Assistive Technology for Teacher Education: From Research to Curriculum

Assistive Technology for Teacher Education: From Research to Curriculum

Marcie M. Belfi (University of Texas, USA) and Kristen E. Jones (University of Texas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-817-3.ch023
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Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to provide teacher educators with current research related to assistive technology (AT) in K-12 schools. The first two sections present findings from the literature, first related to providing AT to culturally and linguistically diverse populations within a family context, and secondly to helping students with learning disabilities use AT for writing. Implications for practice are discussed. This chapter concludes with an overview of a curriculum model for training preservice teachers to become familiar with AT across the lifespan, choose appropriate AT for their students, and be able to practically use AT in the classroom.
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Introduction

Teacher educators can instruct preservice teachers using hands-on methods and training to effectively integrate assistive technology (AT) products into the classroom for their students that have disabilities. This chapter discusses some of the methods used.

The first part of this chapter is a review of literature on AT for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) populations of students. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for students from CLD backgrounds and their families is discussed. Teacher educators are given insight on training preservice teachers who work with CLD students that use AT.

The next section deals with a review of the literature and focuses on AT for students with learning disabilities (LDs). Students with LDs often lack psychological motivation to learn to write due to previous failures in school. AT is considered by some, one method to mitigate psychological barriers for students to learn to write proficiently (Zhang, 2000). These benefits will be discussed.

The last section describes the curriculum of the AT orientation program in the College of Education at the University of Texas in Austin (UT). The program developed at UT introduces preservice teachers to some of the AT they are likely to encounter in schools. The AT orientation program utilizes hands-on activities to ensure active participation of preservice teachers. The effectiveness of the program is determined from a survey students complete at the end of the training. This section provides an overview of how preservice teachers can be trained to use AT in the schools.

To ensure that students with disabilities receive the necessary services, current legislation requires that service providers have AT competencies (Tech Act, 2004; CEC, 2003). However, research suggests that many preservice teachers are not well trained to provide services on assessment, selection, and application of AT (Bausch & Hasselbring, 2004). The need for an AT orientation program as a prerequisite for preservice teachers who work with students with disabilities is vital for the success of these students in the classroom. The selection process for appropriate AT for students is made increasingly more difficult due to the rapid development of new technology (Bausch & Hasselbring, 2004). When selecting appropriate AT for students with disabilities in the classroom, technology that teachers and administrators are already familiar with is usually much more of a deciding factor in the selection process than newer AT that may be more suitable (Bausch & Hasselbring, 2004). However, even if teachers have a full range of available technology, but do not have adequate training to know which device to select, there may be reduced benefit to the student.

This chapter also details ways that colleges or universities can create a training center utilizing appropriate curriculum and up-to-date technology. The idea of the training center is to better ensure that preservice teachers enter schools with sufficient background and hands-on experience to meet the AT challenges of diverse learners.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communication Board: Communication boards are both AAC devices. That means that they are used to supplement or replace spoken language as a means of communication, specifically non-verbal communication.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): Any system that increases or improves communication of individuals with receptive or expressive communication impairments. The system can include speech, gestures, sign language, symbols, synthesized speech, dedicated communication devices, microcomputers, and other communication systems. (see FCTD Assistive Technology Glossary: http://www.fctd.info/resources/glossary.php)

Bicultural: Being or relating to two different cultures in one nation or geographic area.

Assistive Technology (AT) Device: Any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functioning of individuals with disabilities (Assistive Technology Act of 1998).

Universal Design: A broad-spectrum solution that produces buildings, products and environments that are usable and effective for everyone, not just people with disabilities.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD): in the context of this paper and US public schools and universities, we are using this to mean of non-White ethnicity or in a home where English is not the native language.

Low Incidence Disabilities: Disabilities that do not occur frequently in the population but can have a major impact on a student’s functioning; includes autism, Asperger’s disorder, Tourette syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and physical disabilities (Duquette, 2007).

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