years that I have been involved in special education, many changes have
taken place. One of them, the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA), has been an attempt to improve the education of the special
education student and move them to more independence. In
1995, Congress passed IDEA which provided all students the opportunity
for a free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment
(Congress, 2002). IDEA ‘97 amended the law to require that
teachers consider assistive technology for students during the
individual education plan (IEP) process (USDOE, 2002). Assistive
technology (A.T.) in its simplest form is any device or service that
helps the student function in the regular classroom with greater
independence (Reed, 1998) . To help states prepare teachers to use
assistive technology, Congress provided funding for training through
the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (USDOE, 2002). However, there were
still areas of concern with IDEA ’97, so in 2004, IDEA was
again amended. According to Raudonis (2005) and Silverstein (2005), one
of the main provisions of this new bill is the requirement that special
education students spend as much time as possible in the regular
classroom working on the general education curriculum. In addition to
IDEA, special education teachers are also held accountable through the
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act which allows only the most severely
disabled students (1% of the special education population) to be exempt
from standardized testing (Wahl, 2005). Therefore, the special
education students must have access to the general education curriculum
in the regular classroom. Assistive technology can provide that access.
Furthermore, certain types of assistive technology, when used
consistently in the classroom, can also be used during the actual
testing process (Wahl, 2005). Because of these latest changes in the
law, knowing what A.T. is available and which one is most appropriate
to each situation is of the utmost importance to the teacher and the
student. Beigel (2000) asserts that having no assistive technology, or
even having the wrong assistive technology, can cause the student to
lose important educational opportunities. It is our responsibility to
provide as many opportunities for success as possible for our students.
Therefore, teachers must be given the instruction and resources
necessary to use assistive technology effectively.
a special educator, I was kept informed of the latest requirements of
IDEA, but not given the resources or training needed to meet those
requirements, especially in the area of A.T. My struggles with meeting
the requirements of IDEA, my lack of confidence concerning A.T., and a
desire to meet the needs of my students led me to design this study.
in-service program, in conjunction with an online A.T. resource,
improve special education teachers’ confidence with A.T. and
thus increase the amount of A.T. requested for students?
The purpose for this
research is to investigate the relationship between A.T. requests for
students and special educators’ knowledge and confidence
levels. This study will focus on three sub-problems of my research
question. First, can an in-service program for A.T. assessment and
implementation increase the special education teachers’
confidence with A.T.? Second, does the online A.T. resource help
teachers identify appropriate A.T. for students’ needs?
Third, will the in-service, in conjunction with the online A.T.
resource, affect the amount of A.T. requested for special education
students during the IEP process? Results of this study may inspire
improvements in the recommendations and use of A.T. for students, as
well as in the in-service program and the online A.T. resource.
of the Study
study will not attempt to determine the amount of A.T. actually
prescribed for students.
study will not
attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of the A.T. services or equipment
study will not
attempt to document the relationship between A.T. and student
Technology (A.T.) refers to "any item, piece of equipment, or product
system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or
customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the
functional capacity of individuals with disabilities" (Michaels
& McDermott, 2003, p.3) and "any service that directly assists
an individual with a disability in the selection,
acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device" (Michaels
& McDermott, 2003, p. 3).
assistive technology request is defined as a request for a consultation
from an assistive technology specialist, a service, or a device for a
study is based on three assumptions. The first assumption is that the
special education teachers in this study are highly qualified teachers
who desire to see their students succeed. Since all of the teachers in
this school are highly trained and dedicated professionals, this is a
The second assumption
of this study is that all special education teachers will attend the
in-service training. The training will be held during school hours and
is endorsed by the administration, so this is also a logical assumption.
last assumption is that the teachers will attempt to use the online
resource. This assumption is based on the fact that the resource is new
and offers information that has not been previously available in this
The success of all
students depends, to some degree, on the education and tools they are
given to use. However, the special education student is much more
dependent on the assistance they are given. If they are to succeed
within the regular classroom, most must have some form of A.T. It may
be as simple as a tape-recorder to help with note-taking or as
complicated as a computer that reads their text. Special education teachers
must know what A.T. is available and which A.T. meets certain needs in
order to help their students. This study is an important step toward
finding ways to help teachers feel confident and informed enough to
make those decisions.
the teacher’s role in the recommendation and implementation
of A.T. is pivotal to its success, it is important to investigate the
training and preparation given to the special education teachers in
regard to A.T. This literature review will focus on three main
questions relating to the issue of A.T. and teacher training. First,
are special education teachers receiving adequate training to
effectively recommend and implement A.T.? Second, what are some
programs that have been implemented to improve the training of special
education teachers in the area of A.T.? Third, what are the educational
foundations that could be used to develop an effective A.T. training
program for special education teachers?
special education teachers receiving adequate training to effectively
recommend and implement assistive technology?
