AN EXPLORATORY STUDY OF THE PERCEPTIONS OF REGULAR EDUCATION TEACHERS REGARDING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Table of Contents

Chapter I                                                                                                                                                                 4

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                                                    4

Introduction                                                                                                                                                                 4

Statement of the Problem                                                                                                                                     4

Statement of Purpose                                                                                                                                              6

Conceptual Framework                                                                                                                                           6

Research Question                                                                                                                                                     7

METHODS

 

Assumptions of the Study                                                                                                                                       8

Limitations of the Study                                                                                                                                         8

Definition of Terms                                                                                                                                                   8

Summary                                                                                                                                                                       11

CHAPTER II                                                                                                                                                            12

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE                                                                                                 12

Introduction                                                                                                                                                              12

History of Least Restrictive Environment                                                                                                  13

History Associated with Assistive Technology                                                                                         15

The True Sense of the Assistive Technology                                                                                               17

Assistive Technology Laws                                                                                                                                  23

Changes in 2004                                                                                                                                                        25

Georgia’s Exceptionalities                                                                                                                                  26

Individualized Education Plan and Assistive Technology                                                                   26

Examples of Assistive Technologies and Their Purpose                                                                        27

The Effectiveness of the Assistive Technology                                                                                         29

Barriers and Benefits of Assistive Technology                                                                                         36

Perceptions of the Teachers                                                                                                                              37

Pedagogical Content Knowledge                                                                                                                     43

Summary                                                                                                                                                                       47

CHAPTER III                                                                                                                                                          48

METHODS                                                                                                                                                                48

Introduction                                                                                                                                                              48

Setting                                                                                                                                                                           51

Researcher Positionality                                                                                                                                    51

Participants                                                                                                                                                               52

Instrumentation                                                                                                                                                      52

Data Collection                                                                                                                                                       53

Data Analysis                                                                                                                                                            53

REFERENCES                                                                                                                                                             54

APPENDIX A                                                                                                                                                               65

 

 

 


CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

Introduction

In order to ensure that all school-aged children with special needs obtain a free appropriate public education (FAPE), needs are evaluated by a local school system committee.  If a student is deemed as requiring special services, an individualized education plan (IEP) is designed with goals and benchmarks to help guide teachers and evaluate student progress.  In the process of designing an IEP, a student is evaluated on whether or not he or she requires assistive technology to be successful in the classroom (Assistive Technology Act of 2004).

Traditional assistive technology devices (AT) vary from low-tech to high-tech technology.  Low-tech AT can consist of items such as pencil grips, highlighters, and flash cards.  High-tech AT can include an AlphaSmart so students can type their work, spell check, screen readers, speech-to-text, audio books and e-books.  In addition, the inventions of reading pens (i.e., Echo Smartpen), concept mapping software and websites have also been useful in the classroom.

Teachers need to have knowledge about assistive technologies and the skills and knowledge to use assistive technologies with their students who require them. This study will explore perceptions of regular education teachers regarding their use and knowledge of assistive technologies as they relate to special needs students in inclusive classrooms.

Statement of the Problem

Assistive technology has been included as one of the five special factors that all Individualized Education Programs (IEP) must consider when developing the IEP under both the Assistive Technology Act of 1988 (29 U.S.C. 3002) and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-446).  To determine a child’s appropriate educational services, school districts consider several factors including technological needs of the student.  As of 2004, the IDEA specifically states that every IEP committee should consider whether a child needs assistive technology (AT) services and devices, and further specifies that this factor must be included during the reviewing and revising of an IEP (IDEA, 2004a).

The use of AT for special needs students applies to any student with an active IEP who has been found to need such to be successful in school.  However, many barriers impact a student’s successful use of AT.  Research in the area of assistive technology and use of including and implementing such devices in the regular education classroom appears to be limited (Messmer, 2013).In Alkahtani’s (2013) study conducted on special education teachers,results showed that the teachers lack adequate knowledge and skills of using assistive technology.

The purpose of assistive technology is to help maintain or even increase a student’s independence (Bryant& Bryant, 1998).  In addition, the number of special needs students being educated in regular education classrooms has steadily increased over the past decade (Simpson, McBride, Spencer, Lowdermilk, & Lynch, 2009).  Unfortunately, many of the inclusive classroom teachers, the regular education teachers, are not trained on how to use these technologies to help the special needs’ students become successful in their classes (Bausch & Hasselbring, 2007).  With the appropriate assistive technology, however, students can show academic gains as well as gains in independence, self-worth, and productivity (Bryant & Bryant, 1998).

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this study is to explore the perceptions of regular education teachers regarding their use and knowledge of assistive technologies as they relate to special needs students in inclusive classrooms.

Significance of the Problem

This study adds to the literature as it provides data on the use and implementation of AT services in a rural school district, data that may be useful to researchers and educators.  In order to comply with federal, state, and local mandates, every student being considered for special education services must also be evaluated for assistive technology needs during the IEP process.  However, studies show that, despite the legal mandate, AT is not always considered (Messmer, 2013).  According to a study of 1,000 special education teachers in Kentucky, only 22% of their students had documented AT consideration in their students’ IEPs (Alnahdi, 2014).

It is the responsibility of the local education agency (LEA) to implement state and federal laws.  When these laws are not followed, the students with disabilities receive the impact of being denied services mandated under the IDEA.

Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework for this study is based on pedagogical content knowledge and the knowledge of learners, as described byShulman (1987).Shulman (1987) introduced foundation for teaching reform based on pedagogical content knowledge.  The result was a framework broken into multi-faceted categories of the teacher knowledge base.  This framework focuses on critical features of teaching to include teacher mastery of the content being taught, the context in which it was being taught in the classroom, and both the physical and psychological characteristics of the students.

In Shulman’s search for a knowledge base that can be codified, he looked for categories to aggregate data on knowledge, skill, understanding, technology, and ethics of the categories of the knowledge base outlined in his study (i.e., content knowledge; general pedagogical knowledge; pedagogical knowledge; curriculum knowledge; pedagogical content knowledge; knowledge of educational contexts; knowledge of the learners; and knowledge of educational ends, purposes and values). The areas of pedagogical content knowledge and the knowledge of learners and their characteristics best fit this study as the conceptual framework.  Pedagogical content knowledge represents an amalgam of content and pedagogy where the educator can organize and adapt the content to meet the diverse needs of the learners and present the information for instruction.

In addition, Shulman presented four sources for the knowledge base of teaching, one of which is the materials needed for instruction.  These materials may consist of a matrix of elements including the curriculum, texts, school and social organizations, and the structure of the teaching profession from the local to the federal level of government.

Research Question

What are the perceptions of regular education teachers regarding their use and knowledge of assistive technologies as they relate to special needs students in the inclusive classroom?

 

 

Methods

Authors Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2011) have written several textbooks for psychologists to conduct qualitative research studies.  One method of qualitative research is the constant comparison analysis introduced by Glaser and Strauss in 1967.  However, conducting a qualitative analysis manually can be quite time-consuming and no longer considered practical considering the number of software programs in existence that are designed to assist the researcher in coding qualitative data.  One such program is NVivo.  This case study will incorporate the constant comparison analysis method to analyze the survey and interview questions in appendixes A and B.  Then, the program NVivo computer software will be used to find the underlying theories and relationships in the data (Leech &Onwuebuzie, 2011).

