A WebQuest for Educators and Administrators
by Marika Wong
If you are an educator or
administrator in a school district of any size, and you are responsible
for meeting the educational needs of students, you will likely have
encountered students who use assistive
technology. Although assistive technology
has been around for a long time, there has been an increased awareness
that assistive technology must be
considered in a special education student's IEP, especially since the
reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ('97).
The activities in this WebQuest involve:
As you start the process of determining how your school district will provide assistive technology services, you must first solicit the interest of colleagues who will help you. Regardless of the size of your district, AT is never a “one-person show.” It is a multidisciplinary issue requiring the expertise of professionals with specific skills and interests. Here is where you begin:
1. Identify people from different specializations within special education (speech pathologists, occupational/physical therapists, classroom teachers of learning disabled/multiply disabled/autism spectrum/etc. students, psychologists, vision and deaf/hard of hearing specialists, etc.) who may already have experience and interest in assistive technology.
2. Identify people from different specializations outside of special education (reading specialists, teachers for at-risk students, technology coordinators, etc.) who express interest in learning about ways to improve student achievement through technology.
3. Hold a meeting with the goal of forming a committee who will help you along the rest of this process. Narrow the group by finding out about people’s availability for continued involvement, commitment to the process, and skills they can bring to the team.
4. After you have selected a committee, research the following websites for information about AT and the law:
5. Research your state’s regulations (interpretation of federal law) which pertain to AT. Use your favorite search engine to search for “state name education code and assistive technology.” Each state also has an “Office of Public Instruction” which may have the education code. Note any significant differences in federal and state requirements of school districts.
6. Look at your school district’s special education policy and procedure manual, if there is one. Does it address AT? To what extent does it detail provision of assistive technology services (assessment, provision of devices, training, ongoing support)?
7. Go to the website http://sweb.uky.edu/~jszaba0/QIAT.html and download the QIAT Self-Evaluation Matrix. Have individual members of your committee complete this self-evaluation and then go over your results together. Identify areas of need in your district where you can make improvements in delivering AT services. Go to http://www.wati.org/atcompetencies.htm to assist in your self-evaluation.
8. To discover how your district compares to other districts of like size, go to http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/districtsearch/ and type in the number of students or number of schools in your district (in the “additional characteristics” area. Scroll through the list to find districts that are similar to yours and click on their links. Compare information until you find three districts that closely match yours for student population, racial diversity, fiscal information, and other characteristics that you feel are important.
9. Use your favorite search engine again to find those three districts’ websites, and see if you can find any information about assistive technology from the website. You may have to email or make telephone calls to find the person/people in special education who coordinate AT services. You may find that districts rely on county agencies or state agencies to provide their AT services. Find out if your own state has such services on a county or state level, and whether you can access them. Research what kinds of assistive technology services and equipment these agencies offer, and any other helpful information you can use. Here are some examples of district/county/agency websites:
10. Determine whether these county/ state services are adequate in meeting the AT service needs in your district. If not, secure budgeting to hire AT team members. Bring all of the researched data to the special education budgeting meeting(s) to validate the necessity for this expense. Be sure to include budget lines for staff salary, expenses such as mileage, professional development, equipment, etc. Providing AT is not inexpensive, but it is required by law, and the “local education agency” AKA your school district will be legally liable if it is not provided.
11. Determine your service delivery model, based on the number of AT team members you are able to hire, the number of special education students your district serves, and how services are to be delivered. Contact some of the school districts which rank similar to yours to find out how they deliver AT services. Consider state and local technology centers which may do evaluations but not direct service with “IEP minutes.”
12. Research professional development opportunities, including certification for AT practitioners (ATACP certification.) Look at local universities for AT coursework, summer institutes, etc. Select a program, seminars, or coursework for your members to attend.
13. Using your contacts with other school districts’ AT teams, develop a referral procedure, assessment process, and follow-up plan. Also look at the SETT framework and QIAT “quality indicators” for what is considered by AT professionals to be the “national standard.”
14. Begin training your team, develop procedures, have the procedures adopted into the district’s special education procedural manual, and then go out and provide outstanding assistive technology services to your diverse learning population. Don’t forget to continue training others, stay on top of the latest developments in AT equipment and best practices, and advocate at the highest levels for what you have learned to be a required consideration for every student’s IEP. GOOD LUCK!!
Here are some more great resources to assist in this task:
How have you done in accomplishing your goal of developing an effective service delivery model for assistive technology? Please rate your team’s progress:
By completing this WebQuest, it is hoped that you will be well on the way to identifying the areas in which your school district needs to improve AT services, and making gains toward meeting your goals. You will have identified a team, learned about the law, assessed yourselves, researched how AT is being done around the country, and developed a plan to align yourselves with AT best practices. Assistive technology is an ever-changing field, with new developments in strategies and solutions constantly occurring. In order to be effective, you must stay current to trends and stay connected with other AT professionals. This is part of that process-- continue to strive for excellence in AT.
This WebQuest was done as an assignment for Frank Odasz’ online course EDTE 5174 “Making the Best Use of
Internet Resources for K-12 Instruction” at
The graphics for this WebQuest were found on the Microsoft Office ClipArt Library.
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