As a special
education resource teacher working with mildly disabled students since
1984, I was very confident in all aspects of my job except when dealing
with A.T. During my degree program and subsequent professional
development courses, I received minimal instruction in recommending and
implementing assistive technology with my students. Nevertheless, the
expectations and requirements for its use increased dramatically
through the years. Special education can be divided into three broad
categories: mild disabilities, moderate to severe disabilities, and
physical disabilities. Even though students in the mild disabilities
categories make up ninety percent of the total special education
student population, McGregor and Pachusky (1996) indicate only forty
percent of students receiving A.T. services fall in the mild range. The
majority of assistive technology services are provided to students with
physical disabilities or intellectual disabilities that require a
self-contained special education placement (Congress, 2002; McGregor
& Pachuski, 1996) . These students have an obvious need for
these services, but the mildly disabled students also require assistive
technology to succeed in the regular classroom setting. However, their
needs are often not as apparent. One of the barriers to the mildly
disabled students receiving appropriate A.T. services is the fact that
special education teachers have not been sufficiently trained in
identifying and using specific technology that can meet the
students’ needs. There is a large amount of research
indicating these teachers feel inadequate in assessing, recommending,
and implementing assistive technology (Behrmann, 1993; Blackhurst
& Morse, 1996; Candela, 2002; Henderson, Kyger, &
Guarino-Murphey, 1998; McGregor & Pachuski, 1996; Michaels
& McDermott, 2003; National Council, 2000; Parette, 1997;
Scherer, 2004) . Although the Assistive Technology Act (ATA) of 1998
and the ATA Reauthorization of 2004 provides funding for training of
professionals, pre-service and in-service teachers are still not
receiving the training necessary to feel competent with A.T. (Senate,
2004) . As of summer 2003, the amount of A.T. education included in
special education college preparation courses was rated as only fair.
However, in the same survey, the pre-service program directors rated
A.T. expertise as “critical” (Michaels &
McDermott, 2003) . These directors illustrate the dilemma of the
special educator. They are expected to meet the requirements of the
A.T. law, without being given the resources or training to do so.
part of IDEA, special education teachers are required to identify the
needs of their students and determine eligibility in regards to A.T. If
the students are found eligible, then it is the teacher’s
responsibility to assess available A.T. and implement the most
appropriate A.T. for the students. After the students have used the
technology, the teacher is then required to evaluate the effectiveness
of the A.T. toward meeting the students’ specific needs
(Behrmann, 1993). This can be a tremendous responsibility and burden
for someone that does not feel prepared for the task. The result can be
significant frustration on the part of the teachers, students, parents,
and administrators. As a result, any effort to use A.T. in the future
with other students can be greatly reduced.
only does the lack of training lead to frustration, but it also affects
the special educator’s collaborative relationships with the
general education teachers. The general educator depends on the special
educator for expertise in working with the disabled student. When the
special education teacher is not adequately trained on the appropriate
technology, she/he cannot collaborate effectively with the regular
educator on ways to help the student in the classroom. However, the
correct use of assistive technology can greatly enhance the
student’s performance in the regular classroom, while
reducing the regular education teachers’ workload associated
with the special needs student. Michaels and McDermott (2003) propose
that this collaboration can mean the difference between success and
failure for the special needs student in the regular classroom.
importance of and need for teacher education is validated by IDEA 2004
which requires that states ensure that their personnel are adequately
trained to evaluate and implement A.T. (Silverstein, 2005). In
Virginia, Behrmann (1993) found that over half of the special education
teachers who responded to a survey felt they needed beginning
instruction in A.T. Abner and Lahm (2002) discovered similar results in
Kentucky when ninety-nine percent of special education teachers
participating in a study reported a need for more training concerning
A.T. In addition, the majority of training for current teachers is
conducted in the form of focused workshops or in-services which have
proven to be ineffective due to the fact that they are short-term
sessions and generally have little follow-through (Abner &
Lahm, 2002). The need for more training in conjunction with resources
is there and attempts are being made to meet the need of the teachers.
Some of the various programs that are currently being offered are
profiled in the next section.
What are some
programs that have been implemented to help improve the training of
special education teachers in the area of assistive technology ?
1993; Blackhurst, 1996; Candela, 2002; Henderson, 1998; Scherer, 2004)
shows that, although the federal government requires special education
teachers to recommend and implement A.T. with their students, the
teachers do not feel competent in these tasks. Many states have
implemented programs to instruct special education teachers in the use
of A.T. and thereby improve their confidence in this area. One of the
most far-reaching and award winning programs was developed by the
Research Institute of Assistive Technology at The National Association
of State Directors of Special Education (RIATT@NASDSE). One reason for
the popularity of this program is the fact that it can be easily
adapted to fit in with a state’s current training. At
present, it is being used in Kansas, Indiana, Maine, Ohio, Alabama, New
Mexico, and New York. Other states planning on using this course in the
future are Virginia, Mississippi, West Virginia, California, and North
Carolina. The RIATT program is an in-home professional development
course consisting of fifteen four-week long sessions. It utilizes
multimedia and e-mail for class participation and assignments. Some of
the benefits of this course are easy access to rural participants,
better communication among districts, broad knowledge base, and a
workforce educated in the use of A.T. As an incentive to teachers, this
course can also qualify for continuing education units, competency
certificates, and college credit (Adamson & Blalock, 1999) .
The RIATT program relies on self-directed learning. Although this
technique is cost effective and reaches distant or spread-out
populations, it may not be the most effective one to use in the A. T.
training. Merriam (1993) suggests that self-directed learning does not
provide the structure and motivation that many people need to continue
through a course such as this.