Assumptions of the Study

It is assumed that participants will respond to the survey and interviews in an honest and accurate manner.  It is also assumed that of those surveyed, the response rate to the survey will be adequate for the purposes of this study.

Limitations of the Study

Data will be collected from a small sample consisting of one rural school system in Georgia.  Therefore, generalizations cannot be made to a greater population.  The population and socio-economic also vary within the school system.  A second limitation lies with the rapidly evolving nature of assistive technology; so many existing studies may be outdated leaving little data available on current trends.  A final limitation is that access to specific IEP data may not be available due to the confidential nature of special education documentation.

Definition of Terms

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Public Law 101-336 [42 USC 12101]

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. The law has four sections, or “Titles.” Title I addresses employment, saying that any employer who has 15 or more employees must offer “equal opportunity” to employment-related activities. Title II applies to state and local governments, and insists that people with disabilities be given equal access to public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, and other areas under their control. Title III addresses public accommodations that may be provided by private companies, including private schools, restaurants, stores, hotels, doctors’ offices, etc. Title IV addresses assistive technology specifically, as it requires that telephone companies provide the necessary services to allow people who are deaf or hearing impaired to use telecommunications devices.

Assistive Technology Act of 1998

Public Law 105-394 [29 USC 2201]

The Assistive Technology Act, also known as the “Tech Act” provides funds to states to support three types of programs:

  • the establishment of assistive technology (AT) demonstration centers, information centers, equipment loan facilities, referral services, and other consumer-oriented programs;
  • protection and advocacy services to help people with disabilities and their families, as they attempt to access the services for which they are eligible;
  • Federal/state programs to provide low interest loans and other alternative financing options to help people with disabilities purchase needed assistive technology.

Assistive technology device

Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2))

Assistive technology service

Any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device (IDEA, 2004b).

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability (The National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc., 2013).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was initially passed in 1975 as P.L. 94-142. That law, known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, or the EHA, guaranteed that eligible children and youth with disabilities would have a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) available to them, designed to meet their unique educational needs.  P.L. 94-142 has been amended many times since passing in 1975, most recently in 2004.

Least Restrictive Environment

20 U.S. Code § 1412

To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

29 U.S.C. § 794d

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all electronic and information technologies developed and used by any Federal government agency must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes websites, video and audiotapes, electronic books, televised programs, and other such media. Individuals with disabilities may still have to use special hardware and/or software to access the resources. Section 508 does not apply to the private sector or to organizations that receive Federal funds.

Summary

Chapter I of this dissertation provides the statement of the problem, the purpose of the study, the significance of the study, research question and conceptual framework.  Chapter II is the literature review which includes background information on the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), the Assistive Technology (AT) Act, and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education – an educational right for children with disabilities in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) to provide a basis for the research questions.  Chapter III describes the methodology for the study, while Chapter IV describes the data analysis and Chapter V includes a discussion of the findings, implications, conclusions and future research.


CHAPTER II

REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Introduction

The literature review includes background information on the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), the Assistive Technology (AT) Act, and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education – an educational right for children with disabilities in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) to provide a basis for the research questions.  Changes in the Assistive Technology Act in 2004 are reviewed to provide a basis of research to show the required provision for AT to be considered during initial IEP planning and in reviewing an IEP.  A review of the concepts of mainstreaming and inclusion directly relate to the study on perceptions of regular education classroom teachers as it pertains to AT use and implementation due to the increased number of special needs students being served with non-disabled peers in a regular education classroom setting.  With inclusion and mainstreaming, more disabled students are being served in regular education classrooms.  Therefore, an assumption is made that regular education teachers have an increased number of students who use AT as an accommodation to better access the curriculum and to have a greater chance of success.

There are twelve categories of eligibility in the State of Georgia.  These categories will be listed along with examples of AT devices and their purposes.  This review will cover the steps in creating an IEP and where consideration of AT must be considered and documented.  Legal mandates are introduced in the review to provide a basis for legal compliance of assistive technology in schools.  A review of barriers and benefits to the use of assistive technology in the classroom is provided to support the evidence that there is a need for regular education teachers to be trained in implementing such devices in daily instruction.  Finally, recommendations are provided on how to bring knowledge of assistive technology to schools, how general education teachers can be provided with the necessary training to implement the use of such devices to meet these mandates and to provide for an equitable education for mainstreamed, disabled students.

History of Least Restrictive Environment

Prior to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act of 1997, the U.S. Congress enacted the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-142).  The purpose of this act was to provide specific regulations regarding disabled students, regulations that did not previously exist.  Although this law does not clearly define the least restrictive environment, there was a preference for mainstreaming students by offering segregated students opportunities to be educated with their nondisabled peers.

With the enactment of the IDEA in 1997, the concept of least restrictive environment (LRE) is introduced with no clear definition.  As a result, the terms LRE, inclusion, and mainstreaming became frequently used interchangeably though they are not synonymous.  Under the IDEA, the concept of LRE is written as,

“To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities … should be educated with children who are not disabled, and … special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment should occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(5)(B).)

When statue law fails to adequately define a concept, the courts can then interpret the law as necessary.  It is in case law where LRE, inclusion, and mainstreaming are more clearly defined as individual concepts.  The concept of the LRE refers to the IDEA’s mandate that children with disabilities be educated “to the maximum extent appropriate with nondisabled peers” (Stanberry& Raskind, 2009).   However, the concept of inclusion is interpreted as disabled students having the right to be educated in a regular education classroom, a right that is absolute.  In contrast, the concept of mainstreaming allows for disabled children to be educated in a combination of segregated and non-segregated classes when appropriate.

The concepts of “inclusion” and “mainstreaming” are not specifically mentioned in the IDEA, but case law from 1983 to 1999 provides a continuum of placement options as defined in judge-made law.  In this continuum, earlier court cases such as Roncker v. Walter, 700 F .2D 1058 (6th Cir. 1983) and Daniel R. R. v. State Board of Education, 874 F .2D 1036 (5th Cir. 1989) interpret the LRE to be inclusive wherein the disabled student is “integrated” to the “maximum extent appropriate.”  In 1994 the Holland Test was created in Sacramento v. Rachel H. 14 F .3 1398 (9th Cir. 1994) that established a clear precedent for inclusion.  Subsequent cases, however, started considering exceptions to the rule in that, for some students, a general classroom may not be appropriate (Light v. Parkway, 1994).  Further, Clyde v. Puyallup (9th Cir. 1997) added that mainstreaming would not be appropriate for disruptive behavior that impairs the learning of others.  Finally, Doe v. Arlington County (ED. VA. 1999) found that a segregated setting with some mainstreaming would be appropriate if full-inclusion would not provide the student with meaningful educational benefits.

