2002 Conference Proceedings

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GENASYS: OVERVIEW OF PT3 CATALYST ACTIVITIES AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Dale Blanchard
University of Southern Maine
301C Bailey Hall
Gorham, ME 04038
Voice: (207) 228-8113
FAX: (207) 780-5224
dblanch@usm.maine.edu 

Libby Cohen
University of Southern Maine
301C Bailey Hall
Gorham, ME 04038
Voice: (207) 780-5067
FAX: (207) 780-5224
lcohen@maine.maine.edu 

Doug Kahill
University of Southern Maine
301C Bailey Hall
Gorham, ME 04038
Voice: (207) 228-8139
FAX: (207) 780-5224
dkahill@usm.maine.edu 

Rich Vaglia
University of Southern Maine
303 Bailey Hall
Gorham, ME 04038
Voice: (207) 228-8378
FAX: (207) 780-5224
rvaglia@usm.maine.edu

This presentation will demonstrate how GENASYS transforms the preparation of future teachers so that they can teach ALL students, with a specific emphasis on the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

GENASYS is a catalyst for information, technical assistance, and professional development about Web accessibility, assistive technology, specialized software, and universal design in education for the catalyst and implementation grantees of the U.S. Department of Education's Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) initiative.

GENASYS offers up-to-date, concise, and relevant information through its online workshops, informational postcards and newsletters, technical assistance, Web site resources, conference presentations, and resources on CD. GENASYS provides a variety of online workshops in the areas of Web accessibility, assistive technology, specialized software, and universal design in education. Each workshop is delivered asynchronously and lasts about six weeks. This presentation will provide an overview of GENASYS activities and accomplishments.

GENASYS ASSURES SYSTEM CHANGE: The GENASYS partners foster system change over time through prolonged engagement with catalyst and implementation grantees of the PT3 initiative and other colleges and universities by using Web accessibility, assistive technology, specialized software, and universal design. The project utilizes synchronous and asynchronous communications, customizing technical assistance to local conditions, capitalizing on the strengths of the partners, and sustaining communication and collaboration.

GENASYS BUILDS NATIONAL CAPACITY: Using synchronous and asynchronous activities, customized technical assistance, and networking, the project builds our national capacity in the areas of Web accessibility, assistive technology, specialized software, and universal design. "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 GENASYS will have impacted at least 100,000 prospective teachers at the end of three years.

GENASYS INVOLVES THE DEVELOPMENT AND USE OF ONLINE RESOURCES: 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 implemented a range of customized courses and modules on Web accessibility, assistive technology, specialized software, 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. GENASYS offers them a variety of technical assistance activities, ranging from novice to expert levels of expertise.

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, 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 assistive technology and assistive technology services 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.

As a result, 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.

RATIONALE FOR FOCUS ON LEARNER-CENTERED PRINCIPLES AND LEARNER-CENTERED TECHNOLOGIES: Based on learner-centered principles and learner-centered technologies, 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 Web accessibility, assistive technology, specialized software, and universal design. 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.

References

American Psychological Association. (1997). Learner-centered psychological principles: A framework for school redesign and reform (online). 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). Foreword: 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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