Technology, Literacy, and Disabilities: A Review of the Research
Cynthia M. Okolo Albert R. Cavalier Ralph P. Ferretti Charles A. MacArthur University of Delaware
Literacy instruction has always been a topic of great interest and, often, heated debate among educators. The past 15 years are no exception. During this time we have seen a number of important publications reviewing the research about literacy acquisition and instruction (e.g., Adams, 1990; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education, have invested millions of dollars in basic and applied research about literacy instruction and reading disabilities. Policy papers (e.g., Learning First Alliance, 1998) have promulgated recommendations to guide literacy instruction, and federal education goals seek to guarantee literacy to all our nation's students.
Literacy-related difficulties are a major reason for students' referral to special education and a primary focus of special education instruction. It appears that technology is viewed as an important tool for assisting special educators in the provision of effective literacy instruction. For example, a recent survey of over 1,000 special educators showed that 85% use technology in literacy instruction, 97% believe that technology can help students acquire literacy skills, and 91% expect to increase their use of technology in the future ( Burton-Radzely, 1998). In this chapter, we examine the research base underlying these high levels of optimism and implementation. Although a number of recent reviews have addressed the efficacy of technology for students with disabilities (e.g., Fitzgerald & Koury, 1996; Shiah, Mastropieri, & Scruggs, 1995; Woodward & Rieth, 1997), none has focused exclusively on literacy.