From these cases it is possible to see more clearly defined interpretations of the concepts of LRE, inclusion, and mainstreaming.  The courts appear to be moving away from the concept of LRE meaning full-inclusion as a right versus a privilege to the language originally used in the IDEA – a concept of mainstreaming students with disabilities with their nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate with the use of supplementary aids and services (Douvanis & Hulsey, 2002).

History Associated with Assistive Technology

A number of expert researchers and specialists have proposed that there are predominantly three eras associated with the development of the assistive technology in a sequential order (Alkahtani, 2013). These three eras are the Foundation era, the Establishment era, and the Empowerment era, which are consecutively interrelated and linked at a higher level (Bryant & Bryant, 2011). The first era started when human beings from the Stone Age started to use a stick as an instrument for support for those who suffered from a harmed or injured leg (Bryant &Bryant, 2011). In 1829, vision impaired individuals were taught to read and write using Braille.  In 1836, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph to help the hearing impaired to listen to recordings (Cook & Hussey, 1995).

The second period began at the dawn of the 20th century and continued until the late 20th century. This period has been portrayed, as a rule, as a period that experienced setting up laws, arrangements, and suits. Numerous creations and innovative steps were designed in this period. One of the most prominent signs of this period was the introduction and foundation of numerous associations with an extended aim to bolster people suffering from incapacities and their families (Alkahtani, 2013).  The third period, which began after 1972,became prominent when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act or the EAHCA (Public Law 94-142) was comprehensively introduced in 1974. This law later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The aspects of utilizing technological aspects while conforming to the IDEA were introduced and implemented when the Assistive Technology Act came into the existence in 1988. This specific regulatory was set up to monetarily bolster the execution associated with the assistive technology advances. Furthermore, the specific act named as the Assistive Technology Act or the ATA was later comprehensively introduced and implemented in 1998. This particular regulatory aspect proved to be critical to building as well as bridging the gap between accessibility and access to AT that relate closely with assistive technology innovations and administrations. Therefore, there is need for extensive expert information and responsible activities from a group that consists of a number of professionals from several disciplines (Assistive Technology Act, 2014). The demand and interest for assistive technology innovations has developed amid the above-mentioned specific era. IBM (1991) stated that in order to serve the interests of the vast majority, technological innovations make things simpler and in order to serve the interest as well as requirements of the people with inabilities, the technological innovations make several difficult aspects conceivable. The aspect of the affirmation provided by IBM mirrors the strengthening which the people with inabilities procured from utilizing assistive technological advancements.

The True Sense of the Assistive Technology

As indicated by the IDEA, assistive technology or assistive technological innovation alludes to “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off-the-shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (U. S. Department of Education, p. 1). If the aim is to help or assist learners with extraordinary needs and special kinds of requirements, AT might be utilized in order to have a comprehensive level of access to education (Jost&Mosley, 2011). Some prominent researchers like Blackhurst (2005) have gone on to recognize diverse advances or technologies, for example, technologies that enhance the aspect of profitability and those that are designed for data compiling.Instructional technology refers to those components that are utilized by all of learners in a class in order to improve learning (Parsons&Cobb, 2011).

Various general instances of instructional innovation incorporate PCs specially designed for the learning modules such as spell-check, audio books, e-books, and screen readers. The technology may not be helpful to a child without a third-party’sinput, in this case, the teacher. The input by the third party with improper and inadequate knowledge regarding assistive technology tends to affect the quality of education. The assistive technology instruments provide only platform for third party to convey and support education to learners. If the teacher as the conveyer of the education lack full disclosure and knowledge concerning the assistive technology would lead to low level of education quality provided. therefore, the assistive technology study programs requires high trained teachers to offer high quality education services to the learners using technological approach ( Stoner, Beck, Dennis & Parette, 2011).

The major contrasts among instructional and assistive innovations are the expectation, purpose, and target group ofpeopleassociated with the innovation, and the exact operative design for which it is utilized. It has been observed that a technological element might be an instructional innovation for a learner and at the same time, it might be viewed as an AT for those with disability (Jots&Mosely, 2011). In this case, electronically interactive whiteboards might be considered as appropriate. These whiteboards might be a valuable instructional innovation foran educator trying to provide lessons to all of the learners in an entire classroom, but at the same time, they might be viewed as forms of AT if they are utilized with a focus on learners who are faced with considerable struggles, or with a learner who has challenges associated with data organization or visual aspects. The quality of learning as well as academic abilities, are regularly focused on with the instructional technologies, however, this may not address challenges that the learners might encounter in the real world scenarios (Stanberry &Raskind, 2009). There are likewise events and situations when the technological innovation might be both instructional and assistive.  For instance, some researchers discussed a virtual reality framework aimed at learners affected with ASD so that those learners could access that framework as an element that may be both an instructional device and an assistive technology (Bryant et al., 2010).

The accessible learning modules under the class of the assistive technology help the individuals affected by physical, psychological, or physical disabilities to access the education (Borg, Larsson &Östergren, 2011).  Assistive technology experienced improves the life expectancy of handicapped person to progress in higher education level that was quite hard to achieve in a couple of decades earlier (Bryant et al., 2010). The AT permits learners with inabilities an opportunity to be included in settings generally considered to be a minimally prohibitive challenge for those learners (Loeding, 2002). Furthermore, the assistive technology assures greater level of certainty in the accuracy of teaching as well as a greater level of self-regard for the user (Scherer, 2005). Moreover, it also helps instructors in their quest to meet the specific objectives for the special needs learners(Netherton&Deal, 2006). Some researchers have expressed that learners some learners have challenges in using assistive technology. Developing the capacity to use the assistive technologies would help the learners to overcome the challenges that they be facing during their studies (Stanberry& Raskind, 2009). One of the most concrete and valued instances of AT would be the utilization of audio booksand better listening enhancersso that learners become able to sidestep a possible problem. The arrangements associated with the AT may potentially mean the distinction between the learner staying in a comprehensive setting or accessing an isolated custom curriculum framework (Bryant et al., 2010).

An absence of the availability of AT that might be needed to build as well as enhance the functional abilities of a person, might be depicted as a form of the ecological obstruction regarding the learners (Borg, Larsson&Östergren, 2011). If the context of the United States of America is considered, the minimum requirement is to consider the utilization of AT in the form of a major aspect of the IEP procedure regarding a particular learner who is qualified for a specialized curriculum arrangement. The price reduction of assistive technologies encourages buying the equipment (Bausch et al., 2005). Within the entire framework of the educational enterprise, AT ought to be availed to learners’ to improve their chance to achieve required  target for minimum prohibitive setting in order to execute the objectives set by IEP, or in order to obtain advantage through its implementation in the setting of a teaching and learning environment (Netherton &Deal, 2006). The aspect of gaining accessibility to educational modules as well as the abilities, which can be gained through the utilization of the AT, ought to be associated with those components, which will provide advantages to the learners regarding their present or upcoming likely setting.

