2004 Conference Proceedings

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PROVIDING EFFECTIVE ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY TRAINING THROUGH WEB BASED SOLUTIONS

Presenter(s)
Kerry Randle
SET-BC Coordinator Region 4 (Kootenays)
546 - 309th Avenue
Kimberley, B.C. V1A 3J3
Phone: 250.427.7888
Fax: 250.427.5301
Email: krandle@setbc.org 

Shel Harris
SET-BC Coordinator Region 5 (Caribou Chilcotin)
3005 - 11th Avenue
Prince George, B.C. V2M 1P6
Phone: 250.562.9650
Fax: 250.565.4235
Email: sharris@setbc.org 

Website: http://www.setbc.org 

Special Education Technology - British Columbia (SET-BC) is a provincial resource program that works in partnership with school districts to provide assistive technology services to students with disabilities. Currently, the program provides support, training, and the loan of assistive technology to school based teams working with over two thousand students throughout British Columbia. Students within our mandate have physical disabilities, visual impairments and / or autism.

In recent years, SET-BC has raised district awareness for a much broader range of students with disabilities. Planning and assessment tools, implementation strategies and specialized information on assistive hardware and software products appropriate for a wide range of students with special needs are made available to school based teams in a number of ways. Teams requiring access to current assistive technology information face many challenges including geographical isolation, frequent staff changes, funding restraints and technical difficulties. As a complement to traditional training options, SET-BC has established web-based solutions to help teams meet these challenges.

School based teams supporting special needs students in British Columbia utilize a wide range of assistive software and hardware solutions. While they often have common technology solutions in place, the teams are geographically dispersed throughout the province making it difficult to attend training sessions or to share resources. When resources are developed, there is often unnecessary duplication. Team members involved in providing student support change frequently and require up-to-date information and re-training. Funding restraints have had a significant impact all school based teams, but those involved in implementing assistive technology are particularly affected. Lack of release time to attend planning meetings and training or in-service sessions as well as limited time within the school day for technology implementation and resource development make it difficult for many teams to effectively utilize the tools loaned to support the student's educational program. ! Finally, school based team members have varying levels of general technical competency and districts have decreasing levels of technical support. Teams often struggle with resolving problems commonly encountered when implementing any technology or when attempting to access up-to-date software and hardware information.

To meet these challenges and to offer districts easily accessible professional development opportunities, SET-BC has developed a number of web-based training solutions. On-line training modules featuring streaming audio/video web casts, technology specific demonstrations and user tutorials/guides offer districts and school based teams a number of training options in an easily accessible environment. Teams can obtain implementation support in the form of downloadable print documents and application specific resources. General themes such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Enhancing Student Access to Technology and Supporting Visually Impaired Students as well as specific technology topics such as Kurzweil 3000®, Co:Writer 4000® and Intellitools® products are developed and updated as district and team needs are recognized.

Since their implementation, web-based training and resource solutions have become an excellent option for many in the Assistive Technology community. Centralization of resources has brought teams from around the province together, bridging geographical barriers and addressing resource duplication issues. Team members new to their positions and continuing staff interested in upgrading their skills can follow self-paced training modules at any time, quickly becoming proficient in the use of specific assistive technology. Those involved in training others can also access any of the web-based resources to supplement their in-service programs. Consistent instructional design, standardized tools and applications and intuitive navigation provide users with a rich-media individualized learning experience.

SET-BC has been providing assistive technology support in British Columbia for over fifteen years. Our proven methods of delivering quality training and in-service to school based teams have been further advanced with the use of web-based training opportunities. These latest opportunities provide school districts with a much needed and timely tool in their quest to maintain a high level of staff efficacy, to provide their students with the best possible access to their educational programs, and to build effective assistive technology communities.


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