Kentucky, a training program has been developed using anchored
instruction. The purpose of this course is to give a basic overview of
A.T. including definitions, laws relating to it, continuum of services,
applicable functions, and sources of A.T. information. According to
Blackhurst and Morse (1996), the general premise of anchored
instruction is the use of shared experiences to build a base for
constructing new knowledge and understanding. Therefore, this program
uses short video and audio vignettes that show A.T. and provide
“common reference points”, which are then expanded
on during the training sessions. The Cognition and Technology Group at
Vanderbilt [CTGV] (1990) maintains that anchored instruction is a form
of situated cognition that creates learning environments specific to
the task at hand. Although the anchors can be in many forms, visual
anchors are recommended because they allow the student to develop
better mental models that can be used later in problem solving (CTGV,
1990). In reviewing this training program and its use of anchors,
Blackhurst (1996) found that although feedback concerning the use of
anchors was very favorable, most participants indicated they would have
preferred to have more active learning included in the training.
program currently in use is in Arizona. This involves a long-range
training program extending over a five-year period. During the first
year, participants attend a three-day in-service prior to the beginning
of school. They also attend monthly team meetings and four one-day
workshops during the year. In the subsequent years, the training is
reduced to a two-day in-service prior to the beginning of school and
two one-day workshops during the year, with on-site assistance as
needed. The training program is a competency based course using a
variety of learning experiences linked to the teachers’
actual responsibilities and integrated with the regular education
curriculum. It provides on-going support and encourages a
multidisciplinary approach to A.T. Participants in this program
reported greater understanding and easier implementation of A.T. when
the training was followed up with on-site assistance (Arizona State
Univ., 2000). One of the reasons for the improved understanding may be
the use of situated learning experiences. Situated learning involves
working with actual situations or problems in a social setting. It uses
interactions with others as well as observations, scaffolding,
coaching, and modeling to enhance learning (Machlis, 2003).
other smaller programs have also been utilized to improve teacher
education in A.T. In Idaho, they have created school based A.T. teams
that are trained using self-directed training modules (multimedia
assistive technology information, worksheets, and a computerized final
test). One of the purposes of this program was to meet the needs of the
rural educators. The teams consist of regular and special educators,
physical and occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists,
administrators, and parents. Districts employing these school based
teams also receive A.T. equipment and provide release time for team
members to collaborate or complete activities. The results have shown
improved communication between special education teachers, regular
education teachers, and administrators. In addition, parent involvement
in the special education process has increased (Espe, 1998).
ACCESS is a program in Tennessee specifically designed for special
education teachers of students with mild disabilities. Prior to the
training, A.T. “toolkits” are given out, which
include software, equipment, and strategies. The teachers participate
in a four-week, asynchronous online course and attend twenty-five hours
of workshops during the year on specific A.T. applications.
Participants report improved knowledge and confidence concerning A.T.
However, after the training, they reported a need for easier access to
A.T. resources and assistance with actual implementation (Puckett,
program designed to serve the rural area and small town population is
the T-TAC (Training and Technical Assistance Centers) program in
Virginia. This course begins by developing “core evaluation
teams” for each school that include psychologists, special
education teachers, and therapists. These teams attend a week-long
training session at the beginning of school. They also meet quarterly
to receive more training and share ideas. The core teams are
responsible for training others at their local school. However, one-day
workshops and seminars are offered throughout the year to anyone
interested in attending and on-site technical assistance is available
from T-TAC. There is also a lending library where schools can access
curriculum, A.T. devices, software, etc. (Henderson, 1998).
final thought on the issue of training personnel in the use of A.T.
deals with universal design. Hitchcock (2002) describes universal
design as materials, methods, and assessments that are flexible for all
students. For example, in a classroom, the teacher might have the text
available in regular printed form, large print text on computer,
auditory form for poor readers or low vision students, etc. According
to Schleef (2003), the concept behind universal design for learning
(UDL) is based in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The
original modifications to materials were made primarily for physical
disabilities. However, educators have seen that the forethought of UDL
is much better at meeting the academic needs of special education
students than waiting until there is a problem and then having to
retrofit the materials or curriculum to provide a solution (Schleef,
2003, as cited in Voltz, Sims, Nelson & Bivins, 2005). This has
become such a large movement that IDEA 2004 calls for the use of
universal design to help all students in the classroom, not only the
disabled students (National Council, 2003). Silverstein (2005) contends
that by using products and services that meet the needs of a wide range
of students, the need for A.T. would be decreased. The National Council
on Disability (2003) believes that just as the physical environment is
planned in advance to meet the needs of the disabled, the educational
environment should also be planned in advance to make educational
materials accessible to everyone. By waiting for a request for
modifications to material or curriculum, the student loses valuable
time and the school system has increased expense to fulfill the request
(National Council, 2003).
What are the
educational foundations that could be used to develop an effective
assistive technology training program for special education teachers?
After reviewing the
programs currently in use, several key educational foundations stand
out in the programs that were rated most effective by their
participants. The first thing to consider is the effective teaching
techniques. One of the most productive techniques used was situated
learning, where participants were called upon to apply what they were
learning to actual situations and students. (Machlis, 2003) Merriam
(1993) has shown that the use of authentic activity, where the
participant saw relevance to what they were learning, was very
beneficial and long lasting. Also, the use of visual anchors to provide
a central starting point for the group ensured a basic understanding to
build upon (CTGV, 1990). By using the anchors, misunderstandings
concerning terms and concepts were avoided. Two final techniques that
were evident in some of the most effective programs were scaffolding
and coaching, usually in the form of as-needed assistance. Machlis
(2003) describes scaffolding and coaching as giving the learner the
support, help, and encouragement they need. Many participants reported
this as one of the most beneficial parts of their program ( Arizona,
addition to these techniques, a good training program should also
consider the different learning styles of its participants. Just as we
are asked to use universal design for our students with disabilities,
we should try to provide training that is universally designed to meet
the needs of various learners. Bostrom (1990) found there are four
distinct learning styles that can be identified within a population:
concrete, abstract, reflective, and active. The success of any training
program must address each of these in order to enhance learning and
retention of the skills taught.
