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ADA Implementation Coordinator
Arizona State University
The demand for technology integration within every facet of education has exceeded the supply of course offerings throughout higher education. The need for assistive technologies has competed with financial limitations, accountability, and accessibility issues, which inhibit the attainment of knowledge for proper assessment and implementation practices. Many teacher-training programs recognize the growing concern regarding technological awareness, but are not equipped to deliver the necessary components.
Teachers need to receive augmentative training implementing technology for all students, especially those with disabilities. Often, teachers are unaware of or unskilled in utilizing current assistive technologies to meet the needs of their students. Lack of time, funding, and support often plague educators in their quest to utilize innovative tools in creating a successful learning environment in which learners can excel despite their differences.
This presentation will target the need for training teachers in how to implement, utilize, and facilitate current technologies within an educational setting, and provide a model approach in instructional delivery. An overview of previous strategies, recent efforts, and future goals will be discussed, as well as product knowledge, utilization, and evaluation techniques.
Education has directly benefited from the rate at which technology has advanced. Computers have supplemented handwritten text, infrared pointers have enhanced touchsticks, and dynamic Braille displays have augmented embossed pages. Instructional strategies include integrated circuitry to enable equal access to education for all learners. Technology is able to transport students to other geographical locations without overwhelming limitations. Educational barriers can be eradicated through a non-biased presentation of material within an online or traditional setting. Although innovative products exist, students will not benefit from what current technology has to offer if teachers are not equipped with the knowledge of available, applicable programs, or the skill to utilize these devices within the classroom setting.
Prior knowledge of available assistive devices and software enhances the instructor's resources of technology integration for the disabled learner. A teacher encounters students with a broad range of disabilities, and will need to be aware of products and practices useful for individual impairments. Time is a limited commodity, which can be maximized by educating teachers regarding existing products for all disabilities. Resources for freeware/shareware, time-limited demonstrations, and teacher/student recommendations can be invaluable in broadening the gap between the digital divide.
Although educating faculty concerning current technologies is required, simply providing information on contemporary assistive products is not enough. Practical use of these applications is warranted in order to promote effective assistance. The instructor requires the knowledge of an application's functionality in order to make an appropriate needs assessment for the learner. Practice incorporating alternative devices conducted in simulated, classroom settings and real classroom instances enables the teacher to recognize the relevance to students with varied disabilities. Augmentative and alternative communication tools experienced by the instructor offer a mental simulation of assessing whether integration of a specific tool would benefit a particular student needing additional physical, cognitive, visual, or auditory assistance. In successfully identifying an appropriate assistive learning tool for the child, the student is able to excel in academia and become empowered that they can achieve new heights in future endeavors.
Once product utilization strategies have been exercised, various topic-relevant application techniques can be implemented to ensure understanding of integration into the existing curriculum. The instructor models lesson modification techniques incorporating current technologies not only to inform, but also actively illustrate the potential in applying these devices into the classroom environment. Demonstrations, online analysis strategies, and interactive lesson planning sessions are assigned as evaluative projects, which can also serve as implementation tools within the classroom. Products completed for teacher-training objectives can be utilized as intended by knowledge gained through experiencing their potential first-hand. Colleagues act as collaborators in creating informative displays and share methods that can be incorporated into specialized and regular education settings.
Multimedia can be instrumental in effectively conducting content delivery and distance learning modules, as well as traditional instruction practices. Course development tools for creating online learning environments are presented to enhance accessible resources for all learners. Webpage construction is also provided to educate the instructor on building accessible pages that all students can access, and to provide teachers with the tools for teaching students to construct their own, individual sites. Webpages can serve as outlines for students with limited organizational abilities. The following design standards enacted by the W3C are practiced in order to properly construct an accessible website:
In offering a model for which to educate teachers in the application of current, assistive technologies into the classroom, several teaching strategies are incorporated into the curriculum. Historical background is of primary importance in discussing present issues both within education and the technical community. Educating teachers about past practices and their successes and difficulties assist in providing solid foundations on which to base current research without incurring replication of unsuccessful efforts. Presentation of relevant content is vital in retaining a learner's interest no matter what the grade level. Although specialized areas of academia focus on attainment of subject matter, all educators encounter students with disabilities in the classroom who are operating personal devices, or may need assistance in employing assistive materials. Discussion of current endeavors promotes the awareness required in enlisting faculty support and staying alert for forthcoming innovations. Modeling using technology integration cannot be emphasized enough; not only is it an effective, instructional strategy, it illustrates how implementation and utilization of adaptive devices can be integrated into realistic settings. Expert experience is often distributed to educators via published research. However, enlisting those authors or seasoned educators in interactive discussions regarding topical concerns can elicit relevant material within both the traditional and distance learning environment. Streaming video, videotaping, and live broadcasts are useful tools in promoting awareness through knowledgeable resources.
Once teachers are equipped with the knowledge of what technologies exist, the functionality of diverse applications, and how they can benefit individual students, primary importance is again placed on the learner instead of frantically trying to understand and implement unfamiliar parts and wires in efforts to promote accessible learning.
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