Technology and Literacy for Students with Disabilities

Technology and Literacy for Students with Disabilities

Anya S. Evmenova (George Mason University, USA) and Margaret E. King-Sears (George Mason University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4422-9.ch067
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Literacy is an important part of our culture, providing access to a wide variety of information and opportunities. A myriad of assistive and instructional technologies exist to allow and enhance literacy activities for students with different abilities and needs. This chapter presents the TECH framework that can be used to guide school personnel in making decisions of which technology to choose: Targeting the students' needs and the learning outcome; Examining the technology choices, then deciding what to use; Creating opportunities to integrate technology with other instructional activities; and Handling the implementation and monitoring the impact on students’ learning. Four scenarios for using TECH framework for literacy goals are described, including: (a) choosing and using mobile apps for literacy development of young students with developmental disabilities; (b) adapting curriculum literacy materials for students with significant intellectual disabilities; (c) enhancing writing for students with learning disabilities; and (d) providing and integrating accessible instructional materials (AIM) for students with print disabilities. This chapter provides technology implementation guidelines as well as suggestions of numerous technology tools available to support literacy teaching and learning for all students.
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Think of the times you approach a door and it automatically opens for you. The sensor has been developed so that whether or not you need that door opened for you, it opens. Similarly, technology has opened the door for literacy acquisition, benefitting students with and without disabilities, most of whom needed that door opened. Students with disabilities may need doors opened for vocabulary acquisition and development, increased comprehension, and expanded communication skills, while their peers may find it nice to access these technological tools (see Figure 1 and Table 1).

Figure 1.


Table 1.
Literacy: Global to local coherence components correspond to technological support

For the last three decades, professionals in different fields worked diligently to provide support to students with disabilities through the use of assistive technology (AT) items and services. Designed to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities (IDEIA, 2004 [§ 1401 (1)]), AT includes items and computer-based programs that provide necessary accommodations and opportunities for students with special needs to participate in the general education curriculum along with their peers (Hasselbring & Glaser, 2000; Wehmeyer, Smith, & Davies, 2005). While historically the use of AT with students with more severe disabilities has been somewhat limited to the devices and solutions that provide learners with access to educational environments (Wissick, Gardner, & Langone, 1999), recent developments in AT products for content-based (e.g., literacy) instruction has proven to be highly beneficial for students with more diverse abilities and needs (Browder, Wakeman, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, & Algozzine, 2006). Assistive technology differs from instructional technology in that AT is required for students when it is noted on their Individualized Education Program (IEP), whereas instructional technology (IT) may be more general in nature, and IT is not specific to a single child’s special needs. For example, a student with hearing impairments needs AT, such as captions used on televisions, for seeing what other people can hear. For this student, captions are assistive technology, something that he or she needs. However, closed captions may also be used for students who can hear. As IT, closed captions may be used to promote learning vocabulary which goes along with the images on the television, or closed captions may be used by someone who prefers to read along with listening to the auditory on the television. Throughout this chapter, no distinctions are made between assistive and instructional technology; technology (both general and specific) is described related to literacy learning for students with a range of learning needs.

Literacy is an important part of our culture, providing access to a wide variety of information and opportunities. Technology is expanding so that more and more literacy doors are opening for students with and without disabilities.

How are literacy doors opening? Peruse just a few of the recent research findings that support learning of literacy via technology:

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