third important issue in designing an effective in-service program is
planning long-term sessions. Having the training continue over a period
of time provides for more opportunities for learning. It also allows
time to have several sessions that meet each of the four learning
styles. For the concrete and active learners, there could be hands-on
learning sessions with the actual devices. For the reflective and
abstract learners, a more in-depth assistive technology research
session might be appropriate. The continuity of long-term sessions
provides help during the year as questions arise.
summary, an effective training program would include situated learning
with anchors, scaffolding, and coaching to build understanding and
retention of the material. Teachers would work in collaborative groups
to solve actual problems related to assistive technology. Also, within
the training sessions, activities would be varied to allow for diverse
learning styles. This variety would help to increase motivation and
review of the
literature associated with teacher training in the assessment and
implementation of assistive technology indicates that the majority of
pre-service and in-service special education teachers feel inadequately
prepared. Many states have developed innovative education programs and
courses to alleviate this deficit, but the problem still remains. In
addition to the states mentioned in the review, Georgia has implemented
the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology (GPAT) in an attempt to
help special education teachers become more familiar with A.T.;
however, GPAT is not as innovative and far-reaching as some of the
other programs documented in this review (GPAT, 2005). As a special
education resource teacher in Georgia for many years, I was not even
aware of GPAT until I began this literature review.
is imperative that adequate training and resources are made readily
available to special education teachers in order for them to make
appropriate decisions concerning A.T. Therefore, the purpose of this
research study is, “Can an innovative teacher in-service
program, in conjunction with an online A.T. resource, improve special
education teachers’ confidence with A.T. and thus increase
A.T. requests for students?”
purpose of this
study was to determine the effect of an assistive technology (A.T.)
in-service program, in conjunction with an online A.T. resource, on
special education teachers’ confidence levels and the amount
of A.T. requested for students’ use. The study was conducted
in an elementary school located within a large southern suburban school
district. The total population of the school was approximately 850
students with 64 certified teachers. There was a diverse ethnic
population, with a large Hispanic representation. Even though this
school has a high incidence (approximately 50%) of students receiving
free or reduced lunches, it is a high achieving student body. On the
2004 standardized state curriculum tests, 88% of students in Adequate
Yearly Progress (AYP) grade levels passed the math and language arts
sections (GDOE, 2005). In addition, the general attitude among the
staff and students is very positive.
The school serves
grades kindergarten through fifth grade in regular education classes.
They also have four English to Speakers of Other Language (ESOL)
teachers that serve each grade level as needed. Four reading
specialists provide specialized reading instruction to all grade levels
in the regular classroom and in a pull-out classroom. The school serves
the special education population through the following classes: two
self-contained Asperger (Autism) classes, three self-contained Specific
Learning Disabled classes, two Speech and Language resource classes,
and two interrelated resource classes for the mildly disabled students
(Specific Learning Disabled, Emotional and Behavioral Disordered,
Autistic, and Other Health Impaired).
Two hypotheses were made
in this study:
1) Special education
teachers’ confidence in the use of A.T. will increase when
given adequate training and resources.
2) Special education
teachers will appropriately request more A.T. for students when given
adequate training and resources.
the study were the special education teachers in the school, with the
exception of one interrelated resource teacher who was the researcher.
The study included one interrelated resource teacher, three
self-contained Specific Learning Disabilities teachers, two
self-contained Asperger (Autism) teachers, and two Speech/Language
Pathologists. Of these teachers, the Asperger teachers and two of the
Specific Learning Disabilities teachers were new to the school.
design for this study was two-fold. First, in order to determine the
teachers’ confidence levels concerning assistive technology,
the teachers completed a rating scale (see Appendix E) prior to the
study to give a general level of confidence. After the study, each
teacher was interviewed individually (see Appendix B). The goal of the
interviews was to ascertain their feelings toward A.T. before and after
the training, any change in their level of confidence, their feelings
toward the online resource, any ideas or suggestions to improve the
training process or the online resource, and suggestions for general
improvements to the assistive technology program.
second part of the study dealt with the actual usage of assistive
technology. To determine the effect of the study on the use of
assistive technology by the teachers, I conducted an evaluation of the
A.T. requests by each teacher and for the school as a whole. I compared
the amount of A.T. requested or considered by each teacher during this
period to the amount of AT requested or considered last year. This was
done by retrieving a formal report from the A.T. department of requests
made from the school and also through interviews with the teachers.
Only a limited number of IEPs are written this early in the year.
Therefore, requests and considerations were not limited to the IEP
addition, during the study period, the participants were asked to chart
their use of the online A.T. resource and its helpfulness in locating
appropriate A.T. for their students on a resource log (see Appendix A).
research study was
based on receiving quantitative data through the quasi-experimental
simple time-series design. In this design, the researcher begins with a
series of observations, introduces the intervention, and concludes with
another series of observations. The confidence rating scale and the
A.T. requests data, before and after the training provided the series
of observations. The intervention introduced was the in-service
training session and the online A.T. resource. A final observation was
a semi-structured interview with each teacher concerning her use of
assistive technology during this study and the previous year.
began the study by developing an Assistive Technology website that was
added to the Special Education Website for the county (see Appendix C).
The A.T. site (http://bellsouthpwp2.net/t/a/tayl6483/
has links to legal issues, steps for requesting A.T. through the
county, and areas of need that can be addressed through assistive
technology. The areas of need are broken down into objectives for the
IEP, standard tools for the classroom, modifications and accommodations
that could be made, no-tech or low-tech devices, and high-tech devices.
