Using ICT with people with specia...
Using ICT with people with special education needs: what the literature tells us Peter Williams, Hamid R. Jamali and David Nicholas CIBER, School of Library, Archive and Information Studies (SLAIS), University College London, UK Abstract Purpose ��� To provide a review of the past studies on use of information and communications technology (ICT) for people with special education needs (SEN) to inform a major research project on using ICT to facilitate self-advocacy and learning for SEN learners. Design/methodology/approach ��� Literature review, encompassing academic journals indexed in education, information science and social sciences databases, books, grey literature (including much internet-based material), and government reports. Information was gathered on the perceived benefits of ICT in SEN, and the use of some specific applications with people having various conditions. A number of usability studies, mainly Internet and web technologies, are also outlined. Findings ��� Although the literature shows a great number of ICT initiatives for people with all kinds of disabilities, there has been a surprising lack of research into the usability of the various applications developed, and even less concerning those with learning difficulties. The review of existing literature indicates a lack of attention to the application of ICT for people with SEN, compared to the other groups of disabled people such as visually impaired. Originality/value ��� Findings highlight the need for more research on usability aspects of current and potential applications of ICT for people with SEN. Keywords Communications technologies, Education, Learning disabilities, Disabled people, Aids for the disabled Paper type Literature review Introduction Although the use of ICT in mainstream education has its origins in the 1970s, it has only been in recent years that the government has recognised the importance of and paid special attention to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in special educational needs (Stevens, 2004). The current emphasis on inclusion (Dyson et al., 2004 Ofsted, 2004), and the ever-advancing technologies have stimulated much interest in using various ICT applications for both individualised learning and for integrating students or pupils with disabilities into a mainstream school environment. This paper examines the literature on use of ICT for people with special education needs (SEN) in order to present an overview of perceived benefits and use of some specific applications including the internet, virtual environments and adaptive devices. The article also gives an overview of how various systems have been used for people having various conditions, and outlines a number of usability studies mainly web and Internet technologies. One of the aims is to highlight those aspects and areas of the application of ICT with people with SEN that have not received enough attention and The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0001-253X.htm AP 58,4 330 Received 21 November 2005 Revised 20 May 2006 Accepted 8 June 2006 Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives Vol. 58 No. 4, 2006 pp. 330-345 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0001-253X DOI 10.1108/00012530610687704
need to be better studied. The review was undertaken to inform Project @PPLe: Accessibility and Participation in the World Wide Web for People with Learning Disabilities, a cross-disciplinary initiative, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council���s (ESRC) PACCIT programme. The project���s main focus is to develop a multimedia learning environment (LE), providing learning resources and tools for self advocacy for the SEN community. The LE aims to provide routes to learning materials and accessible content for learners matched to individual needs and preferences. Its evaluation in use will help to model effective approaches to the design and delivery of multimedia for this audience. Perceived benefits of ICT in SEN Many writers have extolled the benefits of using ICT in a learning environment with SEN. Florian (2004) described six such uses of ICT. These are: (1) Facilitating tutor programmes: the tutor programme represents a type of teaching with technology entailing individualised computer-based learning programmes. (2) Improving exploratory learning: with the help of technology, exploratory learning environments have been developed, similar to tutor programmes. Whereas the former are about teaching, exploratory learning environments allow pupils to interact with the material and have more control over their learning. The internet is an example of how ICT can be used in an exploratory manner. (3) Using ICT as a tool: this type of learning with ICT is about the skills involved in using the tools of technology, such as word-processing programmes, in other words, the tools found in non-educational environments such as the home. (4) Help in communication: there are many assistive technology devices available to help pupils communicate, such as voice synthesisers. (5) Used for assessment purposes: a computer-based assessment system can be more than just a device for recording and summarising data. Singleton (2004), cited in Florian (2004), mentioned some advantages of computer-based assessment including savings in time, labour and cost, interested test motivation, greater precision and standardisation of administration. (6) Used as a management tool: teachers of pupils with SEN are required to develop individual education plans designed to address identified learning difficulties. ICT can help teachers in this respect. The Internet is an increasingly popular management tool for SEN professionals for the same reason. Thomas (1992) felt that ICT could bring certain benefits to students with emotional and behavioural difficulties. He regarded it as an ���enabler���, whereby ICT can facilitate access by students to learning which increases motivation, fosters self-competition and confidence and improves self-esteem. There are other benefits of ICT mentioned in the literature also, including its role in rehabilitation of disabled people. Midgley (1993) pointed out that there is a consensus that one of the most useful forms of vocational rehabilitation for many people with disabilities is training in the use of ICT. He described three models for such training for people with disabilities, as follows: Special education needs 331
(1) The workshop model. This appears to be the least used model for ICT training despite its long history. The basic rational of the workshop approach is that work experience is the key to rehabilitation. (2) The educational model. In this model training is provided within regular educational establishments, with the emphasis on education rather than vocation. (3) The systemic vocational rehabilitation model. This model refers to the creation of a structured, goal-directed approach that combines more than one form of help in order to meet peoples��� individual needs. Based on the experience achieved from using IT in Meldreth Manor, a school for students with severe learning difficulties, Banes and Walter (2002) echo Florian���s (2004) claim that ICT can help in communication. They maintained that it is also exciting to use and a positive challenge to most of the pupils. However, they also warned that there is a possibility that its excitement overtakes its value to the pupil and may lead to the exploration of issues that would be best explored in other ways, such as using a telephone, computer, or books. Johnson and Hegarty (2003) also discussed web sites as educational motivators for adults with learning disabilities. Based on the results of their study, they argued that web sites can be a valuable and motivating educational asset if quickly accessible, graphics-based and closely matched to a student���s interest. They believe that these requirements do not mean that special web sites for people with disabilities need to be developed: design-for-all principles, applied to web sites, will in their view, improve accessibility and promote inclusion. Use of specific applications Use of the internet The internet has been described as ���the most pervasive and educationally far-reaching innovation in ICT��� (Hegarty, 2004, p. 129). It has now become so ubiquitous that many organisations are trying to make their web sites accessible to people with special needs. The Special School, Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) (which provide education for pupils who are out of school for a variety of reasons, including exclusion or early pregnancy) and the World Wide Web project (Abbott and Cribb, 2001) aimed to establish the extent of internet use among special schools and PRUs in England and Wales. One of the objectives of the project was to find out about the factors which might have hindered or encouraged the use of the web in these institutions, especially with regard to the creation of homepages or sites for the school or unit. In order to understand the impediments to, and advantages of, web use from the perspective of teachers, questionnaires were sent to all such institutions in England and Wales. Of the 2,056 questionnaires sent, 55 per cent were returned. The first aim of the survey was to establish the rate of internet access among these institutions before the arrival of the standard fund equipment. It was suggested that well over 90 per cent of secondary schools and possibly 50 per cent of primary schools had at least one Internet-connected computer by late 1997. In special schools and PRUs, the survey returns showed that only 25 per cent of institutions had an internet connection at the time. A total of 2.4 per cent only had access through a staff member���s individual accounts. Only 3 per cent of the institutions returning the survey had created an institution web site. Where schools did not have internet access, their reasons varied AP 58,4 332