by Kathy Mayer
ere’s more than one way for students with disabilities to
master a lesson, develop socially appropriate behavior and communicate successfully, Purdue College of Education researchers are discovering.
Using assistive technologies—tools that help individuals with disabilities function—these researchers are pioneering educational advancements and teaching them to future educators, too.
video iPods Help Educate
Some students from Lafayette, Ind.’s Tecumseh Middle School proved the success of one breakthrough. Despite verbal lessons, they’d been unable to navigate the public library and nd specic books, so associate professor Teresa Doughty developed a video lesson. With iPods in hand, the students headed to the public library where they watched the video, and without further assistance, found their books. eir iPods were then taken from them, the students traveled to a dierent library, and there they were able to again easily nd their books.
“ey loved the iPod. I liked that the iPod didn’t stand out, so it helped them blend in,” Doughty says. “ey looked very able, and they didn’t need any help. ey went from not being able to do it at all to doing it independently.”
college of education magazine FALL 2007
Long-time Leader in Field
Purdue was one of the rst three universities to oer courses on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), one component in the now-expanded assistive technologies eld for individuals with limited or no functional speech. Professor Lyle Lloyd taught that rst course in 1977.
“We also obtained the rst federally funded doctoral and post-doctoral personnel preparation grant with an AAC focus,” he says. “We’ve had 28 years of continuous external funding in support of these activities.”
Well-equipped Lab, Many Courses
Today, Purdue Education oers an integrated, all- encompassing program that includes communication, behavioral and instructional technologies, with 10 primary and secondary courses for future teachers addressing those areas.
“We want them to know that assistive technology solutions are available to aid in instruction,” says assistant professor Oliver Wendt. Other goals are to maximize access by students with disabilities to the general education curriculum and “to help them function more eciently in daily life and be successful learners.”
An Assistive Technology Lab in the Department of Educational Studies also has opened. It’s equipped with
ve adaptive computers and a variety of math and literary
Ultimate Goal: Individual Iindependence
“We are enabling people with disabilities to be more independent,” says Doughty, who has also utilized cell phones in studies.
Other technologies under study look at the use of reading pens, speech-generating devices, graphic symbols, touch-screen computers and voice recognition systems. Purdue researchers have evaluated the eectiveness of many of these technologies for individuals
with autism spectrum disorders, Wendt says. “Results of these studies provide practitioners and student teachers with reliable intervention strategies for their students.”
Assistant professor Emily Bouck is also working in this area, particularly on technologies for middle- and secondary-level students. She’s conducted studies involving calculators as an accommodation for middle- school students with disabilities. “I am also starting a project on concrete and virtual manipulatives in pull-out middle school mathematics classrooms,” she reports.
“Give people with disabilities a tool, and they don’t need you anymore,” Doughty says. “at’s the most exciting part.”