There are also links to manufacturer’s webpages when
available to give teachers a visual image of the A.T. as well as a
written description of the device. To help the teachers and others who
may want to provide an in-service on assistive technology, an
instructional assistive technology PowerPoint is included on the
homepage of the assistive technology website.
in-service training program was developed in collaboration with the
Director of Assistive Technology for the county. We met and discussed
my findings from my literature review on training programs currently in
use and educational foundations that support learning. We also
discussed her findings from an AT survey of special education teachers
she had conducted in the spring and reviewed current in-service
programs. Together we developed a concise training program covering an
overview of assistive technology, along with a hands-on demonstration
and practice with the A.T. website.
the in-service program we set two main goals. First, we wanted to equip
the special education teachers with the knowledge and resources
necessary to make appropriate decisions concerning A.T. for students.
Second, we wanted to prepare an in-service program that would educate
the teachers in the most efficient and effective manner possible,
making the best use of the teachers’ time.
Before beginning the
actual study, each participant was given an Informed Consent form (see
Appendix D). This form explained the purpose and procedures of the
study, stated that this was a voluntary study and could be stopped at
any time, and gave contact information. The participants were asked to
read the consent form and sign it if they would like to continue with
the study. Teachers were then given a short rating scale concerning
their knowledge of and confidence with A.T. (see Appendix E).
During the training,
we gave a brief overview of the legal issues, definition, and examples
of A.T. This was followed by a demonstration of the online A.T.
resource and time to practice with it. The final time was set aside for
questions and answers.
primary data for
analysis in this study were the number of A.T. requests made between
September 8, 2005 and October 8, 2005 (see Appendix F). These data were
then compared to the assistive technology requests from the 2004-2005
school year (Appendix G). In addition, the results from the
teachers’ exit interviews (Appendix I) were also analyzed.
All of the data were then combined to determine the effectiveness of
the training program and the on-line resource toward A.T. requests and
teacher confidence with assistive technology.
research project, I applied to my county research office and my
principal for approval to conduct my research. Since I was collecting
data within my school and not county-wide, I was only required to get
the permission of my school’s principal and forward a copy to
the county office. On September 8, 2005, the teachers participated in
an in-service training program on A.T. presented by the Director of
Assistive Technology for the county and myself. At the beginning of the
in-service, the researcher explained the purpose and procedures of her
study. Each participant then received an Informed Consent form (see
Appendix D) and was asked to carefully read it. If they wished to
continue with the study, they were asked to sign it and return it to
the researcher. After they had signed the consent, they were asked to
complete a short A.T. confidence rating scale (see Appendix E).
Director began the in-service by using the Assistive Technology
In-Service PowerPoint on the A.T. Website (see Appendix C). During the
A.T. Website portion of the PowerPoint, the researcher demonstrated the
use of the website and the features available. Teachers were then given
several minutes to examine the site and explore it. The Director and
researcher held a question and answer session before ending the
in-service. For the next four weeks, the researcher monitored the
teachers’ requests for A.T. for their students. The teachers
were also given an A.T. Resource Log sheet and asked to record when
they accessed the online resource, as well as whether it was helpful or
the end of the
study, I conducted exit interviews (see Appendix B) with all
participants. Included in this interview were questions from the
initial rating scale concerning their confidence with A.T. The results
of the interviews, along with the other data, provided valuable
information concerning the effectiveness of the training program and
online resource toward A.T. requests.
Results and Discussion
study began with the premise that if teacher confidence in using
assistive technology increased, then their recommendations for
assistive technology for students would also increase. Therefore, I
began my research by asking the teachers to rate their level of
confidence on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most confident. This
was done at the start of the in-service program. The following chart
shows the average level of confidence among the teachers on various
A.T. skills. As an observational note, several teachers approached me
after the in-service and realized their confidence rating level was
based on a false confidence. When presented with the information in the
training, they saw areas where they were weak that they had not
recognized before. However, since this was a rating of the
teachers’ confidence level prior to the training, regardless
of the basis for the confidence, the rating scale is a valid measure.
considerations for IEPs
Locating various AT
Knowing who is
eligible for AT
Using the AT devices
Working with regular
ed teachers and AT technology
Choosing the best AT
Working with various
types of AT: no-tech, low-tech, high-tech
General over-all AT
the month of the research study, there was much discussion among some
of the teachers concerning assistive technology. Several times, I was
approached with questions or concerns regarding assistive technology.
When possible, I referred them to the A.T. Website and was told it was
very helpful. Three of the special education classrooms were going
through some extraordinary situations with their students. Therefore,
these teachers were preoccupied and did not fully engage in the
research project. At the end of the study, I conducted exit interviews
with each teacher. A summary of the results of each question can be
seen in Appendix I. According to the interviews, the majority of
teachers began the study with very little knowledge and experience with
assistive technology. They also reported that the in-service was
informative, efficient, and interesting. Concerning the A.T. Website,
three-fourths of the participants had used the website during the month
and felt it had been helpful.
question of teacher confidence, teachers were asked to rate their
confidence level after the study on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being
the most confident. The average confidence level on this rating scale
was 7.75. When the scores on the beginning rating scale of 5 are
doubled, the comparative score becomes 5.75 on a scale of 10.
