Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Collaborative Learning Program Addresses Demand for Special Education Teachers

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Collaborative Learning Program Addresses Demand for Special Education Teachers

Article excerpt

The Collaborative Teacher Education Program (CTEP) at Indiana University was created to address the critical shortage of special education teachers in rural communities. In Indiana over the last seven years, the number of students categorized as mildly or seriously disabled has more than doubled, and much of the increase has occurred in rural school districts. Faced with this explosive growth, school corporations have been forced to rely heavily on teachers with emergency certificates.

The lack of fully certified teachers in rural communities is compounded by the difficulty teachers have obtaining university training. In many areas of Indiana, there is a surplus of elementary and secondary teachers and many of them take positions in special education on emergency licenses. Typically, these teachers move to larger communities or into other job positions when they are unable to obtain the coursework they need for certification. CTEP was designed so teachers can complete the entire 36-credit hour requirement for earning special education licenses in their local communities.

Basic Principles

Three basic principles have evolved to guide our selection of distance education technologies:

The technology must be affordable. To be able to deliver concentrated instruction to relatively small groups, it is important to keep costs low. We have tried to keep our expenses roughly in line with those for traditional on-campus classes by using existing technologies whenever possible and by avoiding cutting-edge solutions that could not justify their high cost.

The technology must be reliable. One of the first things we learned about distance education was the feeling of frustration and powerlessness one gets when the technology breaks down in the middle of class. We quickly learned to focus on technologies that can work in a predictable and consistent manner, valuing reliability over more ambitious tools and applications that may be subject to bugs or breakdowns.

The technology must be simple. The field of distance education has seen many innovative and powerful tools developed in recent years, but we have found time and again that the most useful tools are those that are simple to operate and maintain. Telephones, fax machines and simple e-mail applications have proven to be the most indispensable and versatile technologies we use, and the computer applications and video systems we prefer are those that offer basic capabilities and ease of use rather than broad and complex features. A key advantage of this kind of simplicity is that we can involve students in their own training, as they can easily learn to control the technology themselves.

Following these principles, we have adopted basic, low-cost technologies that we can count on to operate during a two-hour class session and that can also handle the array of in-class and out-of-class activities that we plan for teacher preparation. Over the years we have broadened the technologies we use as the School of Education and school corporations in Southern Indiana have acquired more sophisticated technologies and as communication technologies themselves have become more reliable and easier to use. These technologies have involved two basic formats for course delivery: audiographics and two-way videoconferencing.

Delivery Formats

Audiographics refers to a variety of formats featuring two-way voice communication supported by computer-based graphics. Although audiographic technology is usually overlooked in the rush to more up-to-date video options, its low cost and broad delivery capabilities make it still very viable for programs that emphasize outreach or low instructor-to-student ratios. When we started CTEP 10 years ago, neither Indiana University nor rural school corporations in Southern Indiana had resources to commit to broadcast technologies using satellite or cable transmissions. Since we used school libraries or classrooms as reception sites, our only realistic option for delivery was a combination of technologies that would work well over the existing telephone lines and services. …

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