states and U.S. territories can provide more information on funding sources as well as other aspects of assistive technology. For information about whom to contact in your state, visit the RESNA web page on assistive technology resources.

Next Section: Contacts and Resources
Previous Section: Promising Practices

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