Academic journal article Information Technology and Disabilities

Project Smart-Science and Math Access: Resources & Technology

Academic journal article Information Technology and Disabilities

Project Smart-Science and Math Access: Resources & Technology

Article excerpt

Introduction

Project SMART (Science and Math Access: Resources & Technology) has evolved into a multi-year professional development effort that includes components for all adults who regularly have contact with children with disabilities. The common goal of each of the components is the development of both efficacy and capacity to inspire children with disabilities to overcome challenges in the pursuit of excellence in math and science education. While the emphasis area of our program has been in-service teacher education, components have been developed for the following groups that support the efforts of children:

* general education teachers;

* special education teachers;

* parents of children with disabilities;

* guidance counselors;

The model is intended to promote positive and permanent changes in the academic climate of classrooms and to provide teachers and other service providers with access to appropriate instructional materials, educational technologies, and hands-on experiences to insure full participation in science and mathematics by students with differing abilities.

Component for Teachers<.h4>

Our model for professional development is designed to link those factors that impact on student outcomes, which include teacher practices and interventions (i.e., the strategies and adaptations for the teaching of science and mathematics) and teachers' attitudes concerning instruction (Allinder, 1994). Consistent with Allinder's findings and the need for inclusive practices, the program is also designed to involve, from each school, a team that includes a special education teacher and a general education teacher, or a team of teachers working in an inclusionary environment. As we conclude our third year, we have worked with approximately 75 teachers, providing them with summer experiences that incorporate certain guiding principles from the research literature on professional development:

* Change in teacher practice is a gradual process.

* Regular feedback is essential.

* Opportunities for reflection and discussion with peers is essential.

* Continued support is needed throughout the academic year.

The model is designed to provide teachers with access to appropriate instructional materials, educational technologies and hands-on experiences. This is accomplished by reinforcing formal training activities with practicum experiences where a small number of children are taught by workshop participants. The practicum provides teachers with the opportunity to practice their skills in a sheltered environment as the students benefit from highly desirable teacher to student ratios.

The summer training program focuses on collaborative teaching, upgrading knowledge of math and science subject matter, and identifying, integrating and practicing alternative approaches for teaching science and math which address the needs of the special education students. The first week of the summer program concentrates on the preparation of the participants for the upcoming practicum through the introduction of science and math activities that expose the participants to new concepts, interactive training in science and mathematics methodologies, and adaptations for teaching students with disabilities. At this same time the teachers are instructed in the use of computer technology in the classroom.

The practicum provides a controlled classroom environment with children from special education programs. Daily lesson plans and assessment of practicum activities are used to assess the effectiveness of the lessons taught. The small group scenario provides maximum benefit to the students and allows the educators the opportunity to work collaboratively to try out the skills and content acquired in the traditional professional development mode and be able to reflect on their efforts to use recently acquired skills. …

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