Teaching What We Don’t Know: Failing to Adequately Prepare Teachers to Use Technology for the Benefit of Students with Special Needs

Teaching What We Don’t Know: Failing to Adequately Prepare Teachers to Use Technology for the Benefit of Students with Special Needs

Joy E. Harris (University of Tampa, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-878-1.ch025
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When newly graduated teachers enter the classroom, they are expected to possess the knowledge to adequately teach students with a wide variety of needs including students with special needs, whether these students perform far above the majority of their peers or lag significantly behind. A disconnect exists, however, between the expectation and the reality. The truth is that most teacher education programs do not provide adequate training to teacher candidates in the area of special needs, and in terms of teaching pre-service educators what technological tools are available to enhance the educational opportunities of students with special needs, there is virtually no training whatsoever. The conclusions from this study come from a random sample (n=60) of National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education accredited schools and colleges of education in the United States and its territories.
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In 1995 only three states recommended a technology proficiency component for teacher education programs (Zhou, Kendall, & Tan, 2003). By 2007, 45 states had incorporated technology standards into their programs to assess teacher competency (Bausell & Klemick, 2007). Despite a 14-fold growth rate over a 12-year period, teacher education programs have been extremely slow to respond to the mandate of preparing more technologically competent teachers.

The problem of ill preparation is not limited to the education of pre-service teachers. In-service teachers are also slow to respond to the call to become more technologically savvy. In a 2006 survey, only 18 percent of teachers rated themselves as having an advanced level of technological proficiency (CDW-G, 2006).

Many tools designed to help students with exceptionalities reach their potential exist, including the following:

  • Text to speech and speech to text

  • Touch screens

  • Sticky key functions that allow sequential keystrokes to be recorded as simultaneous keystrokes (e.g. CTRL+ALT+DEL)

  • Head and mouth controls

  • Wacom Tablets (drawing pads)

  • Closed Circuit Televisions

  • Alternative assessment tools, such as portfolios

  • Writing tablets that recognize even poorly formed letters

The problem is that most pre-service teachers never learn about the aforementioned tools. If teacher education candidates are even required to take a course in educational technology, adaptive technologies are usually addressed as a single chapter in their textbook (see Tomei, 2003), as an afterthought at the end of each chapter (see O’Bannon & Puckett, 2009), or not all (see Naidu, 2003).

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