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Rationale for the TAM Technology
Instructional Resources Initiative

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Description and Instructions

Learn about the TAM technology instructional resources and why they are necessary

Content

What is the TAM Technology Instructional Resources Initiative?

The TAM Technology Instructional Resources Initiative is providing online information and materials that can be used by faculty at institutions of higher education (IHE) to integrate instruction about technology into personnel preparation programs that prepare special education teachers, administrators, general educators, and related services personnel. These resources also have utility for local education agency (LEA) personnel who are involved in designing special education professional development programs about technology. Many of the online resources can be used by students who are receiving technology instruction or by those pursuing personal professional development programs.

Resources posted on this site are being obtained from a variety of sources:

  • TAM members who have developed technology instructional materials and are interested in sharing them with others,
  • individuals from other professional organizations, institutions of higher education, public schools, and other agencies who are interested in partnering with TAM in this initiative,
  • projects of limited duration that are generating materials that can be used for technology instruction,
  • print resources related to technology instruction that can be translated to Web-based documents,
  • links to Web sites that are providing materials related to instruction about technology, and
  • Web sites that that are offering online instruction about technology applications in special education.

Why are technology instructional resources needed?

It is becoming increasingly evident that various technologies have the potential for improving the education of students with disabilities and improving their quality of life (e.g., Lindsey, 2000). This potential has been reflected in the technology mandates of the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which require that assistive technology (AT) be considered for every student who receives an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The technology recommendations in IEPs must then be implemented by educators and related services personnel.

The pre-service need

There is compelling evidence that many teachers lack the knowledge and skills necessary to apply technology. For example, in 1995, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) conducted a comprehensive study of factors that affect the use of technology by teachers and how they relate to the integration of technology in our nation's schools. Following is one of the major findings of that investigation:

Technology is not central to the teacher preparation experience in most colleges of education. Consequently, most new teachers graduate from teacher preparation institutions with limited knowledge of the ways technology can be used in their professional practice. (OTA, 1995, p. 165)

There is more recent empirical evidence to support this contention. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conducted a study for the Milken Exchange on Education Technology (Moursund & Bielefeldt, 1999). Faculty at 416 IHEs were surveyed about technology course offerings, faculty capacity, facilities, field experience opportunities, and the technology skills of graduates of their teacher preparation programs. This sample represented approximately one-third of the IHEs in the United States which produced approximately 90,000 teachers for the 1997-98 school year.

A primary conclusion of that study was that, in general, teacher-training programs do not provide future teachers with the kinds of experiences necessary to prepare them to use technology effectively in their classrooms (Moursund & Bielefeldt, 1999, Foreword). Although nearly 85% of the IHEs reported that their students took formal coursework in technology, the researchers concluded that there was insufficient integration of technology into existing courses.

Although the findings of the Milken/ISTE survey did not focus specifically on the preparation of special education teachers, there is no evidence that the situation is any different for those who are being prepared to be special education teachers. The survey did include one question related to special education, however. The most frequently reported response (the mode) for that question was the belief that only 25% to 50% of the graduates were able to recognize when a student with special needs may benefit significantly by the use of AT and that they could work with a specialist to make such services available. Fifteen percent of respondents reported that they didn't know whether their students could perform those tasks. It is unknown whether those responding were doing so within the perspective of general or special education. Regardless, those ratings suggest that there is considerable work to be done with respect to preparing graduates of teacher education programs to use technology when working with students who have disabilities.

The in-service need

The situation in LEAs is equally bleak. As part of a national assessment of IDEA that was mandated by Congress, a study of personnel needs in special education (SPeNSE) is being conducted (SPeNSE, 2001). A nationally representative, stratified random sample of school personnel responded to a computer assisted interview about a number of issues related to education of students with disabilities. A total of 7,927 service providers, consisting of a range of special education teachers, general education teachers, speech-language pathologists, and paraprofessionals were surveyed. An additional 358 LEA and intermediate education unit administrators also responded. All of the respondents were involved in providing services to children with disabilities in preschools and K-12 programs.

Preliminary findings of this research are now being reported. One finding is that using technology for instruction was one of three topics that respondents reported they felt least skillful (Gonzalez & Carlson, 2001). Not surprisingly, then, using technology in instruction was one of the three most common content areas in which respondents participated in professional development activities.

The findings cited above point to a need for resources that can be used by faculty in pre-service special education personnel preparation programs and those providing in-service professional development programs to teach how to use technology in the education of students with disabilities.

How can TAM help to meet this need?

TAM members involved with personnel preparation in applications of technology in special education are pursuing the following activities that are designed to meet the above needs:

  • Identifying technology training resources;
  • Posting the resources, or links to those resources, on this Web site;
  • Maintaining an online discussion forum about technology instruction issues;
  • Identifying needs for technology instructional resources;
  • Initiating grant proposals for funding to support these, and related, activities;
  • Contracting for the development of resources, as resources permit;
  • Developing partnerships with organizations, projects, and universities that have a stake in technology instruction;
  • Providing a means of disseminating information and materials related to technology instruction on a continuing basis for projects, such as federal grants, that will only operate for a limited period of time; and
  • Evaluating the use of the resources that are made available.

References

Gonzalez, P., & Carlson, E. (April 30, 2001). Preliminary results from the study of personnel needs in special education (SPeNSE). Washington, DC: Ninth Annual CSPD Conference. [Also available at http://www.spense.org/results.html].

Lindsey, J. (Ed.) (2000). Technology and exceptional individuals (3rd ed,). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Moursund, D., & Bielefeldt, T. (1999). Will teachers be prepared to teach in a digital age? A national survey on information technology in teacher education. Santa Monica, CA: Milken Exchange on Education Technology.

Office of Technology Assessment (1995). Teachers and technology: Making the connection. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.

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Revised March 15, 2002