According to Ganschow, Philips, and Schneider (2001), assistive technology can be divided into three classes, which can be named as low-tech, mid-tech, and high-tech. The low-tech AT can be normally considered as normally non-electronic and simple to use as they do not require any prior preparation (Evans, Williams & Metcalf, 2010). Such AT is broadly accessible with minimal effort and little if any upkeep. The mid tech AT are known to be easy to operate electronically as it require minimal training and basic maintenance. The innovative gadgets from the third and final group include complex hardware and as a rule that contain microcomputer parts (Bryant et al., 2010). Such innovative gadgets are costly and require continuous support and broad preparation in training. Some researchers have critically expressed that innovative technology solutions as the best and considered high-tech as it have rapid changes to low-tech the coming future. Furthermore, they recognized that as the aspect of the technological innovation that is constantly changing and hence encouraging the extension of the general and critical ideas for better approaches to classify and demonstrating the true sense of the assistive technology (Cook & Hussey, 2002).

At the point when deciding the choice of the AT to be used for the learners, various components ought to be necessarily assessed and analyzed. These include the cost, the accessibility, and capacity to redesign of the AT and the essentially needed support, the measure and the level of preparation that are essential needed by the learners. The assisting educators or staffs, the states of mind and the behavioral approach developed by the staff toward the aspect of the utilization of elements, and the real-world setting of the teaching and learning environment (Borg, Larsson & Östergren, 2011). The target is to maximize the adequacy of accessible assistive technology innovation and arranging the basic leadership associated with proper selection (King-Sears & Evmenova, 2007). Usually, it has been observed that single element that may influence the utilization of the AT for the learners affected by disabilities. Rather, assistive technology consists of connection of different components that eventually creates an impact. The choice of the fitting AT improves the learners’ capabilities and it ought to be considered and carefully exercised as a major aspect that is responsible to deal with the educational arrangement for the learners (Parette & Stoner, 2008). The lack of properly prepared staff to help with coordinating and acquiring AT for the individuals with unique requirements has been widely viewed as a societal obstruction because of the fact that the social settings do not provide much importance or significance to this particular aspect (Scherer, 2005). However, this is extremely significant and imperative that there are a large number of included individuals who are equipped with satisfactory preparations that are gained from appropriate training. The training are associated with specific aspect that are extremely knowledgeable and aware regarding the present, ongoing, and upcoming technological innovations that might be accessible at some point in time. Therefore, it requires having the instructional methods that is closely connected to technological innovations to improve assistive technology in achieving it educational mandate to learners.

The aspect of the pricing costs associated with the AT can be considered as one of the major obstacles for several learners as well as the educational institutions (Copley & Ziviani, 2004). This creates well fabricated the innovation and a generally limited business field for the various gadgets that are complex in nature. The price of the gadgets designed for the learners requires to be necessarily fixed after adjustments through the utilization of the accessibility of financing aids and assets that are available at the educational institutions. The AT is becoming progressively accessible through web suppliers who have the ability and permit to dispatch the gadgets globally. Some certain classes of assistive technologies are frequently found to be costly because of the consequence of the significant amount of expenses handled and experienced by the organizations.  These web suppliers have empowered clients to buy hardware gadgets, which might not be accessible in their home region, frequently priced at more aggressive costs for maintaining an upper hand in the competition rather than those provided by the particular providers, despite the fact that the availability of the help and overhauling of the gadgets might prove to be troublesome. Numerous providers of hardware gadgets can give a credit to offer to the schools in order to make the clients able to have a trial use of the gadget, to discover its usefulness for the determined objectives, and give it back to the providers if the gadget is found to be improper after the trial period (Novitatech, 2004). A few suppliers and several NGO offices likewise give bolster as on the web or individual contact in order to help the clients in their attempt of recognizing proper AT for the determined objectives. For the most part, the employees utilized by AT suppliers in order to help the clients with deciding the requirements of the learners with exceptional needs are equipped with profound experience as well as proper qualification regarding this particular field, and incorporate word related advisors or OTs, language teachers and the SETs in huge numbers. Numerous employees of the schools are not even aware of the accessibility of such experts or the level of help accessible for them in the process of deciding the suitable ATs. The AT element or gadget suppliers and their employees are by and large the most comprehensive wellspring of data related to the accessible advancements, technological innovation and would likewise instruct the buyers on the capacity regarding the AT to be updated or repaired when needed.

 

Assistive Technology Laws

The Assistive Technology Act (ATA) of 2004 (Public Law 108-361) amends the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 to support programs of grants to states to address the assistive technology needs of individuals with disabilities.  According to this act, the Governor of a state shall designate a public agency as a lead agency to control and administer the funds made available through the grant awarded to the state.  In addition, an advisory council should also be established to provide advice to the state on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the activities carried out through the grant.  The Act requires states to support assistive technology programs by funding and financing assistive technology devices and services, providing training and technical assistance to various entities and individuals, and organizing public awareness activities.  Through H.R. 4278, the ATA also extends through fiscal year 2010 the authorization of appropriations under the ATA for state grants for assistive technology, and state grants for assistive technology related protection and advocacy services.

According to Derer, Polsgrove, and Rieth (1996), “assistive technology is widely regarded as holding potential for enhancing access, inclusion, productivity, and the quality of life of individuals with disabilities” (p. #).  As such, it has been included as one of the five special factors that all Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams must consider when developing the IEP (Sec. 300.324(a)(2)(i)-(v)) and a child’s instructional program since the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997.

An assistive technology device is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with disabilities” (§300.5).  A device may be low tech (e.g., a piece of tape on a pencil) to high tech (e.g., a talking computer). Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device (§300.6).  To ensure a student’s needs are addressed, school districts must evaluate the child’s technology needs, and in some cases, purchase, repair, and maintain the equipment.

Changes in 2004

In 2004, the revision of the IDEA brought about changes in the area of instructional technology for special education students when receiving or renewing IEPs.  The revision in section 300.324(a)(2)(v) specifically states now that every IEP should consider whether a child needs assistive technology (AT) services and devices, and further specifies that this special factor must be included during the reviewing and revising of an IEP as well.  The emphasis here is on the word needs versus requires.  This change in wording from the IDEA 1997 to the IDEA 2004 is a small, but potentially important change (Mittler, 2007).   This additional specification was added to include students who had already received an IEP prior to the 2004 amendment.

Therefore, since 2004, it has been an IDEA requirement that all students either initially receiving an IEP, or having an IEP reviewed or revised, should be considered for assistive technology devices (300.5) and services (300.6), and this consideration should be documented in the IEP.  There is very little research in this area post 2004 to confirm or deny that this process is taking place, but a review of the literature shows drastic budget cuts and the effects on education nationwide.  In 2012, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reported that a $900 million cut to special education could affect as many as 6.6 million children with disabilities (U.S. Department of Education, 2012).  More research must be conductedto gain a clear picture on how the nation-wide budget cuts are specifically affecting the area of assistive technology and its consideration during the IEP process.

Georgia’s Exceptionalities

Georgia’s Department of Education specifies these twelve categories of eligibility for children aged 3 to 21:

  1. Autism spectrum disorder
  2. Deaf / blind
  3. Deaf / hard of hearing
  4. Emotional and behavioral disorder
  5. Intellectual disability (mild, moderate, severe, profound)
  6. Orthopedic impairment
  7. Other health impairment
  8. Significant developmental delay
  9. Specific learning disability
  10. Speech-language impairment
  11. Traumatic brain injury
  12. Visual impairment.

