down arrowMenu

Peggy Tarpley's INTIME Journal

Preparing Pre-Service Teachers to Evaluate the Use of Technology in 

The Instruction of Students with Learning and Behavioral Difficulties


Technology has certainly impacted education in many ways. It has caused educators to view schooling, teaching, and learning in new terms not emphasized in past decades. The free-flow of information or voluminous information at our fingertips that has resulted from the use of computers and computer software has coined new metaphors for the teacher as “facilitator” of learning or “guide” along the information highway. Of course, the introduction of technology (in the form of computers and software as well as media services/equipment) into the classroom has brought about questions of the effective use and integration of this innovation. 

Through a United States Department of Education grant, Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to use Technology (PT3), the University of Northern Iowa developed a model for integrating technology into methods courses for pre-service teachers. It is the goal of this model to address issues and questions of current concern about the effective use of technology in the classroom. In addition, this project is intended to produce change in teacher education programs by supporting, with resources on the web, the integration of technology and other components of quality education.

The Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education (TFQE) model established under the I
NTIME project (Integrating New Technologies into the Methods of Education) provides resources for faculty to revise their methods’ courses, to model technology integration in these courses, and to require pre-service teachers to demonstrate the integration of technology and components of quality education into their lesson plans and units. This model (TFQE) includes seven major dimensions depicted as a circular model to illustrate their interconnections. They are:

  1. Students at the center of their own learning

  2. Principles of good learning

  3. Aspects of information processing

  4. Standards from content disciplines

  5. Tenets of effective citizenship in a democratic society

  6. Teacher knowledge and behavior

  7. Technology

INTIME and Special Education

From the perspective of a special educator (teacher of students with disabilities), it is important to tailor instruction to the individual student. Therefore, the focus of the course SPED 540, Curriculum and Methods for Students with Learning Disabilities, Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, and Mental Retardation, is on effective (research-based) instruction and adaptations and modifications of general education materials and curricula for the particular characteristics of students with disabilities. The students in this class are often current teachers working toward a Master’s in Special Education or teachers teaching on a provisional license working toward permanent licensure. Given the focus of this course and the students taking it, the instructor emphasized three of the seven major dimensions of the TFQE model. They are:

  • Principles of good learning

  • Teacher knowledge and behavior

  • Technology

Students with varying disabilities often share characteristics (Hallahan & Kauffman, 2000; Raymond, 2000). These authors would suggest that the shared characteristics (such as cognitive difficulties, social/emotional deficits, language delays or processing problems, and perceptual difficulties) negatively affect academic learning. Hallahan & Kauffman (2000) suggest that these characteristics most often put these students in need of special or specialized education. While principles of good learning are the same for all children, those children with learning and behavioral disabilities will need more intense and more structured instruction as well as more time in which to learn.

Therefore, teacher knowledge and behavior will be a strong factor in the student’s achievement. First, teachers will need to be familiar with student characteristics. Next, teachers will need to have knowledge of techniques and strategies of instruction found successful with students with disabilities (Bos & Vaughn, 1998; Meese, 2001). Finally, teachers will need to put into practice in the classroom effective instruction and be able to modify and accommodate materials and curriculum for these students. Christenson, Ysseldyke, and Thurlow (1989) conducted a review of critical instructional factors for teaching students with mild disabilities. Among the ten factors they found, several apply here. They are an appropriate instructional match, instructional support for the individual student, sufficient time allocated to academics and efficient use of instructional time, adequate student opportunity to respond, active teacher monitoring of progress and understanding, and frequent and appropriate evaluation of student performance (Christenson, et al., 1989). 

Technology, as mentioned earlier provides for many of the instructional needs of students. Students with disabilities, certainly, benefit from various assistive technology that allows them to participate in the classroom in ways that without this technology they would be unable to participate. How other forms of technology used in instruction may be effective with students with disabilities is open and waiting for definitive research. Characteristics of students with disabilities will also impact the effectiveness of technology used in instruction. Careful selection of equipment and software will be important in the effect technology has in an instructional program.

Course Revision

In keeping with the goals of the INTIME grant, the instructor revised the curriculum and methods course for special education by including more time spent on software programs to effectively teach students with disabilities. In addition, the instructor or a guest speaker modeled the use of technology in an effective instructional program. Lastly, students in this class were required to demonstrate their knowledge through class assignments (see Appendix A - Technology Integration Action Plan). 

Students in the class were asked to view two of six specified video vignettes from the I
NTIME web site. The videos were chosen to represent a variety of school levels (elementary, middle, and high school) and academic subjects as well as to include students with disabilities. The students were allowed to choose two videos that corresponded to the level or subject matter of most interest to them. The six videos from which the students selected were:

  1. Producing a Daily News Broadcast: A Cross-Curricular Activity

  2. Water Quality in the Greenhills Stream

  3. Graphing Linear Equations

  4. Assistive Technology in the Writing Process

  5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?

