Technology in the Individual Education Plan
An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is “a written plan describing the special education program and/or services required by a particular student, based on a thorough assessment of the student’s strengths and needs – that is, the strengths and needs that affect the student’s ability to learn and to demonstrate learning” [i].
The student's IEP will include a list of accommodations needed to access the curriculum and demonstrate learning, including the use of AT. AT may appear in the IEP under:
- strengths and/or needs
- instructional and/or assessment accommodations
- individualized equipment
- provincial assessment accommodations
- transition plan (as a specific goal)
The following are some important considerations relating to technology within IEPs (adapted from SNOW, 2013).
- AT is not the goal itself, but a tool to assist an individual to access programs and services and achieve functional goals and outcomes.
- The IEP should focus on the functional tasks of the curriculum and the daily routines that the student is required to perform, not on a particular piece of AT.
- Emphasis should be on the needs and features required by the student to function in the environment, not on specific names of equipment.
- Services needed to implement the use of AT must also be included in the plan.
- The IEP should support integration into natural environments (home, school, community, job).
Technology in Assessment & Evaluation
Educators often have questions about the equitable use of technology during evaluations such as tests or exams. This section is adapted from an LD@school article, which addresses educators’ obligation to make AT available during assessments and evaluations. Click here to access the original article Assessments and Assistive Technology.
The critical point to keep in mind is that, for many students with LDs, AT is an essential, not additional, support.
The recommendation for the use of AT must come from a professional assessment (by a psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, etc.), and it must be included in the student’s IEP. The purpose of this recommendation is to allow the student to access the curriculum, to provide compensatory instructional and assessment strategies and to support the student in their learning so that they can reach their full academic potential.
Providing AT to a student with LDs is no different than providing hearing aids to a student with an auditory impairment, providing Braille materials to a student with a visual impairment, or providing adaptive equipment to a student with a physical challenge – all students should be provided with the materials, resources, and equipment they need to access the curriculum and achieve the learning outcomes – this is fair and equitable for all students.
When an assessment from a qualified professional recommends the use of AT for a student with LDs, the AT must be included in the student’s IEP and educators have a legal obligation to make these tools available to the student for all tests, quizzes, and provincial assessments.
For additional information, please refer to pages 28 and 29 of the IEP Resource Guide. Click here to access the IEP Resource Guide.
The section below in an adapted excerpt from an LD@school article. Click here to access the original article Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities.
Researchers have noted that there is still an enormous gap between the potential of AT and how much it actually helps. While AT can support struggling learners, MacArthur [ii] cautions that technology by itself has little impact on learning. In order for students to benefit from the technology, educators must have an understanding of AT and how to embed it within quality instruction.
In a large scale survey study [iii] nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that improved staff training and knowledge were the most important actions that could be taken to promote technology use. AT devices and services have to be coupled with context-appropriate instruction from trained teachers, as students’ successful implementation of AT is directly related to the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of special education teachers.
While educators acknowledge the potential of AT, they may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of understanding and using this technology with their students. Many teachers feel that they lack the knowledge and support to more fully integrate AT into the curriculum.
The section below in an adapted excerpt from an LD@school article. Click here to access the original article How do we encourage more educators to integrate technology into their classrooms?.
How can we encourage educators to integrate continually evolving technologies in their classrooms without them feeling that they have to become experts?
Using technology in the classroom is all about confidence. We have to take risks and learn where to focus our biggest efforts. The role of the educator is not to master the use of the technological tool, but rather, to know how the tool can be beneficial for learning and how it can support students with LDs.
We have to take advantage of technology’s potential to support our students without getting bogged down by all the technological functions offered by the devices. We have to trust that students will be able to help each other when it comes time to using a new tool, a new website or a new application. In fact, many teachers find that students are able to teach them a lot about the tools!
Teachers are leaders in education, but do not need to be technological masters. We need to start by taking small steps, trying out new technologies, and allowing ourselves to make mistakes. Even though our attempts are not always perfect, we are initiating a culture of change in our classrooms that will no doubt have an impact on the school experience of students in the 21st century.
But where do we begin?
Whether we are sharing a collaborative document in Google Docs or Word Online, engaging in a blended learning activity (such as a virtual lesson or a lesson using technology, and guided instruction), or simply allowing students to use a variety of digital options to do their assignments, the most important thing is to simply take action to integrate technology, and to trust our students.
Through educator-led modelling, students will learn to:
- work together over time;
- discuss possible solutions;
- plan for next steps;
- explain procedures or concepts; and
- demonstrate critical thinking and listen to other people’s ideas.
Aren’t these all skills that we want to encourage our students to learn? And for our students with LDs, knowing and mastering various technologies will open a new avenue to success!
[i] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 6
[ii] MacArthur, C., 2009
[iii] Okolo, C. M., & Diedrich, J., 2014