Individualized Education Plan and Assistive Technology

According to the Georgia Department of Education’s Quick Guide to the Model IEP (July, 2007), the starting point of evaluating a student for special services begins with a complete description of the child’s present or current academic performance.  Special factors such as behavior and language needs due to limited English proficiency are also to be considered.  Other considerations include vision and hearing needs, materials in an alternate format, and finally, assistive technology needs.  Consideration for assistive technology must be documented for every student (Lahm, 2003).

The Georgia Project for Assistive Technology (GPAT) developed a consideration process guide as a companion document to help IEP team members when considering whether a student with disabilities may need assistive technology.  The GPAT checklist considers the student’s present level of performance and includes four areas for the IEP team to consider: (a) area and instructional task(s), (b) standard classroom materials, (c) accommodations, modifications, and strategies, and (d) assistive technology solutions (Georgia Project for Assistive Technology, 2014).

Examples of Assistive Technologies and Their Purpose

In my first doctoral class, the professor asked the students to name one item that was our favorite technology.  We sounded off a variety of items, all of which required batteries or cords.  The professor, however, stated that her favorite invention was the toothbrush.  This was a demonstration to show us that technology is any invention that aids or assists us.  The same is true for assistive technology.  By very definition AT is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2)).

There are three periods of assistive technology development: the foundation period, the establishment period, and the empowerment period as indicated by Bryant and Bryant,.  The foundation period goes back to the Stone Age with the invention of the wheel and the use of a stick as a cane (Alkahtani, 2013).  We start to see assistive technology emerge in 1829 when Braille was introduced to assist the visually impaired with reading through touch rather than sight.  In 1836, Edison invented the phonograph to help his mother with hearing loss to listen to recordings (Cook & Hussey, 2002).

The establishment period introduced laws, policies, and litigation to help individuals with disabilities.  These include the Soldier Rehabilitation Act of 1918 and the development of organizations such as the Council for Exceptional Children in 1922 and the Learning Disabilities Association in 1963.  During this period, X-frame-folding wheelchair was invented in 1937 followed by the Hoover Cane in 1947.

The Empowerment period began in 1973 with the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) followed with its evolution into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – IDEA.  The first assistive technology act, The Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act, was introduced in 1988 as a means to help financially support the implementation of assistive technologies.  This act evolved into the Assistive Technology Acts of 1998 and 2004.

There is a continuum of AT devices from low-cost, low-tech items such as a pencil grip to high-cost, high-tech devices such as a power wheelchair operated by tongue-touch (Netherton& Deal, 2006).  Current assistive technology devices can range from a digital voice recorder, a word processor, graph paper or a calculator to concept mapping software, touch screens, customized keyboards, and text-to-speech software (Simpson, McBride, Spencer, Lowdermilk, & Lynch, 2009).  In the 1970s fewer than 100 AT devices were available (Poel, 2007).  By 2009 more than 29,000 AT devices were available for those with disabilities.

The Effectiveness of the Assistive Technology

The utilization of assistive technology has uplifted positive and continuous learning making the AT to become an viable tool that help learners to have a wider view in education (Dugan, Campbell, & Wilcox, 2006). The researchers have proposed different approaches of different instructors in utilization of the AT within the setting of the classroom.  Inappropriate approaches through which the AT was acquainted with the learning environment in some circumstances shows absence of advisory processes as support reduce the part of the educators or instructors (Copley & Ziviani, 2004). The convictions associated with the aptitudes that the learners ought to have before getting to the utilization of the ATs may have an effect on the factor to decide effectiveness of the technology to disabled individuals. There are various kinds of convictions that might be held incorporate the aspects that the access to the ATs requires a great deal of exertion or AT is improper for the age of the kid. The learner might not potentially have a chance to acquire some particular assistive technologies that are restrictive and expensive to acquire and finance (Dugan, Campbell, and Wilcox, 2006). Several experts have comprehensively proposed that the dispositions nourished by an individual are flamed in connection with his/ her qualities, philosophies and, social and religious convictions. This is essential in deciding variables that may influence the choice of the decision regarding whether AT would achieve in any kind of providing accessible environments (Goode, 2006).

            At the point when the learners affected by various kinds of disabilities are found to be incapable of meeting scholastic objectives or academic targets, it indicates that instructors do not meet the assistive technology performance requirement or they do not meet the requirement needed to handle disabled learners (Parette & McMahan, 2002). Focusing on the learners results after using assistive technology, the IEP tend to portray that educational or academic requirements and objectives are determined through the targets for those learners and gives an outline to the available administrative proceedings (Bausch & Ault, 2008). One of the most well-known and highly popular services is the assistive technology or the AT. At the point when the responsible IEP groups incorporate the AT within the context of meeting the objectives and targets. The education objective tend to be the reference to the assistive technology performance in education process and hence giving the reasons for innovation to help the learners to achieve the academic goals (Lee & Templeton, 2008). The AT expands the expected outcome for people who are affected by an extensive variety of psychological and physical handicaps so that they can become more autonomous and able to comprehensively connect in the social or academic settings (Williamson-Henriques & Friend, 2012). Education is considered to be the one particular zone or field within which the practically useful AT can bolster the learners affected by specific inabilities. As indicated by Hasselbring and Bausch (2006).The AT eliminate possible challenges that influences or prevents complete level of education through two different courses. The first method is the utilization of the AT as a supporting means for the activities related to reading. The second way is the utilization of the AT as an intercessional or intervening means regarding the activities related to reading. This aspect implies that the AT helps the learners to fortify as well as enhance their general aptitudes associated with reading on a entire level. For example, there is numerous learners in the secondary schools who encounter various kinds of trouble in the aspect related to reading in light of the fact that large portions of the techniques intended for the lower basic evaluations seem to be inaccessible (Vaughn et al., 2010). For instance, the LD can meddle with the foundational abilities of the learners regarding the phonemic mindfulness translating, and comprehensive understanding or appreciation. The PC programs have been designed and produced with the aim to bolster the securing of foundational reading aptitudes (Pearman, 2008).

The essential concentration amid math guidelines is to help the learners to see how to control numbers utilizing particular operations, giving directions to the learners in basic education, and developing critical thinking. The troubles faced in the academic genre of mathematics are basic among the learners who are affected by the learning incapacities. Such kind of math troubles can go from the informative awareness of fundamental certainties, reading a clock, taking care of word issues, polynomial math, or conditions associated with the aspect of cash (Edyburn, 2003). As indicated by Woodward and Rieth (1997), learners affected by challenges in understanding may positive changes in learning through the utilization of various devices that range from hand-held gadgets to PC programs. This gadget permits the learners to take care of more elevated standard in mathematics and other scientific related issues. On contrarily, most educators refuse to give appropriate help to the learners excluding the basic elements like survey worksheets, cheat sheets, and many other fundamentally general exercises (Alper & Raharinirina, 2006). The utilization of the PC programming, graphical materials or numeric’s, and versatile adding machines have the ability to furnish the boost the learners who are affected by incapacities to undertake required education that can be obtained through numerical aptitudes (Edyburn, 2003a). The utilization of AT in instructive situations or academic settings can prove to be vital to the fulfillment of the education for the learners affected by learning handicaps. The aspect of the AT utilization is viewed as compensatory in fact that the gadgets can be used with the specific technologies to improve the capacity of an learners (Bryant et al., 2010). As a result, using the proper AT within the context of the regular academic settings can support the entire system to keep these special learners interested in the academic process.

