2000 Conference Proceedings

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PROJECT GENASYS (GENERATING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMICALLY)

Professor Libby Cohen
University of Southern Maine
303 Bailey Hall Gorham, ME 04038
lcohen@usm.maine.edu 
(207) 780-5067

Dale Blanchard
University of Southern Maine
303 Bailey Hall Gorham, ME 04038
dblanch@usm.maine.edu 
(207) 228-8113

Deb Dimmick
University of Southern Maine
303 Bailey Hall Gorham, ME 04038
dimmick@usm.maine.edu 
(207) 780-5016

Nancy Lightbody
University of Southern Maine
303 Bailey Hall Gorham, ME 04038
nancy@lightbody.org 
(207) 228-8115



Project GENASYS builds national capacity: Using synchronous and asynchronous activities, customized technical assistance, and networking, the project builds our national capacity in the area of specialized software, assistive technology, universal design, and Web accessibility. "Think tank" partners have been convened in order to develop, coordinate, disseminate, replicate, and institutionalize policies and procedures that will assure accessibility. These include representatives from the PT3 grantees, professional development schools, regional consortia, regional labs, the Coalition for Essential Schools, the Education Commission of the States, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, the American Association for Higher Education, ERIC clearinghouses, and developers and vendors of software. A conservative estimate shows that Project GENASYS will have impacted at least 100,000 prospective teachers at the end of three years.


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Project GENASYS involves the development and use of on-line resources: Project GENASYS has developed and implemented a comprehensive Web site with a range of synchronous and asynchronous activities for all PT3 grantees. The project has designed, developed, and begun to implement a range of customized courses and modules on assistive technology, specialized software, Web accessibility and universal design. Proactive contacts have been made with all grantees, using print and non-print formats, alerting them to the need for accessibility including Web sites, video, audio, CD-ROMs, animations, and other resources and materials. Project GENASYS offers them a variety of technical assistance activities, ranging from novice to expert levels of expertise.


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Project GENASYS demonstrates equitable practices and strategies: In equitable classrooms and schools, educators and students believe that ALL students are capable of learning both basic skills and higher-level content. ALL students should have equitable access to learning opportunities. Through modeling, dissemination of best practices, and infusion of strategies, Project GENASYS focuses on the following topics relating to equitable practices: economic status, ;rural schools; disability; gender; and culture/race/ethnicity.

Rationale for focus on assistive technology: The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 strengthen the previous version of the law that mandates students with disabilities be provided a free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. ALL future teachers must be trained to be able to use a variety of strategies that provide accommodations and adaptations in their classrooms. IDEA mandates that specialized software, assistive technology, universal design, and Web accessibility be considered for students with disabilities.

The twentieth annual report to Congress (U.S. Department of Education, 1998) reported that over the past 10 years the number of students ages 6-11 with disabilities has increased 25.3%; over the past 10 years the number of students ages 12-17 with disabilities increased 30.7%; over the past 10 years the number of students ages 18-21 with disabilities increased 14.7%; there is a national chronic shortage of special education teachers who are fully certified in their positions; and the growth in the number of teaching positions, nationally, for students ages 3 to 5 with disabilities increased from about 13,000 to about 27,000.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to prepare teacher education faculty to work with prospective teachers to become competent in using specialized software and assistive technology because there has been and continues to be an urgent need to provide curriculum options for all students; an increase in the number of students with disabilities who are educated in inclusive classrooms; an increase in the number of students with disabilities who require specialized instruction; a chronic shortage of special education teachers that only reinforces the need for ALL teachers to know how to accommodate students with disabilities; a legal mandate to educate students with disabilities in regular classrooms; a legal mandate to provide specialized software and assistive technology to students with disabilities who require these technologies; and accountability for the achievement of students with disabilities that remains, for the most part, with the classroom teacher.


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Rationale for focus on learner-centered principles and learner-centered technologies: Based on learner-centered principles and learner-centered technologies, Project GENASYS is anchored in the work of Vygotsky and constructivism. Learner-centered, constructivist, and socio-cultural theories inform the design of the project. Learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship, and discourse help shape the mind of a learner, the learner’s abilities to reflect on what the learner knows, and the ability to create and use new knowledge. Advances in knowledge about learning theory and instructional design help to transform traditional notions of teaching and learning and have facilitated the redefinition of student, teachers, and learner (Riel, 1998). In 1997, the American Psychological Association published a ground-breaking set of learning principles entitled Learner-Centered Psychological Principles: A Framework for School Redesign and Reform. Based on extensive research, these principles provide "a foundation for educational reform and transformation across all age levels and organizations" (Bonk & Cunningham, 1998, p.28).

Therefore, it is imperative that all teacher educators incorporate learner-centered principles to deliver assistive technology, specialized software, Web accessibility, and universal design. Project GENASYS provides the technical assistance and resources to transform the preparation of future teachers so that they can teach ALL students, with a specific emphasis on the inclusion of students in regular classrooms.


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REFERENCES

American Psychological Association. (1997). Learner-centered psychological principles: A framework for school redesign and reform (on-line). Available at URL: http://www.apa.org/ed/lcp.html.

Bonk, C. J., & Cunningham, D. J. (1998). In Bonk, C. J., & King, K. S. (Eds.). Electronic collaborators (pp. 25-50). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Riel, M. (1998). Foreward: Conceptual order and collaborative tools-creating intellectual identity. In Bonk, C. J., & King, K. S. (Eds.). Electronic collaborators (pp. xvii-xxiv). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

United States Department of Education. (1998). To assure the free appropriate public education of all children with disabilities. Washington, DC: Author.


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