2001 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2001 Table of Contents


"AT-STAR Project" — Putting Assistive Technology Into the Front Lines of Education

Carye Abete
Co-Director, AT-STAR Project
Special Education Technology Facilitator
Austin Independent School District
E-mail: cabete@austin.isd.tenet.edu 

Jan McSorley
Co-Director, AT-STAR Project
Austin Independent School District
E-mail: mcsorley@eden.com 

Piret Sari-Tate
District Level Assistive Technology Specialist
Austin Independent School District
E-mail: psaritat@austin.isd.tenet.edu 

Julie Miller, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
District Level Assistive Technology Augmentative Communication Specialist
Austin Independent School District
E-mail: jmiller@austin.isd.tenet.edu

Throughout history, personal challenges created by disabilities have inspired the invention of technology. Today we refer to these technology-based accommodations as "Assistive Technology" (AT). As educators expand their knowledge and application of electronic tools in the general classroom, there is, unfortunately, very little forethought being given to issues related to access for students with disabilities. With current advancements in access technology, we have seen that the effective implementation of AT can significantly impact a student’s success within the general education setting. Furthermore, as educational and vocational trends move rapidly toward an expanded use of technology, it is becoming increasingly important to address how people with disabilities will keep pace. If instructional staff are not equipped to address appropriate disability accommodations related to the electronic classroom, then students with disabilities may literally be left sitting at the cyber curb.

In order to ensure the effective integration of Assistive Technology, there is a substantial need to raise parent, educator, and community awareness and to develop replicable, systematic procedures for Assistive Technology assessment, classroom integration and data collection. Nationwide, the majority of public school systems employ an Assistive Technology service delivery model that utilizes a District Level Assistive Technology Team (DLATT). One benefit noted for this type of delivery system is the consistency of decision-making and program implementation across the district. By focusing resources on a limited number of trained professionals, innovations in technology can be quickly assimilated. Also, with a district-level model, it is easier to standardize data collection methods and to evaluate the effectiveness of targeted strategies. This promotes a system that can more rapidly transform as the environment, tools, and resources change. Even so, this type of model results in some unfavorable outcomes. When there is only a district-level model in place, the implied message to campus-level personnel is that a "team of experts" is needed in order to make Assistive Technology decisions. This perception can translate into a reduced incidence of AT use. The inference is that teachers working directly with students will not necessarily have knowledge of available Assistive Technology interventions, and will therefore not be able to make educational recommendations that incorporate appropriate AT strategies. With inclusion, teachers are now expected to accommodate students with very diverse learning needs. Technical advancements have created unprecedented opportunities to provide assistance to students with disabilities, yet educator training in the area of Assistive Technology is lacking. Educators cannot recommend tools and modifications that they do not even know exist.

In June of 2000, the Austin Independent School District (AISD) was awarded a Technology Integration in Education Grant by the Texas Education Agency. In collaboration with a diverse collection of partnering agencies, AISD proposes to establish campus-level Assistive Technology expertise, through what is termed the "AT-STAR Project". AT-STAR is an acronym that stands for "Assistive Technology — Strategies, Tools and Resources." It’s purpose is to increase parent, educator, and community awareness of Assistive Technology and increase Assistive Technology expertise in the areas of assessment, data collection, and integration into the instructional setting. By providing campus-level staff with the training needed to develop Assistive Technology expertise, the AT-STAR partners believe that the educational services provided to students with disabilities will significantly improve. Along with this training will be the creation of 5, replicable multimedia training modules that will address K-12 Assistive Technology issues, 1 self-paced module for Higher Education, and the development of a web site that will provide Assistive Technology information and resources.

In the interest of expanding the AT-STAR project nation-wide, this session will share the goals of the AT-STAR Project and a description of the AT-STAR training modules that are being created through the grant.


Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2001 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings


Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.