It is possible to find out the numerous constructive results connected with the utilization of the AT specifically to disabled individuals. Some of the advantages incorporate the advancement of practical abilities associated with real-time functions. These functions includes the common contexts, enhanced physical wellness, improved social correspondence or interaction, higher levels of time administration, more noteworthy assignment fulfillment, elevated esteem regarding the own self, and enhanced results linked to academically recognized performances (Brodin, 2010). The AT application can be compared to other technologies such as PCs as they aim in improving capabilities of learners on basic critical thinking (Brodwin, 2004). The implementation and the utilization of the AT enhances the education development through improving on quality, critical thinking and reading capabilities (Bryant et al., 2010).

Barriers and Benefits of Assistive Technology

Several factors can lead to a disabled student being served in a general education classroom with non-disabled peers.  Since 1975, the concepts in inclusion, mainstreaming, and collaborative instruction based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) introduced the objective of seeking to provide students equal access to information.  While inclusion and mainstreaming refer to disabled students being granted access to an education with non-disabled peers in a general education classroom, UDL focuses on the format of the products to provide an equitable access to the curriculum through alternative formats or modes of communication (Rose & Meyer, 2002).

Alkhatani (2013) indicated that general education teachers lack adequate knowledge and skills regarding the use and implementation of assistive technology for disabled students.  A case for inclusion with assistive technology presented by Alkahtani is based Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  Alkatahni argues that assistive technology grants physically challenged students increased accessibility to the curriculum and a higher quality of learning experience, and the work of Vygotsky provides the theoretical groundwork for the case of implementing assistive technology.  Vygotsky’s research promotes social learning environments, and assistive technology provides children with disabilities the opportunity to participate in social learning with non-disabled peers.  Such devices can also assist teachers in increasing student participation in learning activities by improving the students’ functional capabilities (Scherer, 2004).

Today Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development may more commonly be referred to as cooperative learning, a popular instructional arrangement to promote both social and academic success for all students.  With the addition of assistive technology, disabled students can more readily adapt to cooperative learning (Bryant & Bryant, 1998).  Such devices can be used to promote academic skills, independence, self-worth, and productivity.  AT devices are also shown to benefit students in reading, writing, and study skills.  Through the use of AT, learning disabled students can potentially access instructional activities, such as cooperative learning, to the same degree as their peers.

However, the benefits of AT adaptations can only be realized when AT is adapted into the curriculum and classroom instruction.  For AT to be successfully implemented in the classroom, teachers must select, monitor, and evaluate the use of a device to determine whether there is an educational benefit (need author and date).

Perceptions of the Teachers

The application of assistive technology supplement the education techniques used to connect with customary education with the aim of connecting learners effectively (Edyburn, 2006). ATs permit learners affected by LD to interface more effectively inside social and scholastic settings. It is noted that innovation and technology utilization has helped in improving the performance of instructors as they are equipped and supported to offer high quality education to learners in need of assistive technology results (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). Concerning assistive technology, it is critical to comprehend the instructors understanding on how technologies and specifically PCs and LD influence the learners’ performance in education. The instructors are supposed to be well informed more on technology application, how it influences learners’ behaviors as well as being in proper state of mind in providing good direction to learners (Damore & Murray, 2009). The perceptions of the instructors are developed toward the inclusive consideration of assistive technology connection to regular education settings. The assistive technology has enabled the instructors to acknowledge and accept physically challenged students to undertake their learning in normal educational setting and similar curriculum with other students (Cook, Tankersley, Cook, & Landrum, 2002). Several experts have called attention to three components, which have the ability to affect educator observations regarding learners affected by LD.  In the first place, experts have developed generalizations about the sorts of the learners are affected by disabilities or inabilities, and almost every single of the generalization of outcomes. Significant number of the above-mentioned generalizations continues to exist in educational institutions (Dupoux, Wolman, & Estrada, 2005).The aspect of incorporation or inclusion is more than simply having a learner affected by the inabilities in the educational settings. This aspect of consideration concentrates on the best way to rebuild the educational programs to address and moving toward educating all the learners (Damore and Murray, 2009). According to Albeit, the regular educators are equipped variety of capacities and aptitudes to address necessities of all the learners in education setting that may be approved through testing assignment (Brown-Chidsey, 2007). most of the regular education instructors understand that they are in charge of  ensuring the guideline for the learners affected by LD guarantee their achievement within the regular academic environments.

According to DeSimone and Parmar(2006), some of the instructors showed that they unhappy on the aspect of adjusting direction to address the issues of the learners affected by LD. Moreover, another research work indicated that educator’ demeanors relating to incorporation of the learners have affected regular or general academic settings (Leyser and Tappendorf, 2001). The educator’ demeanors such as instructor experience, sexual orientation, and involvement with physically challenged student relates to demonstrated curriculum that is being conceived as deciding elements for accomplishing positive results for the learners affected by LD. On the other hand, numerous general instructors see custom curriculum learners or the SE learners as improperly set within the regular educational settings (Carter, Prater, and Dyches, 2009). The comprehensive instruction added to the scholarly accomplishment is influenced by LD as it assistive technology (Bunch and Finnegan, 2000).

A few interviewees indicated that learners affected by LD could influence others who have not encountered with LD in the comprehensive educational setting. The impacts incorporated the requirement for additional time duration for the learners with exceptional requirements, the dread experienced by the learners amid upheavals by a learner with uncommon expectations. The diversion brought about by the instructor partner engages the same setting as the researchers reported a few obstacles to compelling comprehensive practices in education (Schulte, Osborne, and Erchul, 1998). The impediments incorporate shortages of regular instructors’ with aptitude standards and accessible to execute individualized focus in implementing assistive technology to physically challenged students. In spite of the fact that the learners affected by LD have hidden scholastic and social shortages, they are regularly incorporated in an indistinguishable educational modules and gauges from their normal companions. Justifiably, this can appear to be a staggering errand regarding the regular educators (MacLean, 2008).