Therefore, there was an increase of 2.00 points in confidence level
rating among the teachers during the month.
was conducted to evaluate whether there was a significant gain in the
confidence level scores. The paired-samples t-test
showed that the mean score of post confidence level of 7.75 (SD=1.57)
was significantly greater than the mean score of pre-confidence level
of 5.75 (SD=2.25), t (7) =3.055, P=.018. Therefore, teachers’
gain on confidence level before and after the training differs
statistically at .05 level, which indicates that the in-service
training program was effective in terms of confidence levels. To
determine if this confidence level affected the amount of assistive
technology requested for students, I retrieved a report from the county
assistive technology department of all A.T. requests for this year and
the prior year. I also asked the teachers what A.T. they had used this
year and the previous year. For the 2004-2005 school year, there were
no assistive technology requests for services or devices made from our
school (see appendix G) and no teacher reported using assistive
technology at our school. During the research period of September 8,
2005 through October 8, 2005, the following requests from our school
were filed with the assistive technology department (see Appendix F):
Request for Simon SIO software
Request for a trial of Dragon Naturally
Request for a consultation for a student
Request for WatchMinder for a student
Also, conversations were held during this
time concerning assistive technology for a student that led to a
request for a consultation after the research period had concluded.
the amount of assistive technology for our school went from none for
the 2004-2005 school year to four official requests for services during
this study period plus additional conversations concerning assistive
technology, A.T. is certainly being considered more than last year. If
this much gain can be made in one month, it is a clear indication that
the training and resources available can affect the confidence levels
and requests for assistive technology.
a resource, the
Assistive Technology Website has become an effective and important part
of the Special Education department of the county. The Director of
Assistive Technology and one of the Special Education Support Teachers
have written the following reviews of the website and use it regularly.
Review of Assistive
Technology Website by Joanna Scoggins, Director of Assistive Technology
for Gwinnett County:
have found the website to be a fabulous tool, not only for me, but
also as a recommendation for others to look at to help them make better
decisions regarding A.T. equipment that may be utilized with their
students. I have sent the link to several people and it has relieved my
time from emailing about devices to be able to refer them to a central
location where people can look at possible solutions."
Assistive Technology Website by Kay Strickland, Special Education
Support Teacher for Gwinnett County:
have used it several times.
- I have it bookmarked on my
Internet Explorer links for easy access
- I've used it to keep myself
up-to-date on what's going on with A.T.
- I have used it with my staff development
class when we discussed Assistive Technology
- I've sent the link to all the special ed
dept teachers in my schools (Benefield, Bethesda,Corley, Kanoheda, and
- I use it to problem solve with teachers
who want to consider A.T. for a student.
very user friendly - I can navigate w/out getting lost. The
product links make finding what you need so convenient. You have
organized each area so well - no/low tech, high tech, objectives,
tasks, etc. It's not too busy visually - I don't have a headache
afterwards. I like the way you used the table and make it
easy to get back to the previous page. The written expression
objectives are my only concern - I wish there was another name for
them. It's a bit confusing for so many teachers who teach
written expression as a part of language arts. "
study grew out of a personal lack of knowledge concerning assistive
technology and a desire to improve the use of assistive technology with
special education students. The purpose of the research was to examine
three areas involved in the assistive technology process. The first
part looked at the relationship between assistive technology training
and teacher confidence levels. The second part focused on the
effectiveness of the on-line resource in helping teachers identify
appropriate assistive technology. The final area investigated the
relationship between teachers’ confidence levels and
assistive technology requests for students. Through the literature
review, I found many states are attempting to bridge the assistive
technology gap with innovative programs. The most effective courses
utilize situated learning, long term sessions, and a variety of
learning style options. These programs, however, are not wide spread
and do not reach a majority of the special education teachers.
Therefore, there is still a great need for assistive technology
education among in-service and pre-service teachers.
for this study, the results lead to three conclusions. First, when
teachers are given effective training and resources concerning
assistive technology, their confidence levels increase. As they become
more confident, they are less frustrated and better able to collaborate
with the regular education teacher concerning assistive technology.
This leads to success on the part of the student and less extra work
for the regular educator.
Second, the on-line resource is an effective tool for helping teachers
locate appropriate assistive technology. It is being used by the
Special Education Assistive Technology department as a resource and a
reference for teachers, providing descriptions and links to actual
devices when available. Third, when teachers’ confidence
levels concerning assistive technology rise, the requests for assistive
technology also rise. These requests may be for an actual device or a
consultation concerning a student. In either case, assistive technology
is being considered. Whether a device is ever used is not the issue.
According to IDEA, the only requirement is that assistive technology is
truly considered to meet the student’s
study indicated a definite correlation between teacher education,
confidence levels, and assistive technology requests. Assistive
technology is the key to success for the mildly disabled student.
However, until the teachers fully understand the possibilities of
assistive technology for the special education student, the doors will
to the fact that this study was conducted in one school and in a short
time period, I was not able to fully carry out the in-service program
that would have provided optimal results. My recommendations for
further research would include a more extensive training program
including the following:
Multiple schools involved in the research
Multiple in-service sessions throughout the
year, focusing on various learning styles
Hands-on training sessions on assistive
Activities during the sessions that involve
situated learning, anchored instruction, and modeling in locating
appropriate assistive technology for specific problems using the
on-line resource and other resources
Multi-year evaluation plan to determine
effectiveness of the training program
Abner, G. H., & Lahm, E. A. (2002).
Implementation of assistive technology with students who are visually
impaired: Teachers' readiness [Electronic version].Journal
of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 96(2),
Adamson, G., & Blalock, G. (1999). Convenient
distance education training in technology. U.S.; New
Mexico. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 429777) Retrieved
February 19, 2005, from FirstSearch Research Database.
