Technology-Based Practices for Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities

By Maccini, Paula; Gagnon, Joseph Calvin et al. | Learning Disability Quarterly, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Technology-Based Practices for Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities


Maccini, Paula, Gagnon, Joseph Calvin, Hughes, Charles A., Learning Disability Quarterly


Abstract. The researchers conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on technology-based practices for secondary students identified as having learning disabilities (LD) involving instruction and/or assessment that measured some aspect of performance on a general education task or expectation (i.e., test). Technology-based practices included computer- or video-based interventions, multimedia programs, technology-based assessment, and verbatim audio recordings. Three practices appear promising for educating students with LD: (a) hypertext and hypermedia software programs; (b) videodisc instruction involving contextualized learning; and (c) multimedia software. Educational recommendations and directions for future research are offered based upon results.

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The use of technology is a vital and integral part of our society. Spurred by legislation, such as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1986 (PL 99-457) that authorized research on the development of technological devices for individuals with special needs, technology is increasingly prevalent in our nation's schools across all levels and grades (Mathews, Pracek, & Olson, 2000). Teachers, for example, use technology as a vehicle for lesson development and implementation, and monitoring of student learning. Further, technology can be a valuable tool that promotes active student involvement in the learning process and assists students in accessing and organizing information.

Although beneficial for all students, technology has great potential for students with disabilities. Specifically, it may increase student access to the general education curriculum (U.S. Department of Education, 2000), academic achievement (Lock & Carlson, 2000), motivation (Mathews et al., 2000), and prosocial behaviors (Lock & Carlson, 2000). However, the impact of technology on secondary students with learning disabilities (LD) in the general education classroom has not been comprehensively reviewed. This analysis is crucial given that a majority of secondary students with LD are educated within the general education classroom (U.S. Department of Education, 2000), and are exposed to the curriculum of their nonhandicapped peers.

More than 80% of students with LD spend at least half of their day within general education settings (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). However, many secondary students with LD placed in the general education environment exhibit characteristics that impede their learning in such settings. For example, these students commonly experience difficulties with reading comprehension, organizing, retaining and linking information to prior knowledge. In addition, students with LD rarely employ effective study strategies and notetaking skills, and do not take an active approach to academic tasks (Anderson-Inman, Knox-Quinn, & Horney, 1996). These students also demonstrate dismal educational and post-school outcomes. For example, 29.4% of students with LD exit school without a diploma (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). This percentage is greater than for any other disability classification, with the exception of students who are labeled with an emotional disorder (ED). Following school, students labeled LD are also less likely to attend postsecondary educational programs (25.6%), compared to youth in the general population (68.3%) (Wagner & Blackorby, 1996).

One promising approach to helping students with LD is the use of technology-based practices that include both technology-based assessment and interventions (Bender, 2001). According to Vergason and Anderegg (1997), technology-based intervention and assessment refers to using the computer or other expert systems as the medium to provide instruction and monitor student learning. Little is known about the impact of technology-based practices on the academic performance of adolescents with LD. …

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