            The points developed by the educators on utilization of the technological measures for educating the learners is affecting the recurrence conforming the educators intention of the AT (Pierce and Ball, 2009). The proceeding by the worldwide group of an industrialized manufacturing plant that designs data and now to a participatory are dependent to society, the technological aspects and the educational system (Marino, 2009). The aspect of technological innovation is entwined in the public of the current era and has obtained imperative benefits and financial flourishing and technological innovation pioneer in the educational settings seems to be very basic (Rohaan, Taconis, and Jochems, 2009). The discernments of the educators and the employments of advancements are focal in the process of reducing the learning hole between the learners affected by LD and the normal companions to the minimal extent (Buehl and Fives, 2009). Moreover, research expresses end goal for the instructors in utilization of technological innovation and specifically the AT, should accomplish and elevated standards education quality. Furthermore, the utilization of the AT would elevate the standard and objectives of educators through ensuring they have adequate access to appropriate equipment to improve the education quality for physically challenged students.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Shulman (1987) describes a teacher knowledge base that distinguishes content and pedagogical content knowledge.  Shulman proposes three distinct knowledge bases: subject matter content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and curricular knowledge.  Content knowledge is defined as the organization of knowledge in the mind of the teacher.  Bloom’s taxonomy and Gagné’s varieties of learning are examples of knowledge structure.  Pedagogical content knowledge represents the ways in which the subject matter is represented to make it comprehensible to others.  Finally, curricular knowledge consists of programs and instructional materials designed for teaching particular subjects.

However, in 1987, instructional materials did not include the digital educational technology available today, and is therefore not represented in Shulman’s knowledge base for teachers.  Pencils, microscopes, and chalkboards were the “technologies” of that time.  Therefore, Koehler and Mishra (2009) proposed an addition to Shulman’s knowledge base that included technological pedagogical content knowledge, a framework known as TPACK.  Teachers who earned degrees prior to the introduction of instructional technology struggle to integrate new digital technologies in their teaching.  The concept of TPACK tells us that integration efforts should be structured for particular subject matter ideas in specific classroom contexts (p. 62).

The TPACK framework slightly modifies Shulman’s original framework for the knowledge base of teaching.  The following definitions clarify Shulman’s framework.  Content knowledge (CK) refers to knowledge of the subject matter.  Pedagogical knowledge (PK) combines the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning.  Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is pedagogy as it applies to a specific content.  The TPACK framework offers additional knowledge components to include technology knowledge, technological content knowledge, and technological pedagogical knowledge.  Technology knowledge (TK) is the evolving interaction with technology.  Technological content knowledge (TCK) represents fields in which further development in that field is dependent on the development of new technologies, and technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) represents how teaching and learning change when particular technologies are used in particular ways.  TPK looks beyond common uses for technologies and looks for ways to use it in instruction.  In summary, TPACK is an understanding that emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge.

TPACK should be considered as a rapidly developing type of informative knowledge that consists of the key senses associated with content, pedagogy, and technology but has a collective broader sense than those individual aspects. TPCK or the technological pedagogical content knowledge has been widely considered as an understanding that rises up out of associations among the base of knowledge associated with the three significant aspects mentioned earlier. Emphasizing the aspect of practical and viable mode of educating with the help from technological innovation, TPACK is not quite the same as the base of the knowledge associated with those three aspects on the individual level. Rather, TPACK presents itself in the form of the premise of powerful educating with technological innovation. It exclusively needs a comprehensive and demonstration of the ideas associated with the utilization of the technology, educational systems or the pedagogical strategies. This is to utilize the technological resources through the mode of useful approaches with an aim to demonstrate the content; knowledge associated with the issues. Furthermore, this relates to the process through which technological resources can review a portion of the issues confronted by the learners. The extensive base of the knowledge associated with the informative knowledge acquired by the learners and the theoretical frameworks related to the aspect of epistemology forms the exclusive wellspring of the knowledge. The process of the technological resources can be utilized fully to expand on the current base of knowledge so that the utilization may help to grow new epistemologies or reinforce those from the past. Through the collective procedure of coordinating information associated with the aspects of technology, pedagogy, and content, the specialized educators bring TPACK to the high standards of execution.  Every single circumstance exhibited to the educators is considered an exceptional mix of these significant variables.

The critical aspect of utilizing technological resource for purposes of education compels the instructors to face essential issues associated with the field of education.  The specific notion reverses the customary or traditional viewpoint on the academic objectives and technological innovations are the parts of the segment marked as the content. Furthermore, complex technological advances get to be introduced fro-comprehensive utilization. The TPACK structure recommends the fact the aspects of technology, pedagogy, content, and informative knowledge with regards to the educational setting that play different major roles both individually and collectively. 

Summary

A review of the literature provides broad and vast information regarding the use of assistive technology within the context of the least restrictive environment.  It also provides some significant data about the real sense and usefulness of the utilization of assistive technology. The legal implications associated with the aspect of assistive technology are discussed along with a demonstration of the perceptions developed by general education teachers.  The literature review comprehensively elaborates the effectiveness as well as the barriers that restrict assistive technology from being effective, and it critically discusses all the major points associated with the topic being studied, laying the foundation of the entire research work.

 

CHAPTER III

METHODS

Introduction

The purpose of this study is to explore the perceptions of regular education teachers regarding the knowledge and use of assistive technology devices as they relate to special needs students in the inclusive classroom.  A qualitative case study will be used to collect, analyze, and share data.

Shulman’s conceptual framework of the knowledge base of teaching (1987) is combined with Koehler and Mishra’s (2009) framework on technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) to represent the knowledge base of a classroom teacher.  This knowledge represents a baseline for regular education teachers regarding their content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge.  Participants will be surveyed on their knowledge and use of assistive technology in the classroom in order to implement a student’s individualized education plan and reach annual goals.  Participants who agree to participate in interviews will be interviewed to gain further information.

This is a qualitative method; the surveys administered provide a trend that gives a clear and accurate result of the reality. It comprises methodology that assesses settings inside which human encounters happening.  The methodology does provide speculation that should be verified yet it is with a concentration of analyst disclosure and adoption of inductive strategy for the process of information investigation. The analysis of the collected data and the results of the research work are not expansive speculations; rather, they are the relevant discoveries. A number of experts emphasize on the fact that while the subjective or qualitative type of study is not given to numerical deliberations, it should be considered as methodical on the way to deal with information accumulation and examination. The amid process of breaking down information produced are configured with characterization of classes. The gathered reactions and connections between classifications are obtained from the collected information through the procedure of inductive thinking.

The comparative approach includes separating the information into either the diversely characterized occurrences (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) or the measured segments and coding them to classes (Lincoln &Guba, 1985). The formulated classifications emerging from this strategy take a couple of structures. The traditions and dialects structure utilized remake the classes utilized by subjects to conceptualize their own particular encounters and perspective (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). The second structure consists of analyst distinguishing the concentration of request regarding the venture that helps the scientist informing hypothetical bits of knowledge into the society associated procedures agent in the site under concentrated. Therefore, along these lines, the procedure associate with the current method fortifies the believed perceptions, which prompts to both distinct as well as logical classes (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). Within the consistent near technique or the constant comparative approach, the analyst comprehensively codes and investigates the information keeping in mind the end goal to creating ideas.  Through the process of ceaselessly looking at particular occurrences within the gathered information, the specialist refines the ideas, recognizes the features and investigates the connections between each idea as they incorporates the analyzed information into an intelligible logical design (Taylor and Bogdan, 1984). Therefore, study will utilize the constant comparative approach to generate viable and feasible results.

