Written by Dr. Lauren Tucker

The COVID-19 Pandemic resulted in all educational settings unexpectedly converting to alternative teaching formats. Although a challenging conversion, this transition revealed a huge opportunity to collaborate with practicing teachers for the Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) Graduate Program in Assistive Technology. Two initiatives were implemented in the 2020-2021 academic semesters to authentically build skills in assistive technology and consultation practices within the program.

SCSU graduate students were virtually paired with practicing teachers, with the goal of using the SETT framework to analyze classroom needs and the virtual environment. The SETT Framework, created by Joy Zabala, focuses on investigating the Student, Environment, Task, and the Tools to identify appropriate AT solutions.  After this analysis, assistive technology tools or strategies were presented to meet students’ learning needs.

The SCSU Assistive Technology graduate program partnered with two special education schools for this project. The first school is based on the University’s campus which focuses on reinforcing vocational and life skills for individuals ages 18-22. The second partnership was established with a newly developed private school for elementary students with autism spectrum disorder.

The collaboration had two phases. The first phase occurred in Fall 2020 in the “Assistive Technology for Access” course. The professor coordinated the communication between the graduate students and practicing teachers. The teachers identified gaps in their virtual instruction and requested specific activities aligned to students’ goals and objectives.  Graduate students then created the activities and presented them to the building administrator. During this presentation, graduate students provided specific rationalizations for choices (accessibility features, content, audio, visuals) aligned to classroom needs. Some of these projects included custom Boom Card (https://wow.boomlearning.com/) decks to practice filling in personal information, simulating signing up for a website or online membership.  Another was using Thing Link (www.thinglink.com) to create a virtual job shadow for students to learn about the components of working at a bakery. This activity can be previewed here: https://www.thinglink.com/card/1390830714894680065.  You can also access the activity by scanning the QR code below. This collaboration built relationships and allowed the SCSU graduate students to explore initial consultation phases to build their AT implementation and technology skills.

The second phase integrated sessions between the graduate students and practicing teachers within the “Assistive Technology for Reading and Writing” course.  The graduate students and teachers meet 4-5 times across the semester discussing challenges, identifying needs, exploring tools, and finally presenting possible solutions. Graduate students were provided with a consultation framework and guidance to identify opportunities for improvement within their practice.  They also utilized a classroom based SETT framework to identify assistive and instructional technology to support the classroom.  Based on these discussions, the students created custom activities and recommendations for the teachers. They also designed training supports and provided individual training to teach teachers about the recommended tools or strategies.

The SCSU Assistive Technology Graduate program is excited to continue partnering with Connecticut schools and teachers to build assistive technology capacity while designing authentic learning opportunities for graduate students. If you would like to  learn more about partnering with the SCSU AT graduate program or to  learn more about the course offerings, you can visit our website: https://bit.ly/SouthernAT or email Dr. Lauren Tucker at tuckerL7@southernct.edu. We are excited to continue evolving our program content and collaborations to reflect our dynamic field.