Term Paper: Improving Reading Skills in Lower Level and Special Needs Students Through the Use of Technology

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IMPROVING LOWER-LEVEL and SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS' READING SKILLS UTILIZING TECHNOLOGY

In the end, the fate of children depends on our ability to use technology constructively and carefully. The connection of children and technology is not simply a matter of seat belts, safe toys, safe air, water and food, additive-free baby foods, or improved television programming.

These are all important issues, but to stop here is to forget that today's children will soon be adults.

Technological decisions made today will determine, perhaps irrevocably, the kind of physical and social world we bequeath them and the kind of people they become."

Kenneth Keniston (Columbia, 1996)

Students deemed socially or academically disadvantaged, Evanciew (2003) stresses, are not considered to have special needs. Whatever the decision in this particular realm of interest, nevertheless, as Keniston notes in the quote introducing this introductory chapter: "Technological decisions made today will determine, perhaps irrevocably, the kind of physical and social world [individuals] bequeath them and the kind of people they become." (Columbia, 1996)

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) of 1990, the following categories denote students with special needs:

1. Specific learning disabilities

2. Speech or language impairment

3. Serious emotional disturbance

4. Mental retardation

5. Hearing impairments (including deafness)

6. Orthopedic impairment

7. Other health impairment

8. Visual impairment (including blindness)

9. Multiple disabilities

10. Deafness

11. Deaf-blindness

IDEA Amendments of 1997 added two additional classifications:

12. Autism

13. Traumatic brain injury (U.S. Department of Education, 1997 (cited by Evanciew, 2003)

At Risk of Academic Failure

Geotze and Walker (2004) find that students most at risk of academic failures lack reading skills. Regular and consistent use of technology, these authors contend, enhance literary capabilities of students who have special needs. In fact, scholars have expressed keen interest in discovering various aspects of the strong link that exists between technology and literacy. Fisher and Molebash (2003) report that the "Digital Divide" constitutes a cause of concern for many educators who believe technology possesses the potential to play a rape role in education. These authors/scholars point out that despite the fact many nonprofit organizations devoted more time and effort to constructing a sound and efficient technical set up an Instructional Technology (it) in various schools, these attempts are not only insignificant, they are highly subjective. (Fisher and Molebash, 2003) this appears to be evident in studies which found most schools belonging to the work, an Irvine minority areas, failed to utilized technology, ultimately ending with the worst literacy outcomes. (Dorwick, Kim-Rupnow, and Power, 2006) Academic performance of students with E/BD is traditionally, reportedly significantly lower than the performance of students without disabilities. (Reid, Gonzalez, Nordness, Trout, & Epstein, 2004, cited by Barton-Arwood, Wehby & Falk, 2005) "Students with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD)," Barton-Arwood, Wehby and Falk (2005) stress, "frequently experience concomitant reading difficulties (Forhess, Bennett, & Tose, 1983; Rock, Fessler, & Church, 1997, cited by Barton-Arwood, Wehby & Falk, 2005) in one study, 75% of a sample of students, ages 7 to 19, with E/BD attending public schools, were approximately one to two years below grade level in reading comprehension. (Kauffman, Cullinan, & Epstein, 1987, cited by Barton-Arwood, Wehby & Falk, 2005) Glassberg, Hooper, and Mattison (1999, cited by Barton-Arwood, Wehby & Falk, 2005) reported the prevalence rate ranged from 6% to 24% for reading disability prevalence in students, ages 6 to 16 years, newly identified with E/BD. "Although reported prevalence rates vary, the academic and behavior deficit overlap begins early in life, appears sizeable at levels above chance, and, once established, is difficult to remediate." (Hinshaw, 1992, cited by Barton-Arwood, Wehby & Falk, 2005) Fisher and Molebash (2003) purport that some researchers and educators mistakably rate literacy and technical proficiency on different scales. The truth, albeit, Fisher and Molebash (2003) argue, is that one cannot exist or work efficiently without the assistance of the other. A good example of this was reportedly visibly present in the past decade when the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund of 1997 aimed to advance technical learning and skills of every student while the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 aspired to adopt a more technologically-driven structure to boost overall literacy among students. It appears, however, that constituent of both projects failed to realize that neither can obtain their objectives without understanding that both technical proficiency and literacy complement each other. (Fisher & Molebash, 2003) Kartal (2006) purports this discrepancy could be related to the lack of methodical studies about the use of technology in education/literacy, possibly because technology only recently proved to be practical for educational applications. (Kartal, 2006) in a previous study, albeit, Martin (2003) points out that results emanating from studies were not consistent. In fact, some studies attest a negative impact may evolve from applying particular types of technology. (Martin, 2003) Doering, Hughes and Huffman (2003) found, however, that lack of teacher preparation constitutes one major factor behind unsuccessful use of technology in classrooms. Some experts, nevertheless, propose that utilization of technology provides an advanced method to more effectively deliver lectures and educate students. (Speaker, 2004)