  6. Harry Potter Research Project

Students watched the videos on their own and completed a worksheet (seeAppendix B) on each video. Later, in class, groups were formed around the videos viewed and the group as a whole completed a worksheet on that video. Students participated in two groups corresponding to the video they watched. This activity helped the students to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology used, the difficulty if any in using this technology in their particular situations, and the accommodations/modifications, if any, necessary for using this lesson with students with disabilities.


As explained in the Technology Integration Plan (Appendix A), several forms of evaluation were used. First, the Preservice Teacher Technology Competencies was used pre and post. Unfortunately, this was a small class of only ten students, and one student had to drop out. The completion rate for both the pre and post survey was quite low and showed no change in competencies. Next, students completed a quiz over the information presented in a video on how the computer and computer software could be effectively used in several parts of an effective lesson plan. All students completed this quiz with an A average. After the presentations on software for use in the classroom, students came up with unique ways to incorporate them into their classrooms. Finally, students cooperatively evaluated and critiqued the effectiveness of the technology used in the vignettes. Although, the data collected except for the quiz results was qualitative in nature, it did suggest that students gained new knowledge of technology’s use in the classroom.

Recommendations and Conclusions

It would seem that the results of this one class revision are inconclusive as to whether technology skills or knowledge increased in these particular students. An important piece of information not studied by this project is how or if technology used in instruction in the elementary, middle, or high school classroom increases student achievement over instruction not using technology. It is imperative, however, that we as methods instructors in teacher education programs present options for effective teaching along with the data that supports the option’s effectiveness.

Appendix A

Technology Integration Action Plan












What do you want to accomplish? 

What is the need and/or focus?



Who, What, When, etc. Timelines, Arrangements,Division of Responsibilities


What do you need for success? 


Specific outcomes/

Criteria Success

Criteria-what might you see, hear, feel, etc., when it’s completed?

Gathering Data/


How will you know you have reached your outcomes?

The Goal: Students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate the use of technology (specifically, but not limited to, software) in instruction with students with mild disabilities.

Focus: Accommodations and Modifications necessary for students with mild disabilities to take advantage of/benefit from technology in the classroom.

*Students will view a video about the use of the computer in an effective lesson.

*Students will participate in a workshop on the uses of the computer software programs Inspiration & Kidspiration.

*Students will be presented information and hands-on experience with a progress-monitoring software program

*With students with special needs in mind, students will critically view 2of the INTIMEvideos. Then, in groups of 2-3, they will discuss the pros and cons of the technology and the need for accommodations or modifications.





-Cost: none

*Knowledge of some appropriate and inappropriate uses of the computer in instruction.

*New knowledge of specific computer software and its uses in the classroom.

*Collaborative evaluation of technology use in instruction.

*Student scores on a quiz over the video on effective lessons and the computer. 

*After presentation of the software programs, the students will state one unique use they could put these programs to in their own classrooms.

*Students will hand in critiques of the INTIMEvideos with any accommodations
/modifications necessary noted in the critique.

Appendix B

INTIME Technology Competencies

  1. Operate a Computer System

  2. Terminology

  3. Trouble - shooting 

  4. Equipment Operation 

  5. Computers in Society

  6. Ethics Issues 

  7. Adaptive Assistive Technology 

  8. WWW Information Sources 

  9. Electronic Information Sources 

  10. A/V Information Sources

  11. Internet Communications

  12. Video Conferencing 

  13. Multimedia Presentation Software

  14. WWW Authoring 

  15. A/V Production

  16. Word Processing 

  17. Database

  18. Spreadsheet 

  19. Graphic Organizer

  20. Instructional Software

Water Quality in the Greenhills Stream

Middle School

(1) What subject(s) is the teacher in this video teaching? ___________________________

(2) What technology competencies are met in this lesson? #___ , #___ , #___ , 
#___ , #___ , #___ 

(3) What types of technology assist student's in collecting and organizing their data? _______

(4) Are these technologies readily available within your school district? ________________
If not, would you like them to be? ____________________________________________

(5) What are the strengths for incorporating technology into this lesson? 

(6) Can you foresee any problems that may occur in this lesson due to the use of technology? ______________________________________________________________________

(7) If you had this technology readily available, would you use it in your own classroom? How so?

(8) If you were to teach this lesson to students with disabilities, would you need to make any modifications/accommodations to any part of this lesson? If yes, what might you do to modify or accommodate this lesson to your student’s needs?