Setting

The setting for this study is a rural school district in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.  The district has 29 schools, approximately 1,422 teachers and 22,691 students.  Of those, approximately 2,241 students have an IEP.

Researcher Positionality

The two broad categories in research are random error and systematic error.  Systematic error, also known as systematic bias, can be a concern in qualitative research.  According to Malone, Nicholl, and Tracy (2014), systematic bias can create a spurious association or mask an association between two variables, and can lead to incorrect conclusions.  The three most common types of systematic bias are selection bias, confounding variable bias, and information bias. I am qualified to conduct the study, as I understand the need of assistive technology in education of physically challenged student. I have the knowledge regarding education sector and hence best suited to understand the results of the survey outcome and its interpretation.

In an effort to avoid random error and selection bias, the sample population should small and manageable as it would be enough to represent the population to which the findings will be applied.  All employees in the study system have a school system issued email account.  Therefore, recruitment by email should not create selection bias, and the results should have generalizability based on the random sample from the population.

Measurement bias can occur from non-responses to the survey, inadequate follow-up, and from a non-appropriate tool.  To control measurement bias, the survey will contain items from a variety of existing, published studies.

An open-ended survey will be used to determine the target population.  The first question will be, “Do you have or have you recently had a special needs student in your classroom who requires assistive technology?”  Those who respond “no” will exit the survey at that time.  Those who respond “yes” will proceed to a few general open-ended questions. In order to improve on the quality and accuracy of the results, 10 of the participating teachers will be asked if they could participate in a random interview session afterwards.

To control conformity bias, the researcher will attempt to remain impartial in all stages of the study including the literature review and the data used from the information collected.  A constant comparative analysis will be used to analyze data.

Participants

The participants of the study will consist of 40 teachers, 10 teaching high schools, 10 middle schools and the last 20 elementary school, the sample of certified educators working within the regular education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics the teacher population as of 2014 is approximately 1,422 not including central office personnel.

Instrumentation

A survey will be developed based on a review of the literature and customized to the concepts and characteristics of this study.  Based on an instrument developed by Seok and Dacosta (2014), the survey (see appendix A) will include demographic information of the participants and items relating to specific factors underlying AT practices.  Additionally, Appendix B contains research-based open-ended questions to address the strengths and barriers of AT services

Data Collection

The survey will be administered through email by the school district and will be sent to the selected personnel in the county. The respondent would be provided with questionnaire through email address whereby after filling, the feedback would be email back. The interview would take about 30 to 40 minutes whereby the interviewee would respond to specific questions as well as providing their observations. The venue for interview would depend with the agreement between the interviewee and interviewer.

Data Analysis

Constant Comparative Analysis will be used for analysis of the data collected from the surveys.  In the process of taking notes and commenting on data, categories and themes will emerge to answer the initial research question.  Merriam (2009) considers the beginning stages of qualitative research as “organizing and refining rather than beginning data analysis” (p. 171).  Data will be coded and entered into the computer software program designed for qualitative research (i.e., NVivo, atlas.ti. or other software).

 

 


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APPENDIX A

Survey Questions for Teachers’ Knowledge and Use of Assistive Technology

 

Part I: Demographic information

Please complete the information about yourself.

 

  1. What is your age?
    1. Less than 30 years old
    2. 30 – 40
    3. 41 – 50
    4. 51 – 60
    5. More than 60 years old

 

  1. What is your gender?
    1. Male
    2. Female

 

  1. What is the highest level of education you have completed?
    1. Bachelor degree
    2. Master degree
    3. Specialist degree
    4. Doctorate degree
    5. Other (please specify)

 

  1. What is your job position?
    1. General education teacher
    2. Special education teacher
    3. Special education consultant
    4. School psychologist
    5. Assistive technology specialist/consultant
    6. Other (please specify)

 

  1. Which of the following best describes the location of the school in which you teach?
    1. Rural
    2. Suburban
    3. Urban

 

  1. How many years of experience do you have in education?
    1. Less than one year
    2. 1 – 2 years
    3. 3 – 5 years
    4. 6 – 10 years
    5. More than 11 years

 

Part II: Use and Knowledge of Assistive Technology

 

Please note that this questionnaire is based upon the IDEA 2004 definition of assistive technology, which includes high-tech devices (i.e., alternative communication devices), and also includes items that may not typically be considered “technology” (i.e., pencil grips, magnifier for reading, etc.).

 

  1. Have you ever used or requested an assistive technology evaluation for a student?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. Are assistive technology needs considered (documented) by the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team in your school?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. Do students at your school have access to assistive technology?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. Which types of assistive technology are available at your school (choose all that apply)?
    1. Low-tech devices (handheld magnifiers, specialized pen, pencil grips, large print text).
    2. Mid-tech devices (audio books, manual wheelchairs, alternate mouse or keyboard for computer use, amplifiers).
    3. High-tech devices (power wheelchairs, digital hearing aids, speech-to-text software or computer app, digital headsets, Bluetooth integration).

 

  1. Are you prepared to provide assistive technology services to your students?
    1. Not at all prepared
    2. Poorly prepared
    3. Somewhat prepared
    4. Adequately prepared
    5. Extremely well prepared

 

  1. Estimate your knowledge about assistive technology.
    1. No knowledge
    2. Little knowledge
    3. Some knowledge
    4. Good knowledge
    5. Extensive knowledge

 

 

 

  1. Estimate the number of college or graduate level courses you have taken in which assistive technology was covered in detail (i.e., more than one class session).
    1. None
    2. 1 – 2
    3. 3 – 4
    4. 5 or more

 

  1. Estimate the number of workshops or in-services training pertaining specifically to assistive technology that you have attended in your career?
    1. None
    2. 1 – 2
    3. 3 – 4
    4. 5 or more

 

  1. Are you interested in receiving training and professional development in the area of assistive technology?
    1. Yes, I am very interested.
    2. I do not know. I will think about it.
    3. No, I am not interested at all.

 

  1. Thinking about your own learning style and needs, please indicate your preferred method for learning about assistive technology (choose all that apply).
    1. One-on-one individualized instruction
    2. Hands-on instruction in a group setting
    3. Attending workshops or conference sessions
    4. Formalized courses (i.e., for university credit)
    5. Other (please specify)

 

  1. Do you agree that students need to learn to function without assistive technology as their use of it would negatively affect their skill development?
    1. Strongly disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neutral
    4. Agree
    5. Strongly agree

 

  1. Do you agree that assistive technology enables students to be able to access the curriculum?
    1. Strongly disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neutral
    4. Agree
    5. Strongly agree

 

 

 

  1. Do you agree that using assistive technology requires so much extra time and slows the pace of learning for the class?
    1. Strongly disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neutral
    4. Agree
    5. Strongly agree

 

  1. Would you like to participate in an additional interview about assistive technology?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

If “yes,” please enter your email address in the box below so that you may be contacted.

 

Copyright Disclaimer

Copyright reserved by the author, Keetam D. F. Alkatahni, Department of Special Education, King Saud University.

 

This survey can be found in an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/3.0).

 

 

 

APPENDIX B

Interview questions

 

 

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