2003 Conference Proceedings

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A Isn't for Apple Anymore, A is for Assistive Technology, B is for Babies and C is for Computer

Presenter
Debbie Grant
Santa Barbara County Education Office
Solvang, CA 93463
Email: debgrant@sbceo.org

Technology has the potential to enhance the lives of children with disabilities by providing them with access to the classroom and to learning. The Congress recognized this in passing the IDEA Amendments of 1997, P.L. 105-17. These amendments introduced a provision requiring that teams responsible for developing an individualized Education program (IEP) for a child with a disability, "consider whether the child requires assistive technology devices and services."

"From Research to Practice: The Use of Microcomputer Technology to Enhance Infants' Lives Project" written through the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) was awarded a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs. The project is run by the Santa Barbara County Education Office and the data collection and case studies for the grant were compiled and analyzed by the School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara.

The primary goal of the grant was to put babies on computers and determine, what if any, impact it made on their learning. Prior to the implementation of the grant a review of available software appropriate for babies was conducted. Several pieces of software were purchased to be used with the infants, these included Baby Time (shareware), Teach Me To Talk (SoftTouch), Switch Basics (SoftTouch), Old Mac's Farm (SoftTouch), New Frog and Fly (Simtech), Cause & Effect-Sights & Sounds (Simtech), Switch Kids (Simtech), Making Language Visible (Creative Communicating), and IntelliPics (IntelliTools). The IntelliKeys alternate keyboard was also purchased for each of the programs.

The secondary goal of the grant was to train teachers, assistants, and parents in the implementation of using computers with the infants in our Early Start program. SBCEO operates four "Parent Infant Education Programs". These programs are located in three different geographical areas in the county. The goal of the grant was to target each of these areas for one year during the three year run of the grant.

The teaching staff of the Early Start program received training in basic computer skills, IntelliPics, Engineering The Classroom Using Aided Language Stimulation and in the use of the software that was loaded on their computers for the infants. At the request of the teachers extended training was provided in the use of IntelliPics and the use of a digital camera to make customized programs.

The grant was received with mixed reactions from the Early Start teachers. Very few were enthusiastic about implementing anything new in their programs. At the end of the first year they hated to see us leave. They saw the influence the computers had on the learning of the infants and they were left wanting more. We are in our third year of the program and we have been met with even more eagerness to learn. Teaching Assistants and teachers are eager to learn how to make their own programs and how to modify existing ones.

This presentation will include data showing how the computer engaged the infants, how they attended to it for longer periods of time than other activities, and how they engaged in parallel play and turn taking. Videos of the infants on the computers and teacher, assistant, and parent interviews will be heard.

This presentation will also share the methodologies we used and assist others in bringing a similar program into practice in their district. We will share what worked, what didn't, what we did, what we used and what we learned.


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