1999 Conference Proceedings

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Implementing a Statewide Assistive Technology Initiative: The Georgia Model

P. Paulette Bragg
Georgia Department of Education

Clara J. Keith
Georgia Department of Education

Kim Hartsell
Georgia Project for Assistive Technology

Local school system personnel are responsible for developing and implementing assistive technology intervention programs for students with disabilities who require assistive technology in order to access the general education curriculum or to benefit from their special education programs. Unfortunately, many college and university programs do not offer coursework in assistive technology as a part of their teacher preparation programs and many educators begin their careers without the skills necessary to provide assistive technology services to students with disabilities.

Subsequently, many state, regional, and local education agencies have developed assistive technology initiatives that offer professional development opportunities for teachers and related service providers. The mission of many of these programs is to improve instruction through increasing educator knowledge of assistive technology and to increase student achievement through enhancing access to appropriate assistive technology devices and services.

The Georgia Department of Education, Division for Exceptional Students has developed an innovative statewide program to provide professional development and technical support services to local school system personnel in the area of assistive technology. This initiative which is known as the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology (GPAT) provides a range of technical support and professional development services to local school system personnel. A key focus of the project is collaboration with instructional technology initiatives within the state to promote equity of access to technology for students with disabilities and their teachers. In this session, key components of GPAT will be discussed. A major part of the session will be strategies for duplicating project services at the state, regional, and local levels.

Professional Development Opportunities

A primary service of GPAT is the provision of professional development workshops for teachers and related service providers. These workshops are designed to increase educator knowledge of assistive technology devices and services. Each year project staff have provided workshops on a range of assistive technology topics at regional sites and in local school systems. Workshops are provided at the Educational Technology Training Centers funded through the Georgia Lottery. These centers were established to provide professional development opportunities for teachers in the areas of instructional technology. The primary focus of the centers is the integration of technology into teaching and learning. Access to these centers for in-service workshops has provided GPAT with a vehicle for providing hands-on learning opportunities in assistive technology.

GPAT staff conduct assistive technology workshops through the state's interactive distance learning network, the Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System (GSAMS). Access to this innovative telecommunications tool has afforded GPAT with an efficient vehicle for providing professional development services in a timely manner. As a result of the in-service training workshops provided through GPAT, general and special education teachers and related service providers are acquiring the skills that they need in order to successfully develop assistive technology intervention programs for students with disabilities.

Technical Assistance:

GPAT staff also provide on-site technical assistance to local school personnel upon request of the local director of special education. Typically, GPAT staff assist in conducting assistive technology assessments, provide suggestion for assistive technology implementation, and provide assistance in trouble shooting technical difficulties with assistive technology devices. This service allows teachers and related service providers an opportunity to receive assistance with issues that are specific to their technology needs.

Loan Program:

GPAT operates a loan program to provide assistive technology devices, hardware, and software to local school systems. This enables students to have access to appropriate assistive technology solutions on a trial-use basis prior to purchase. Loans are also made to provide students with access to technology during periods when their devices are not in working order. The loan program affords participants an opportunity to check out a device to increase their knowledge of device operation and use.

Coordination of Services:

Another major initiative of GPAT is collaboration with other state and private agencies to enhance access to technology for students with disabilities. Since 1994, GPAT staff have been working with individuals from the Office of Technology Services at the Department of Education to develop policies and procedures at state and local levels to enhance equity of access to technology for students with disabilities. GPAT staff were involved in the development of the State Technology Plan which serves as a model plan for school system and school technology plans. Currently, GPAT is involved in assisting local school systems in developing school technology plans that include provisions for students with disabilities and their teachers.

GPAT also provided input on the development of the state's Technology Literacy Challenge Fund Proposal and assisted local school systems in addressing technology needs of students with disabilities in implementing their Technology Literacy Challenge Fund Pans. GPAT has also developed a module on assistive technology for the InTech Professional Development Workshops, a program which is being implemented statewide to enhance integration of

Technology into the school curriculum. A videotape is being developed for statewide dissemination as a part of the InTech program.

At the beginning of this school year, the Division for Exceptional Students has provided funding for assistive technology specialists at four of the regional Educational Technology Training Centers. These individuals will provide training on different assistive technology devices, hardware, and software at the centers. In addition, these individuals will provide on-site technical assistance in the school systems to assist local staff in providing assistive technology services to students with disabilities. They will serve as instructors in the InTech program.

Outcomes:

Since its implementation, thousands of teachers and related service personnel have participated in professional development GPAT. As a result, they have acquired skills, which enable them to more effectively develop and implement assistive technology intervention programs for students with disabilities. Subsequently, students have greater access to devices and service that they need in order to benefit from their educational programs.


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