1999 Conference Proceedings

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Project STAR: Steppingstones from Technology to Action and Results

Janie Cirlot-New, M.S., CCC/SLP
T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability
P.O. Box 9736
Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762
(601) 325-1028

Kent Coffey, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
P.O. Box 9705
Mississippi State
Mississippi 39762

The effective infusion of technology in Mississippi classrooms is a clear statewide need. As Mississippi's Master Plan for Educational Technology (1996) notes, "There is currently little systematic integration of technology into the curriculum in the majority of schools." This need of technology is especially critical in the area of special education. Students with disabilities who require assistive technology for expressive communication find themselves attending schools ill-equipped to meet their needs.

The T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability along with the Mississippi State University Department of Education recently received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to develop and validate a technology-based approach for the use of assistive technology to improve access to and participation in the general curriculum for students with disabilities. The model will provide a process for utilizing appropriate augmentative and alternative communication technologies, strategies, and techniques to enhance educational outcomes of students with disabilities in rural school environments that have little knowledge of or utilization of assistive technology for expressive communication.

Assistive technology is a means to an end and should be viewed as the vehicle in which students travel to meet their goals and experience positive educational outcomes. In order to benefit from assistive technology students must have appropriate expressive communication and educational goals. The student outcome must be identified based on the student's ability, the environment, and the tasks necessary to master the goals.

Students who are nonspeaking and/or exhibit decreased expressive communication abilities are less likely to have access to and participate in the general curriculum. Student's placed in special education often receive instruction chosen randomly or from curriculums different from the general education curriculum. These students lack access to assistive technology that will allow participation in the general curriculum. Teachers, administrators, and related service providers lack sufficient knowledge, skills, and equipment to provide appropriate instruction in expressive communication. In order to participate in the general curriculum students must have access to expressive communication, both spoken and written.

The purpose of the project is to develop, implement, and evaluate a technology based approach to learning in order to improve literacy skills and increase access to and participation in the general curriculum for students with expressive language impairments, both written and oral. The project has identified four school districts representing both rural and urban districts in a predominately rural state. The project will use local expert assistive technology intervention teams to systematically train Local Education Agency (LEA) personnel to select appropriate goals and objectives for expressive communication, suitable assistive technology from a pre-established set of resources, and intervention strategies and techniques. The project will develop district and school-level stakeholders and provide extensive training to LEA personnel to effectively provide technology-based intervention to students within the general curriculum.

This presentation will provide information gathered, data collected, and processes followed during the first six months of the project. Data collected will include knowledge and attitudinal data about literacy, inclusion, assistive technology, student outcomes, and student ability to access the general curriculum as well as team and student level data collected from identified members of each district's team and targeted students. Evaluation of teaching styles, teacher/student relationships, and student/student relationships will also be presented. Identified training needs and assistive technology equipment, techniques, and strategies will be shared during the presentation.

The presentation will include examples of evaluation instruments, training materials, video clips, and teacher and student portfolios. Examples of the Project's online newspaper and web site will also be presented.

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