Arizona State University. (2000).Assistive
technology training for early childhood personnel. Final report.
U.S.; Arizona. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED449604)
Retrieved February 20, 2005, from FirstSearch Research Database.
Behrmann, M. M., Corp Author: Virginia State
Dept. of Education, Richmond Division of Special Education, George
Mason Univ, Fairfax VA., & et al. (1993). Assistive
technology issues for Virginia schools. Final report. U.S.;
Virginia. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED370339) Retrieved
February 19, 2005 from FirstSearch Research Database.
Beigel, A. R. (March 2000). Assistive
technology assessment: More than the device. Learning
Disabilities OnLine, 35 (4), 237-243. Retrieved March 30,
2005, from http://www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/technology/at_assessment.html
Blackhurst, A. E., & Morse, T. E.
(1996). Using anchored instruction to teach about assistive technology
[Electronic version]. Focus on Autism and Other
Developmental Disabilities, 11(3), 131-141.
Bostrom, R. P., & Olfman, L. (1990).
The importance of learning style in end-user training [Electronic
version]. MIS Quarterly, 11,(1), 100-120.
Candela, A. R. (July 2002). Assistive
technology specialist competencies, AccessWorld, 3(4),
pp. 1-6. Retrieved March 22, 2005 from http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=AW030407
Congress of the U.S., Washington, D. C. House
Committee on Education and the Workforce. (2002). Rethinking
special education: How to reform the individuals with disabilities
education act. Hearing before the subcommittee on education reform of
the committee on education and the workforce. House of representatives,
one hundred seventh congress, second session. U.S.; District
of Columbia. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED475865)
Retrieved February 19, 2005 from FirstSearch Research Database.
Espe, J. O. (1998).Creating
school based assistive technology teams in rural states: An in-service
training model.U.S.; Idaho.
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED420965) Retrieved from
FirstSearch Research Database.
Georgia Department of Education (2005). 2003-2004
Annual Report Cards on K-12 Public Schools. Retrieved
December 4, 2005 from http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/_reports/
Georgia Project for Assistive Technology
(GPAT). (2005). Georgia Dept. of Education website for professional
development concerning assistive technology. Retrieved March 30, 2005,
2005, from http://www.gpat.org/default.htm
Henderson, C., Kyger, M., &
Guarino-Murphey, D. (1998).Teams,
networks, and assistive technology: Training special educators in rural
areas.U.S.; Virginia. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED417897) Retrieved March 5, 2005
from FirstSearch Research Database.
Hitchcock, C., Meyer, A., Rose, D., &
Jackson, R. (2002). Providing new access to the general curriculum:
Universal design for learning [Electronic version].TEACHING
Exceptional Children, 35(2), 8-17.
Machlis, D. (2003). Situated Learning. Professional
Safety. 48(9), 22-28.
McGregor, G., & Pachuski, P. (1996).
Assistive technology in schools: Are teachers ready, able, and
supported?Journal of Special
Education Technology, 13(1), 4-15.
Merriam, S. B. (1993). An update on
adult learning theory. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Michaels, C. A., & McDermott, J.
(2003). Assistive technology integration in special education teacher
preparation: Program coordinators' perceptions of current attainment
and importance [Electronic version].Journal
of Special Education Technology, 18(3), 29-41.
National Council on Disability (U.S.). (2000). Federal
policy barriers to assistive technology. Washington, DC:
National Council on Disability.
National Council on Disability, Washington, DC.
(2003). National disability policy: A progress report,
December 2001-December 2002. U.S.; District of
Columbia.(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED481555) Retrieved
February 19, 2005 from FirstSearch Research Database.
Parette, H. P., Jr. (1997). Assistive
technology devices and services [Electronic version]. Education
and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 32(4),
Puckett, K. S. (2002). Integrating
assistive technology with curriculum standards. U.S.;
Tennessee. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED478557) Retrieved
March 5, 2005 from FirstSearch Research Database.
Raudonis, L. (2005). Special education: It's
not a "place" anymore.PAGEONE:
Professional Association of Georgia Educators, 27(1), pp.
Reed, P., Ph. D. (1998). Assistive technology:
Putting the puzzle together, Disability Solutions, 3(2),
3-10. Retrieved March 30, 2005 from http://www.disabilitysolutions.org/pdf/3-2.pdf
Silverstein, R. (2005). A user's guide to 2004
IDEA reauthorization (P. L. 108-446 and the conference report).
Retrieved April 2, 2005, from http://www.c-c-d.org/IdeaUserGuide.pdf
Scherer, M. J. (2004).Connecting
to learn: Educational and assistive technology for people with
disabilities (1st ed). Washington, DC: American
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor,
and Pensions. (2004). Bill to help individuals with disabilities gets
final congressional okay. Retrieved April 4, 2005, from http://www.cec.sped.org/committee_101304.html
The Cognition and Technology Group at
Vanderbilt. (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to
situated cognition [Electronic version]. Educational
Researcher. 19(6), 2-10.
United States Department of Education (2002,
August 26). IDEA '97: The Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act of 1997. Website with information about IDEA
'97. Retrieved March 29, 2005, from http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/Policy/IDEA/index.html
Wahl, Lisa (2005). No Child Left Behind:
Implications for Assistive Technology.The Alliance for
Technology Access. Retrieved August 23, 2005 from http://www.ataccess.org/resources/nochild.html
Voltz, D., Sims, M., Nelson, B., &
Bivens, C. (2005). A framework for inclusion in the context of
standards-based reform [Electronic version]. Teaching
Exceptional Children. 37(5), 14-19.
it helpful? (Y or N)
at this school:
would you describe your experience with assistive technology (A.T.)
prior to this year?
the AT training at the beginning of the year change the way you
felt about using or recommending A.T.?
you feel that the training session was:
- Informative (with NEW information)?
