Toward greater computer use in special education

Kathleen Hughes Sarmiento, Fordham University


The American educational system must prepare citizens of the technological age to become "knowledge workers," problem solvers, and flexible, lifelong learners. The computer provides an effective vehicle in such a learning environment. It is particularly effective for handicapped students, empowering many to master new, previously unattainable skills. While many special education teachers express interest in learning more about technology, the majority experience intense concerns and anxieties as they approach the computer. Staff development is a critical factor in computer instructional implementation. This dissertation investigates a current model of computer training, Connecticut Institutes of Teaching and Learning, 1989-90, in order to determine whether the institutes decrease participants' concerns and increase their level of computer use in instruction. A case study of two institutes is presented: Using Appleworks as an Instructional and Management Tool and Bridging the Gap, Computers & Manipulatives. Three other special education computer workshops are also explored. Participants completed a questionnaire which included 35 Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) qualifying statements and additional questions regarding types and frequency of computer use. The questionnaire was administered before each institute and several months later at a follow-up session. Results were compared and analyzed by the two researchers involved in this study. On-site visits were made to the institutes, classroom instruction was observed, and interviews were conducted with participants. The findings revealed that participants experienced intense levels of awareness, informational, and personal concerns at the beginning of each workshop. Those concerns decreased at the follow-up sessions. Participants' CBAM Stages of Concern profiles changed from nonusers to inexperienced users. Computer use increased in mechanical applications. A meaningful connection emerged between comfort, feeling of competency, and use of the computer. This study indicated that structural constraints currently impede instructional computer use; lack of time, lack of appropriate vehicles to facilitate learning and experimenting, and need for collaboration and continuing education hamper increases in computer use. This dissertation proposes a transitional model for staff development in technology that combines Industrial Age training with Information Age education. Staff development must assist the teachers in the restructuring necessary to implement computers into instruction.

Subject Area

Special education|Teacher education|Educational software

Recommended Citation

Sarmiento, Kathleen Hughes, "Toward greater computer use in special education" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9123123.