On Your Mark, Get Set, Wait! Are Your Teacher Candidates Prepared to Embed Assistive Technology in Teaching and Learning?

Article excerpt

Linda Darling-Hammond's simplistic, yet profound observation addresses the basis of reform in teacher education today. Our challenge is to develop the knowledge, disposition, and teaching performance or skills of initial and advanced teacher candidates to enable them to deliver the foundations of education necessary to meet the critical educational needs of P-12 students ... the diversity of P-12 students ... students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers ... all teacher candidates must be prepared.

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"What teachers know and can do makes the most difference in what children learn."

--Linda Darling-Hammond

Special needs educators who have utilized assistive technology (AT) have long known that technology can come close to working miracles in bringing many students with disabilities into the general education curriculum (Lankutis & Kennedy, 2002). What about other students who are struggling in the regular classroom? Clark (2004) refers to the gifted "Smart Kids Left Behind" and children at the other end of the spectrum who are working below grade level in research which notes that in assessment situations these students tuned out when presented with traditional assessment techniques and re-engaged when presented with computerized adaptive portions of tests. Many of these practices fall under the venue of AT. We are overdue in providing access to this type of assistance in the areas of cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development to all students.

Standards

Schools of education throughout the country are revising degree and course content to prepare initial teacher certification candidates on the undergraduate level as well as advanced candidates, who are fifth-year and graduate students, to respond to the guidance provided in the standards developed by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC). The INTASC recommendations focus on model licensing standards in mathematics, English language arts, science, special education, foreign languages, arts, elementary education and social studies/civics. INTASC has also recommended model core standards, which are based upon what all initial and advanced teacher candidates should know, be like, and be able to do in order to practice responsibly, regardless of the subject matter or grade level being taught (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2004). The content of the INTASC standards is also aligned in the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the certification reviews and expectations as defined by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) guidelines (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2004).

The model core standards of INTASC make specific reference to diverse learners, the use of technology, and the availability of a variety of materials, approaches, and opportunities to demonstrate knowledge for P-12 students. The educational needs of P-12 students are at the center of the standards (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2004; Council of Chief State School Officers, 1992). The knowledge, disposition, and teaching performance or skills needed to embed AT in teaching and learning should be a necessary and beneficial part of meeting the standards for all teacher candidates. Table 1 lists the model core standards of INTASC and for each selects one or more key indicators which can be used to embed AT applications and instruction.

All teacher candidates should expect they will have the opportunity to work with students with special needs. The passage and implementation of the IDEA Amendments of 1999 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) have created a focus of an increased presence of children with special needs in the regular classroom. Teacher candidates need to be prepared to recommend and utilize innovative technologies which bridge many of the learning gaps for students with special needs. …