- Efficient (didn’t waste your
- Interesting (kept you engaged)?
you used the A.T. resource available through the county intranet?
If so, how would you describe its usefulness and effectiveness in
helping teachers find and recommend appropriate A.T. for students? Can
you tell me an example of a way in which you used it?
would you describe your experience with A.T. this year? Has it
changed in any way? If so, how? What do you think brought about the
you think you will be recommending more A.T. as the year progresses
or will the amount stay the same now that you have this online
a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being very confident and 1 being not
confident), how would you rate your confidence level in recommending
appropriate A.T. for your students’ needs?
a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being very knowledgeable and 1 being not
knowledgeable), how would you rate your level of knowledge concerning
A.T. available for your students’ needs?
Technology Online Resource
Technology Applied Project
project is being conducted by Wanda Taylor as part of her Educational
Specialist degree program in Instructional Technology from the
University of Georgia. The purpose of this research is to determine the
effectiveness of an in-service training program and online resource on
teachers’ confidence and use of assistive technology. The
study will begin the first week of August 2005 with an in-service
training program and will continue through the first week of October
2005. Teacher’s use of and feelings related to assistive
technology will be evaluated during this time. The teachers’
use of assistive technology from 2004 will also be reviewed. During the
study, teachers will be asked to keep a log of their use of the online
resource. At the end of the study, they will be asked to participate in
a short interview with the researcher.
in this study is voluntary and can be terminated at any time without
penalty or prejudice. There are no risks or discomforts to the
participants associated with this study. All responses will remain
confidential and anonymous. A complete report of the final study can be
obtained upon request. If you have any questions or concerns regarding
the study, please contact us at the following numbers:
Orey, University of Georgia
questions or problems regarding your rights as a research participant
should be addressed to Chris A. Joseph, Ph.D. Human Subjects Office,
University of Georgia, 612 Boyd Graduate Studies Research Center,
Athens, Georgia 30602-7411; Telephone (706) 542-3199; E-Mail Address
I, have read the information above and understand that I will be
participating in a research study. I also understand that I can
withdraw at any time without penalty or prejudice. I grant permission
for the researcher to review my IEPs only in respect to AT
considerations. I understand if I have any questions, I can contact
Wanda Taylor or Dr. Mike Orey at the University of Georgia at any time.
Technology Confidence Rating Scale
Rate your level of
confidence when working with the following situations related to
assistive technology using a scale of 1 to 5 where:
considerations for assistive technology during the IEP process
Making sure that my
students have the assistive technology they need to help them succeed
assistive technologies that would help my students
Knowing who is
eligible for assistive technology
Using the actual
assistive technology devices
Working with regular
education teachers and students to utilize various assistive technology
technology that will meet my students needs
Working with the
various types of assistive technology: no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech
My general overall
level of confidence when working with assistive technology would
Analysis of A. T. Recommendations
from September 8, 2005 through October 8, 2005
to Joanna Scoggins, Director of Assistive Technology for the county,
our school presented the following requests for assistive technology
services from September 8, 2005 and October 8, 2005. The department of
assistive technology does not process requests for no-tech devices such
as pencil grips, special paper, etc. These types of requests are
handled through the occupational therapy or physical therapy
Formal Requests Received:
- One request was made and approved
concerning the Simon SIO software for one of the younger Asperger
- One request was made for a trial of the
Dragon Naturally Speaking Software for a fifth grade Learning Disabled
Student that was having difficulty with written expression
- One request was made for a consultation
concerning ideas for assistive technology for one of the older Asperger
- In addition to the formal requests made
during this period, numerous conversations among the teachers were
observed concerning possible assistive technology solutions. As a
result of one of these conversations the following request was made
shortly after the trial was over.
- One request was made for a consultation
concerning ideas to help a third grade Learning Disabled student who is
severely challenged in the area of written expression
Analysis of A.T. Recommendations
from the 2004/2005 School Year
to Joanna Scoggins, Director of Assistive Technology for our county,
there were no requests for devices or services from our school during
the 2004-2005 school year. The department of assistive technology does
not process requests for no-tech devices such as pencil grips, special
paper, etc. These types of requests are handled through the
occupational therapy or physical therapy departments.
of Teachers Online Resource Logs
were given an online resource log at the beginning of this project and
asked to record their use of the assistive technology website along
with its effectiveness at each use. Due to extreme circumstances in
many of the classrooms during this period, the resource log was not
of Exit Interviews
months to 25 years
at our school
months to 3 years (we are a new school)
experience with A.T.
little to nonexistent---------5
Very experienced with AT--------3
the A.T. in-service change the way you felt about recommending
you used the A.T. online resource?
your experience with A.T. change this year?
had not had occasion to use A.T. yet and said that their
experience had not changed. However, other responses were:
---much more aware of A.T. as I
---much more comfortable
in reasonable time
you recommend more A.T. now?
of the teachers agreed that it depends on the need of the
students, but 3 or the teachers said that the online resource and
in-service made them consider it more for each student.
confident are you in recommending A.T. now?
knowledgeable concerning A.T. are you now?
PowerPoint on Assistive Technology.
begin the PowerPoint, click on the picture below.