Problem Statement Studies confirm some students improve their literacy/reading skills through use of technology, (Fisher and Molebash, 2203; Speaker, 2004) while this contemporary learning method hinders the learning process for others. (Martin, 2003; Doering et al., 2003)

In addition to the billions of dollars spent on education each year, as increasing numbers of schools adapt technology as a means for giving lectures, securing accurate and consistent are vital to secure a holistic picture of results of utilizing technology.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Including students with special needs into technology education classes is no longer just encouraged; it is the law." (Evanciew, 2003)

Students With Special-Needs Students with special needs are diverse learners, according to Gutloff (1997, p. 6, cited by Atkinson & Atkinson, 2007) who defines diverse learners as "students who don't perform well in traditional settings." These students include those noted to be at risk with learning disabilities, challenged by other disabilities, or experiencing behavior problems, along with students who speak English as a second language. Sometimes, the instructional materials used for special-needs students focuses primarily on basic or simple topics. Atkinson & Atkinson (2007) recommend students work together on service-learning or other group projects, utilizing technological tools in museum modules. Atkinson & Atkinson (2007) designed self-contained modules to allow learners, including students with special needs to form learning communities. "The sophistication and complexity of museum holdings provide students who have special needs with a forum for learning that engages rather than remediates." (Atkinson & Atkinson, 2007)

Means to Extract... Fisher and Molebash (2003) denote literacy/reading to serve as a means to extract meaning and understanding from a form of information of knowledge database. Technological improvements have given teachers and students a wide spectrum of choices to utilize to extract this information. Initially, educational exchanges were primarily aural, however, in time teachers' tasks were simplified with the advent of books, libraries, media, journalism, television, Internet and educational video games. As use of technology in education increased, students' accessibility to technology also increased. Mere accessibility, albeit, does not automatically provide the answer for working with special-needs students. Efforts to integrate technology have to include the easier understanding and interpretation of the available text. (Fisher & Molebash, 2003) May (2003) found that while technological improvements have made the teacher's job less complicated, these improvements do not decrease his/her workload. Currently, in this researcher's state, one teacher may have more than 24 students in his/her classroom, and be required to implement a number of different instructional methods to address various students' unique and diverse learning styles and abilities. (a new state law, however, proposes to cap class size to 18 students.) Differences in teaching/learning are even more enhanced among special-needs students. As a teacher cannot overlook a student's behavioral pattern or force him/her to comply with a particular learning technique, technology provides key tools to assist them in teaching. With new technological advancements, along with the help of other technological tools or interpretations, teachers may now use everyday mechanisms to explain various educational theories. For the technology to actually help long-term and contribute to the success rate in improving academic performance, teachers need to ensure students contribute their input and are actively involved in the utilization of the technology. (May, 2003)

Use of Technology Leloup and Pontoria (2005. p. 3) note that the use of technology motivates students to learn more: "When students learn to browse online news and magazines sites for articles that interest them personally, they can become more highly motivated to continue to use their language skills long-term because this is a real day-to-day use of those skills, not just a classroom exercise." Schmar-Dobler (2003, p. 5) contends that reading on the Internet actually enhances a student learning: "one the union of greeting and technology on the Internet is causing educators to taking new look at what it means to be delivered to a society that the new forms of literacy call upon students to know how to read and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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