ELPCG1 – Research Critique

Currently ICT is being used in classrooms. It has been implemented and many schools now have at least some access to ICT within the classroom.  This report is looking at the ways it can be used successfully and effectively, with a particular focus on students with additional learning needs and disabilities.  Looking at the research it is clear that the effective use of ICT programs and assistive technology will have a positive effect on the education of students with disabilities.  An obstacle in achieving this is the fact that many teachers lack confidence with ICT and often refuse to utilise it, or use it in a way which adds little to their students’ engagement and education. This is why teacher professional development in computer technology has become a major priority for most schools, but still needs to be improved (Phelps, Graham, and Kerr, 2004). For students with severe intellectual disabilities ICT can make a huge difference at school and in their home lives, allowing them to be active participants. Students with mild intellectual disabilities can also be assisted greatly by ICT programs; however, there can be a barrier of the student refusing extra help (Soderstrom & Ytterhus, 2010). These are valid problems that should not be ignored. While there are many constraints on the successful implementation of these programs, they can be overcome if attention is focused on this area of education.

For students with intellectual disabilities there are programs which have been developed and are constantly being developed to allow them greater participation within the classroom.  Many intellectually disabled students have limited to no verbal or written communication skills, so assistive technology is vital to their involvement in the world around them (Parette, Stoner, and Watts, 2009). “For most people technology makes things easier. For persons with disabilities, technology makes things possible” (Radabaugh, 1988, as cited in Ribeiro & Moreira, 2010). This statement creates a realisation about the responsibilities teachers have in making participation, inclusion and acceptance possible for these students. It is not simply a matter of making them more engaged or on-task, it is about allowing them to communicate what they are thinking and feeling in ways they never could before or without the use of ICT.  Some examples include the use of programs such as boardmaker, PowerPoint and Clicker5. In various ways these programs allow for students to create written commands, requests and expression. They also allow for visual and kinaesthetic learning rather than auditory (Parette, Hourcade, Boeckmann, and Blum, 2008).

As teachers the use of these programs is almost limitless, having said that, a focus needs to be on finding ways to make sure these programs are being implemented correctly and frequently. A major problem with the implementation of these technologies is the lack of professional development that occurs within the school on ICT implementation. Training is an essential tool, often teachers will be sent to a training session to learn how to use a program, however there is often no follow up sessions (Phelps et al., 2004). When teachers are sent to these training sessions they return to the school and are provided with little support, as they are the only one trained. This can be difficult, especially for teachers who lack confidence with ICT. These issues can be resolved by teachers working more collaboratively, especially across institutions.  In this ICT world working collaboratively, communicating and creating content can happen and be published to world-wide audience (“Victorian Department of Education,” 2010).

Another problem with frequent and constant implementation of these programs is the reliability of the ICT infrastructure within the school. It seems on a practical level it is difficult to maintain the schools network without problems. There seem to always be issues with speed and connect-ability of the internet within school communities. It is almost impossible to rely on technology for a lesson. This is hopefully something that will become more reliable as technologies improve particularly wireless capabilities.

While assistive technologies can create a more meaningful life for students with severe disabilities it can also be helpful for all students in a mainstream classroom, particularly those with learning difficulties and mild intellectual disabilities. Apart from the problems of teacher training and reliability of ICT, there is also an issue that students in a mainstream classroom do not want to look different by having assistive technology. Technology, especially in the Western world can be seen as a symbol of identity and belonging, therefore to be culturally accepted teenagers need to be having and using the ‘right’ type of technologies in the ‘right’ ways (Soderstrom, 2010).

For a student in the culture of an Australian classroom, peer acceptance and inclusion is more important to them than having the best education they can. For students with learning disabilities or those with vision and hearing impairments it is difficult to make it socially acceptable for them to have these assistive technologies in the classroom. If we take technology as a symbol of identity and belonging, these students end up being identified and classified by the assistive technologies they use. This identification can have negative connotations for the student with the impairment. For most students the capable use of ICT has a meaning of ‘competence, belonging and independence’ (Soderstrom, 2010). Unfortunately for students with assistive technologies, the capable use of assistive technologies does not correlate as a competence, belonging or independence; in fact it is the opposite. Students feel as though they are ostracised from their classmates and that they are seen as different. This unfortunate situation can be resolved, by combining mainstream use of technologies to incorporate programs of assistive technology for those students that need it, we can create an environment where everyone can freely participate in their own ways. For example the use of individual computers, laptops and tablets in the classroom can allow for students to being using different programs to complete the set work. Teachers must be aware that by publicly labelling students or making them use assistive technology that they do not want to use can have more negative than positive outcomes.

The effective use of ICT in the classroom will allow for greater participation and inclusion of all students, but particularly those with disabilities. There are still problems that need to be addressed so that ICT can become part of everyday teaching. By focussing on professional development which will allow teachers to feel confident and capable with technology we will see a greater improvement within schools. This professional development needs to include not just training days, but a collaboration of teachers working towards the same goals of education for themselves and their students. With more use of ICT for all students in the classroom it will be possible for those with additional needs will get assistance without looking different. The solution is to put more and more ICT including assistive technology programs into all schools, alongside professional development. Teaching is a profession not a trade.

References

Parette, H. Hourcade, J. Boeckmann, N. Blum, C. (2008). Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Support Emergent Literacy Skill Development for Young Children At-Risk or Who Have Disabilities. Early Childhood Education Journal 36.3, 233-239. doi:10.1007/s10643-008-0275-y

Parette, H. Stoner, J. Watts, E. (2009). Assistive Technology User Group Perspectives of Early
Childhood Professionals. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 2009, 44(2), 257–270. Retrieved from http://cec.findeight.com/Portals/0/CEC/Autism_Disabilities/Research/Publications/Education_Training_Development_Disabilities/2009v44_Journals/ETDD_200906v44n2p257-270_Assistive_Technology_User_Group_Perspectives_Early_Childhood.pdf

Phelps, R. Graham, A. Kerr, B. (2004). Teachers and ICT: exploring a metacognitive approach to professional development. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 2004, 20(1), 49-68. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet20/phelps.html

Ribeiro, J. Moreira, A. (2010). ICT Training for Special Education Frontline Professionals. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/bps/additionalcontent/18/48946974/ICT-Training-for-Special-Education-Frontline-Professionals

Soderstrom, S. Ytterhus, B. (2010). The use and non-use of assistive technologies from the world of information and communication technology by visually impaired young people: a walk on the tightrope of peer inclusion. Disability & Society, 25(3), 303 – 315. doi:10.1080/09687591003701215

Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. 2010. Teaching and learning with Web 2.0 technologies – Findings from 2006 – 1009. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:ZQPADT5woh4J:www.education.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/teachlearn/innovation/technology/web2report.pdf+teaching+and+learning+with+web+2.0+technologies&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjX_7IFTJyA784nUsiE_zdpVBYqbYsCy9t3u5mtpf9-6PMxxBIx6UoaFn0mVUeB65tGZ99hPxVi33AxxsMXaRjEsnRPYx6Mb-JMJ0c27_IXUkFgatmoRStKabbojTKGPegWWOKL&sig=AHIEtbRObRD_mkIlM2AIzPYgVfdvfW7RQg

 

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