Developmental Learning and Technology Essay

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Elementary Special Education Teachers Place Value in the use of Technology Resources for Students?

Alix Desulme

Technology is an integral part of society. Students learn through use of technology like personal computers, tablets, and e-books (Garland & Tadeja, 2013). Computers can provide access to videos, documents, and other forms of data that students have the choice of absorbing via visual or auditory methods. Tablets provide the same access but with a light-weight, touch responsive interface. Technology investment within schools not only enables varied learning opportunities for students, but it also helps students discover or improve their own ability to research and analyze information, collaborate and communicate, and solve problems (Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). Comment by Steve Moskowitz: Yes, this is the reason

Technology helps provide other benefits. Integrating technology in schools, especially in other areas like special education enable staff to develop new ways of teaching and creating curriculum custom made for special needs students. Fernandez-Lopez, Rodriguez-Fortiz, Rodriguez-Almendros, and Martinez-Segura (2013) stated, "The development of customizable and adaptable applications tailored to them provides many benefits as it helps mold the learning process to different cognitive, sensorial or mobility impairments" (p.77). Teachers have the option of constructing lessons using videos, pictures, and slide shows to allow a diverse array of teaching methods. From use of visual aids to increasing the size of text and making text colorful and appealing, technology makes instruction easier. Digital textbooks for example, allow students access to homework and lesson from the convenience of a mobile device or laptop (Orey, Jones, & Branch, 2013).

The addition of digital textbooks in universities allows for greater student freedom and ability to take their schoolwork wherever they go. In the case of special education students, some stay homebound for long periods of time. If they have the option of digital textbooks, they can have text enlarged, study from home, and collect information for study at their own pace. Technology allows for customization of lesson plans which enables a better learning experience for special education students who often require customization for academic success. Without the use of technology, special education students have limited options.

Barriers still exist in terms of technology and teaching. This is especially true for special education (Cornelius & Nagro, 2014). Special education teachers may integrate some aspect of technology in their curriculum, but some remain resistant, believing technology integration is unnecessary. Schools may be at fault because of the continued lack of policy changes and training for special education teachers. Those with learning disabilities (the majority of special education students) require additional instruction and varied teaching (Fernandez-Lopez, Rodriguez-Fortiz, Rodriguez-Almendros, & Martinez-Segura, 2013).

If schools integrate the use of technology in special education, every special needs student will be able to receive a varied and customizable curriculum that may lead in the long run to a higher quality education as evidenced by the use of distance and online learning (Abrami, Bernard, Bures, Borokhovski, & Tamim, 2012). While technology in schools seems like a recent endeavor, the transition from technology free to technology centric has been in the making for over four decades (Keengwe, 2015). In these four decades many schools have made great strides. Even with progress, some teachers remain resistant to technology integration in schools.

One article notes teacher's attitudes towards technology as being the main barriers for integration. "Teachers' own beliefs and attitudes about the relevance of technology to students' learning were perceived as having the biggest impact on their success" (Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, Sendurur, & Sendurur, 2012, p. 423). If teachers believe they do not need to use technology to instruct students or they do not feel they can use technology to instruct students, this may make them more resistant to technology integration in schools, especially if they perceive technology as a barrier in teaching (Kim, Kim, Lee, Spector, & Demeester, 2013). It is up to the school then to opens up their perspectives to the possibilities of these attitudes and support use of technology by teachers via additional training with computers and projectors, and supporting teachers that do integrate technology use into their curriculum.

In the case of special education and elementary students, many of these students already have a harder time learning from traditionally designed curriculum (Carnahan & Fulton, 2013). If teachers utilize technology to customize curriculums for their special needs students, they will find greater success in teaching. Technology enables a hands on approach and a greater implementation of visual aids that promotes higher levels of engagement from students (Nam, Bahn, & Lee, 2013).
Assistive technology is something many special education teachers use in order to help a child learn. Audiobooks are an excellent example of how technology helps a student that may have difficulty reading or a visual disability, still learn with ease.

In this qualitative case study, the researcher will interview 15 special education teachers from 15 various elementary schools within Miami-Dade County, Florida. Because attitudes and perceptions play such a major role in teachers using or not using technology in the classroom, this study will examine the attitudes and perceptions of 15 special education teachers as it relates to technology integration in their daily general instruction including science, math, history, and English. Perceptions can be seeing technology as an insurmountable obstacle, seeing technology as a hindrance rather than a teaching aid, and so forth. The participants will be chosen from K-5 schools within the Miami-Dade school district. Although the district has 200 elementary schools and many have integrated technology successfully, the need to assess daily integration and attitudes of technology integration have not been fully discussed. Comment by Steve Moskowitz: Expand on what you will be looking for here

Selection of schools will be based on availability and area. Schools must be within the Miami Dade school district. They must be a K-5 school. They must have a special education or Inclusion program. They must have some technology integration and access to email communication.

Problem Statement

Special education teachers in an urban K-5 school district have problems with fully integrating technology into their daily instruction. This is largely due to funding (Snodgrass, Israel, & Reese, 2016). This is not just a problem seen in Florida but across the country. While some schools use tablets, smartboards, video or virtual conferencing, and assistive technology like audiobooks, some schools have remained with the traditions and beliefs of the past. Gold (2014), notes the lack of technology available in some schools, while others have student accessible sites and technology departments (Gold, 2014). Special education is an area that needs a higher level of technology integration. This means student access to school websites so they can gain access to additional learning materials and daily lessons, availability of digital texts, use of audiobooks, use of better assistive technology like tablets, and so forth. Special needs students may not have the ability to go to school every day or learn effectively from traditional instruction methods. Technology may enable more options for special needs students that were not possible before. Comment by Steve Moskowitz: You are missing special ed teachers with schools -- pick one and be consistent. Comment by Steve Moskowitz: I dis-agree -- how will looking at a school website help a sped. Student. Somewhere you need to discuss how tech can help with a spec. ed. Students learning prior to this.

Students with disabilities vary. Some have mild learning disabilities, others have severe disabilities that affect their ability to communicate, walk, and other impairments. 60% of students in special education have some type of learning disability or emotional problem (Aitken, Fairley, & Carlson, 2012). Technology assists by offering options to special needs students. For example, word processing software allows text to be enlarged, colored, and emphasized in ways that grabs a student's attention. Slide shows allow for use of visual aids. The internet allows teachers access to the most recent educational resources (Wilmore, 2013). However, technology integration is not the only aspect of special education that needs improvement.

Research shows teachers may not willingly integrate technology into their daily instruction because of certain attitudes and perceptions (Vincenti, Buciero, & Vaz de Carvalho, 2014). These attitudes and perceptions often come from lack of training (Keengwe, Onchwari, & Hucks, 2013). In order for schools to integrate technology more effectively, they must first train teachers on how to use technology in their classroom. Special education teachers already struggle with the current responsibilities of teaching students with varied problems and impairments. They need further training to understand how to implement technology to help students learn.

Aside from training, schools must evaluate how well special education teachers handle the integration of technology and if such integration improves student learning outcomes. With schools requiring students to perform well in order to receive government funding (No Child Left Behind Act), it became increasingly important to see positive test results from students. If technology integration proves students learn more and thus score better on standardized tests, this will provide proof that technology integration.....

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